Is Cable Faster Than FiOS?

LAS VEGAS – The Cable Show '07 – The big cheeses of big cable say Verizon's FiOS doesn't scare them and AT&T's U-verse is a silly little science project, according to a panel here at The Cable Show on Wednesday.

As reported this week by Cable Digital News, Docsis 3.0 modem silicon is likely to be ready for certification testing at CableLabs this fall, earlier than originally expected by bandwidth-hungry MSOs. (See TI Chips In.)

“If everything goes well, we'll ramp real product starting in January 2008," said Peter Percosan, director of broadband strategy for Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN), a key Docsis chip supplier.

"The original Docsis 3.0 schedules were not deployable until 2009 or 2010, which is too late," said Steve Craddock, senior vice president for new media development at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). "TI stepped up to create the silicon and get it into CableLabs. That accelerated everything by 15 to 18 months."

Docsis 3.0 supports the bonding of at least four upstream and downstream RF channels, enabling symmetric broadband access at more than 150 Mbit/s. It also adds support for IPv6 and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Cable's biggest mouths say Docsis 3.0 channel bonding offers more than enough bandwidth to compete with telco fiber rollouts. And, while ILECs like Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) busy themselves with backhoes, cable operators can quickly and ubiquitously offer ultra high-speed capabilities to the consumer market.

"The cable industry could go out and fully deploy Docsis 3.0 for a couple billion dollars, an amount you could find leftover in Bill Gates's couch,” said Comcast's Craddock.

“With that investment, we could blanket the entire U.S. footprint with 160 Mbit/s capability in a couple years. Verizon is going to spend ten times as much to cover 14 percent of U.S. homes. FiOS is something my grandson has to worry about.”

And what about AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s U-verse rollout?

"The AT&T initiative is a hobby project," Craddock argued, due to its dependency on DSL technology. “DSL was created by dyslexic engineers. Spell it backwards and you say it all,” he cracked. His punch line: Telco engineers who think they can scale a video service with multiple HDTV streams over copper must be ingesting hallucinogens like LSD. [Ed. note: Anyone want this guy giving a commencement address?]

Not-so-wisecracks aside, cable operators say that they are serious about Docsis 3.0 deployments, both for residential and business services, and that vendors are stepping up to the plate to deliver product.

In an effort to speed the qualification of cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) for Docsis 3.0, key network gear required for wideband rollouts, CableLabs developed a new tiered product submission approach.

MSO executives said they expect one vendor to submit a CMTS for full 3.0 qualification to CableLabs for Wave 56 testing in October. Sources indicate that company is likely to be startup Casa Systems Inc.

Cable Europe Labs is also fast-tracking 3.0 testing efforts to accelerate product availability. And for European operators, 3.0 products won’t be available a moment to soon.

"Because of the quality of copper plant in Europe, telcos can reach much higher speeds with DSL, and with higher reliability," said Jan Vorstermans, executive vice president for technology and infrastructure at Belgian MSO Telenet . "It's time for us to take back what was taken from us. With 3.0 we can deliver services competitive to whatever FTTH can bring."

— Michael Harris, Chief Analyst, Cable Digital News

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larytet 12/5/2012 | 3:08:56 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? ... and fiber is gonna oversubscribed too.

Let's assume that a subscriber uses 500Mb/s 24/7 (smart user runs HTTP server uploading video clips or builds a server farm)
Assuming flat rate $0.1/GB (about 50% of the rate AMZN charges their farm customers) our service will generate $400/day. The server will deliver 4TB every 24 hours which is equivalent of 1K DVDs.

Let's cut the throughput 20 times (25Mb/s) - we still have about 200G/day or $20/day.

No surprise, that Shaw/Rogers in Canada limit their subscribers to 5-10/G of data a month and traffic shape the heavy users.

Mark Sebastyn 12/5/2012 | 3:08:56 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? Those who god wishes to punish he first makes proud.

Does anyone care to mention the 160Mbs is shared? Among hundreds of homes? And that upstream doesn't get much better? And that overall network throughput doesn't improve because RF spectrum efficiency isn't better?

Come on Lightreading - dig in to what these guys are saying!
optodoofus 12/5/2012 | 3:08:55 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? I think it largely doesn't matter whether DOCSIS 3.0 is faster than FIOS.

I don't need 160 mbps.
I don't need 100 mbps.
I don't need 50 mbps.

Hell, I don't even really need the 8 mbps I have now. All the applications I use work great as is. I am not a big consumer of online video, and I have no plans to start getting my TV service over IP (unless some service provider is willing to give me the same quality for a better price, or more selection/flexibility for the same price, or a new pricing model like a la carte, etc.) So build out your DOCSIS 3.0 and your FIOS, but don't expect me to sign up unless you are going to sell it as cheaply (or cheaper) than the service I currently have. And, while I do not have an MBA, it would seem that spending a lot of money in order to reduce one's revenue stream does not seem to be a strong business opportunity.

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:08:55 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? But those Used Cable Salesmen are all excited and are spewing hype. Gee, they might be able to compete. Things were looking grim earlier for 2009-10. They just got to spend all that money so they can sell something!

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:08:55 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS?


FiOS - 32 customers per BPON segement (or per 622/155).

Cable - 500(?) per DOCSIS 3.0 segment.

There is further concentration deeper in the network, but clearly there is a big difference at the edge.

NetworkMercenary 12/5/2012 | 3:08:54 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? Fiber node splits are actually a poor choice for an MSO. The only positive thing that a node split will give a cable company is less contention per node for upstream services. No new bandwidth is given. Additionally, it sucks fiber resources dry, as more pairs are required to service that new node. It's expensive and the gain is quite minimal indeed.

I would agree that Vyyo+DOCSIS 3.0 is a sound strategy for residential customers who want to have higher bandwidth data services. PON to a node isn't required at all. Cable companies can leverage WDM to increase capacity to each node, leveraging Vyyo's 3GHz spectrum overlay to offer much more to the consumer. PON doesn't make sense for an MSO. The Vyyo solution is an elegant way to enable existing coax resources with significantly more bandwidth. Time-to-market is also greatly improved with the Vyyo solution, as the coax is already in place. Only taps are changed and amplifiers added to quickly expand the network bandwidth.
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:08:54 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? Brook,
I have always contended that far in the network is where the economics are a break or make. when they start with a few people they can give the edge all the BW they want. But to make it successfull they must service a lot of subs, meaning adding expensive BW deeper in the network and seriously e/affecting the business model. Any Over aggregation will become a nuisance and reason for churn.

zher 12/5/2012 | 3:08:54 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? The MSO guys need to adopt fiber. And those MSO and RBOC companies need to talk to each other and share the last mile - fiber!

The alternative way is through wireless. Next time I buy a house, I won't consider a house which is not fiber ready!
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:08:54 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? re: "Come on Lightreading - dig in to what these guys are saying!"

We have and will. Just because we're passing along what was said in a public forum doesn't mean we're suddenly devoid of all independent thought.

Still, thanks for the motivation. Enjoying your blog, as ever.

goundan 12/5/2012 | 3:08:54 PM
re: Is Cable Faster Than FiOS? Docsis 3.0 + VYYO + Fiber Node split - This will be cable's game. By 2011 you will see them start reclaiming bandwidth dedicated to analog channels as well. Now you'll have 40 Mbits downstream + 5 Mbits upstream dedicated per user. More than enough to run 2 HDTV + 2 SDTV per household with data to spare. Cable might also go for a variation of PON to the node, to ride the telco economies of scale given that cable's share outside NA is shrinking.
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