Britt: Docsis 3.0 Coming to NYC

Unlike Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has been playing its Docsis 3.0 cards close to the vest, not letting much of anything leak about what it intends to do with a new "Wideband" cable modem platform that will pump out shared Internet speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s.

Well, Time Warner Cable president and CEO Glenn Britt showed some of his hand Friday morning, noting that the MSO is going to begin testing Docsis 3.0 in New York "later this year."

Britt, during an interview at the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. Strategic Decisions Conference in New York, said Time Warner Cable conducted some Wideband tests in Austin, Texas, last year, "and it works fine." While 100 Mbit/s seems to be the early sought-after speed benchmark for Docsis 3.0, Britt said he's seen it deliver speeds up to 200 Mbit/s, albeit in a lab setting.

Initial Docsis 3.0 deployment "is really a year-end kind of thing," Britt said. "The production equipment is just becoming available in some quantity." In fact, CableLabs recently certified the first handful of modems based on the new specs. (See Modems, CMTSs Break Docsis 3.0 Barrier .)

Britt said the MSO will likely roll out Docsis 3.0 more widely in 2009 and 2010, "in response to demand." Comcast, meanwhile, has already launched it in the Minneapolis area and expects to have as much as 20 percent of its footprint 3.0-ready by year's end. (See Comcast Enters the Wideband Era and Comcast Buying Arris Docsis 3.0 Gear.)

As for "demand" for Docsis 3.0, Time Warner Cable, which is being separated from the Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) mother ship, will certainly want to have the technology in its New York service arsenal. New York is going to become a showcase for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and its FiOS TV platform, provided the telco is able to push its franchise deals through. So, it's fair to say that the two will eventually engage in a bare-knuckle fight for broadband supremacy in the Big Apple. (See Verizon FiOS TV Ready for NYC, FiOS in NYC: Verizon's Daunting Task, and NYC Getting FiOS TV by Year's End.)

"FiOS is a good product. As an editorial comment, I'm not sure it's an economic product for Verizon," said Britt, alluding to the costs of deploying the telco's fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) platform. "The product they're offering is not really differentiated... The real video competition is still satellite."

Although Time Warner Cable has championed the use of switched digital video (SDV), the MSO's bandwidth strategy in New York hinges on its ability to go all-digital and recapture analog spectrum for video-on-demand, high-definition television, and other spectrum-eating services.

TWC's Staten Island system went all-digital last year, and its Brooklyn-Queens properties just completed the migration. Manhattan will be all-digital by year's end, Britt said.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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