Seeking to stave off the competitive threats from Google Fiber, AT&T, CenturyLink, and bother rivals, the US cable industry is fighting back by hiking its own broadband speeds and unveiling a new consumer-oriented brand name for DOCSIS 3.1
In a flurry of announcements and pronouncements over the past 10 days, three of the top eight US MSOs have unveiled plans to boost downstream as high as 1 Gbit/s. All three MOs – Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , and Mediacom Communications Corp. – intend to carry out the speed hikes in at least several of their biggest markets over the rest of the year.
Cox, of course, has made the biggest splash with its plans to launch 1 Gbit/s service in select markets later this year. Cox CEO Pat Esser disclosed the plan during last week's Cable Show in Los Angeles and other Cox officials later confirmed it, saying the company will rely on both its main hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) networks and all-fiber links to deliver the 1 Gig speeds. (See Cox Goes for a Gigabit .)
As it prepares for its 1 Gig launches later in the year, Cox is already boosting the top broadband speeds it offers. At the Cable Show last week, Cox CTO Kevin Hart said the third largest US MSO is now increasing its fastest downstream speeds to 150 Mbit/s to 200 Mbit/s across its service footprint.
Mediacom, the nation's eighth-largest MSO, is also revving up to deliver faster speeds across its territories. The company announced last week that it will hike its maximum downstream speed to 150 Mbit/s and its maximum upstream speed to 20 Mbit/s in all of its markets, starting in early June.
Mediacom already offers one of the industry's top downstream speeds, 305 Mbit/s, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But it apparently doesn't plan to extend that offering to other markets yet.
At the same time, Time Warner Cable recently announced plans to bring downstream speeds as high as 300 Mbit/s in parts of New York City and Los Angeles, starting next month. The nation's second largest MSO said it will offer the higher speeds to more than 200,000 broadband customers by the end of June.
TW Cable has lagged behind most of its MSO peers in offering such broadband speeds to subscribers. But, with its move to all-digital service in New York and Los Angeles, the company is now freeing up spectrum to deliver faster data speeds.
These MSO moves all come as the cable industry seeks to position its next-gen broadband spec, DOCSIS 3.1, for the emerging Gigabit Era. With DOCSIS 3.1 designed to support speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s downstream and 1 Gbit/s up stream, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) announced last week that "Gigasphere" will be the new public name for D3.1.
The industry's re-branding of the geeky-sounding DOCSIS 3.1 spec does not come as a great surprise. At the SCTE Cable-TEC Expo show in Atlanta last fall, NCTA president and CEO Michael Powell ripped into the DOCSIS moniker and said the industry needed a much sexier name to sell the service to consumers. (See Powell: Rebrand Docsis 3.1.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading