Cable Pushes Docsis 3.0 Deployments

DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen Broadband Strategies -- Led by aggressive deployments by major MSOs such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Videotron Ltd. and Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), Docsis 3.0-class Internet speeds will reach 85 million homes past in North America this year, and approach 90 million homes passed by the end of 2012, according to Heavy Reading's latest estimates.

That's up from 75 million at the end of 2010, and 50 million at the end of 2009, according to Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Alan Breznick, who offered an update on Docsis 3.0's progress here. (See Crossroads for Docsis 3.0.)

With much of North America's cable footprint soon to be wired up for wideband, MSOs will be well positioned to parry the kinds of speeds produced by competitive fiber-to-the-home deployments by wielding service tiers that burst out 50Mbit/s to 100Mbit/s -- at least in the downstream.

While that gives cable a way to counter FiOS and similar telco-based services, the next challenge to overcome is boosting adoption of D3 services, Breznick says.

Speed may thrill, but the high price on those tiers can also cause a chill, and limit demand to small pockets of early adopters and business customers.

"It's got to be affordable, or [cable] is going to be stuck with early adopters with money to burn, and there's not as much money to burn as there used to be," Breznick said.

Another possible catalyst for wideband could come in the form of new hybrid QAM/IP video gateways that bake in Docsis 3.0 capabilities. But there's not much uniformity in the industry on how those gateways will take shape, meaning the market will start off fairly fragmented.

Also of concern for U.S. operators is the regulatory uncertainty that's being generated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's AllVid initiative for network-agnostic video gateways and adapters. MSOs may hesitate to pull the trigger on significant gateway deployments until the FCC decides to act and turn AllVid into a rule-making proceeding or shelve it altogether, Breznick notes.

The European landscape
Although North American MSOs continue to ramp up D3 deployments, Europe has been no slouch, contributing greatly to the 100 million cable homes worldwide that already have access to wideband.

In fact, Europe has been a fertile breeding ground for wideband downstream bursts of greater than 100 Mbit/s as MSOs in the region continue to conduct tests that push the limits of Docsis 3.0 to produce speeds of greater than 1 Gbit/s. (See Speed Thrills , Cisco Aiming to One-Up Cable's Upstream and Get Tests 1.4-Gig Speeds.)

Here's a snapshot of what's happening with D3 across the pond:

Be sure to check back often for more coverage of the event, which will also offer an update on the industry's Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP) project, cable's latest work with upstream channel bonding and IPv6, how wideband is playing a role in cable's eventual migration to IP video, and how FTTH is factoring into MSO access network strategies.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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