Verizon Shows Its Hand

Last month's cable confab in Las Vegas gave cable operators, large and small, a perfect opportunity to tell the world that they're ready to take Docsis 3.0 "Wideband" wide and give Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s FiOS a run for its fiber-fed money.

As Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick expressed recently, MSOs took a big pass on that opportunity, causing him to wonder if the cable industry's big high-speed play is moving in slow motion. (See Getting Smart on Docsis 3.0?.) Instead, most of the high-level discussions at The Cable Show centered on tru2way and that cross-MSO advanced ad initiative now called Canoe Ventures LLC. (See Cable Makes Big 'tru2way' Play and Verklin Picked as Cable's Canoe Captain.)

Wednesday, at the NXTcomm confab in Las Vegas, Verizon opted not to pass on its chance to talk about the service speeds it will introduce during its next phase of the FiOS rollout. In case you missed it, Verizon is getting downright aggressive, with plans to market a 50 Mbit/s downstream/20 Mbit/s upstream service across its fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) footprint, which stands today at about 10 million homes, with 18 million on the 2010 horizon.

So, where is cable and its parry of Docsis 3.0? Outside of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which is marketing a 50 Mbit/s (downstream) tier in Minneapolis and plans to have up to 20 percent of its plant wired for Wideband by year-end and everywhere by mid-2010, you have to look long and hard for any adoption/deployment plans. (See Comcast Enters the Wideband Era .)

But there are signs. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) indicates it will test Wideband later this year in New York to meet the FiOS threat. (See Britt: Docsis 3.0 Coming to NYC.) After that, U.S. operators have been less forthcoming about anything concrete. (See Mediacom Adds $30M to '08 Capex, Charter Hints at Docsis 3.0 , and Teeing Up Docsis 3.0 .)

We realize, of course, that much of this relative quietness is by design, as MSOs might think it's unwise to reveal their competitive hands too early. But at least they've got some CableLabs -qualified and certified gear to work with now, should they decide it's time to press forward. (See Modems, CMTSs Break Docsis 3.0 Barrier and Docsis 3.0 Gear Tracker II.)

And they'll have another opportunity to shed some more light on those plans soon enough. The annual Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo gets going next week in Philadelphia, kicking off with sessions featuring some top execs from Comcast, Charter Communications Inc. , and Cox Communications Inc.

Will someone (other than Comcast) please step forward?

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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