Cox Flirts With Fiber
Word of the RFI began to seep out at The Cable Show last month in New Orleans. Since then, multiple industry sources have confirmed a few details about the project, but, as is typical of any RFI, they indicate that there's no big product order associated with it.
Cox declined to comment about the RFI, but a spokesman noted in a statement that "in some cases we have delivered fiber-to-the-premises solutions to planned communities, schools or business parks that have been insistent on this kind of solution. The flexibility of our HFC to provide fiber solutions in cases that warrant it is yet another testament to our network capabilities."
People familiar with the RFI say Cox wants to review and digest several FTTP options, including PON-based schemes as well as "radio frequency over glass" (RFoG) approaches that allow operators to use their existing headends, set-tops, and modems. The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) has already launched RFoG standards work, but, at this point, no official standards effort is underway to develop a cable-friendly PON platform or any CableLabs specifications beyond Docsis 3.0. (See SCTE Moves on RFOG and Fog Lifting on RFOG.)
"It [the RFI] is fairly broad. Cox is looking at everything that's possible, picking all the vendors' brains," says a source familiar with the project. "There's no purchase orders associated with [the RFI], but they are couching it in terms [of showing] a tremendous amount of interest right now in what the next-generation architectures should be."
Although Cox is vetting FTTP concepts, it's said to be looking to apply the technology for specific applications (e.g., greenfields and business service hookups) rather than as a replacement for its widely deployed hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks. In fact, Cox, which went private in December 2004, is in the process of expanding its HFC bandwidth to 1 GHz, which would give the operator more headroom for high-definition television channels, video-on-demand, Docsis 3.0, and other spectrum-eating services. (See Cox Makes 1 GHz Moves .)
Likewise, Cox isn't about to let opportunities in new housing developments slip to the telcos just because some developers are insisting on completely fiber-fed systems. Cox is already implementing FTTP in some scenarios well before it derives any additional direction or conclusions from the RFI.
"They are getting aggressive with greenfield opportunities. They don't like losing greenfields, even if it's 30 homes," says one cable equipment supplier.
Cox asked for responses to the RFI in a staggered fashion. The final component was due in to the MSO about two weeks ago. Vendors may start to receive feedback on the RFI at the Cable-Tec Expo, set to kick off next week in Philadelphia.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News