Comcast Widens Wideband Footprint
LR Cable Opinion Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading 2/6/2009
Comcast, which ended 2008 with wideband service enabled in 20 percent of its network footprint, now has more than 35 percent of its cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) upgraded for the technology, according to Chris Bastian, senior director of network architecture for the MSO.
Speaking here at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Canadian Summit earlier this week, Bastian said Comcast is now installing or upgrading more than 100 Docsis 3.0-capable CMTSs in its systems each month.
Bastian said Comcast, which is relying on Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) for its CMTS gear, is also preparing to launch wideband service in more markets. The MSO is getting ready to extend service to the San Francisco and Denver markets after introducing wideband in 10 other major markets last year.
Comcast is also looking to boost data speeds to its wideband subscribers. But Bastian declined to say how much or when. The MSO now offers maximum speeds of 50 Mbit/s downstream and 10 Mbit/s upstream.
“We will offer greater speeds as the market demands,” he said. “Part of that will be customer demand, and the other part will be keeping pace with, or outpacing, the competition.”
Bastian said Comcast is preparing for greater Docsis 3.0 deployments by upgrading its fiber nodes to support at least three bonded downstream channels and two bonded upstream channels. It’s also preparing for the wideband future by upgrading from 16 QAM to 64 QAM on the upstream side, while it anxiously waits for its two CMTS vendors to gain the CableLabs “Silver” level of qualification, which includes Docsis 3.0's upstream channel bonding feature. [Ed note: To date, only one CMTS vendor – Casa Systems Inc. – has achieved the Docsis 3.0 "Silver" and "Full" designations.] (See CableLabs Accelerates Docsis 3.0 Testing and CableLabs Cheers Casa Chassis.)
“We’re eager to deploy upstream channel bonding,” he said. “We’re looking to get our hands on these devices as soon as we can.” He’s hoping to start beta testing of CMTSs for upstream channel bonding in the spring.
Besides faster data download and upload speeds, Bastian said Comcast is aiming to use Docsis 3.0 to offer a number of new services to broadband subscribers, including multicasts, video telephony, video conferencing, and network backups of home content. In addition, Comcast is hankering to use wideband to deliver symmetrical bandwidth and AES encryption to commercial customers and T-1 cellular backhaul service to wireless providers.
— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading