Docsis 3.0 Hits Great White North

6:00 PM -- TORONTO -- Despite the lack of competitive fiber-network pressure from BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), at least three of Canada’s biggest MSOs are getting serious about Docsis 3.0 this year.

Speaking at the inaugural Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Canadian Summit here on a cold, snowy Tuesday, senior engineering executives of Rogers Communications Inc. (NYSE: RG; Toronto: RCI), Shaw Communications Inc. , and Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. all spelled out plans to launch Docsis 3.0 service or greatly extend their existing rollouts throughout their territories. And a senior engineer from a fourth sizable Canadian MSO, EastLink, said his company may join the wideband party as well in 2009.

Dermot O’Carroll, senior vice president of engineering and network operations for the Rogers cable unit, said Canada’s largest MSO has been testing Docsis 3.0 gear in both the lab and the field for months. Plans call for Rogers to start commercial deployments in more than one of its major Ontario markets this year. Rogers officials are now in the final stages of picking cable modem termination system (CMTS) vendors for the rollout, apparently pondering whether to stay with just incumbent Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) or add Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) to the mix.

Dennis Steiger, vice president of engineering for Shaw, said Canada’s second-largest MSO is also committed to introducing Docsis 3.0 in multiple markets this year. Shaw, which has been purchasing 3.0 gear from vendors and reorganizing its spectrum to make room for bonded data channels, has already targeted its first market in Western Canada. It aims to announce that initial market sometime in the next two or three weeks.

Daniel Prouix, senior vice president of engineering for Videotron, said his company just expanded its rollout of Docsis 3.0 service to the South Shore of Montreal last month, adding another 377,000 homes passed. The MSO, which launched 3.0 service in nearby Laval early last year, has also turned on service in Montreal’s North Shore. (See Videotron Widens Wideband Footprint.) Plans call for expanding service throughout Quebec over the next couple of years, using CMTSs from Cisco and cable modems from multiple vendors.

Finally, Steve Irvine, director of Internet engineering and operations for EastLink, said his company tested pre-Docsis 3.0 equipment about a year ago and has since started to test standardized gear in the labs. Not feeling the same urgency to boost data speeds as its three bigger counterparts, the Eastern Canadian MSO is not exactly committed to launching 3.0 service in 2009. But Irvine said EastLink may wind up doing a small deployment before the year is out.

— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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