Comcast: Our Network's Ready for 5G

Calling the overlay "uncanny," Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit took the opportunity at Deutsche Bank's 25th Annual Media & Telecom Conference today to share the company's view on how well Comcast's current network footprint maps to the expected backhaul requirements of future 5G deployments.

Smit told the investor audience at the Deutsche Bank event that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has had two independent experts evaluate its fiber network to see how it could be used to service the backhaul needs of advanced 5G wireless networks. The results, said Smit, showed "excellent compatibility." Smit also emphasized that Comcast continues to add more fiber both for residential and commercial services development, meaning that additional capacity will be available for backhaul once 5G technology is ready to roll out.

"Our overlay with the 5G overlay, the network similarities are just uncanny," declared Smit, "and the ability of our network to service the 5G needs, we feel very confident with."

Deutsche Bank analyst Bryan Kraft, however, pressed Smit on whether the company's existing coaxial plant could also be used for 5G deployments. On that question, Smit was a bit more circumspect. He suggested that Comcast's coax network will continue to serve residential broadband customers well, but didn't commit to whether coax would always be suitable for 5G support.

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The question of the cable industry's role in future 5G networks is one that's been kicking around for the last year or so. Wireless carriers are moving full speed ahead with 5G development, but they also know they don't have the last-mile network capacity in place today to support the traffic they expect to flow across future 5G connections. Mobile operators are building out more of their own fiber to help manage the expected backhaul needs, but those efforts alone won't be enough.

The demand for localized fixed-line infrastructure is part of what's driving the speculation that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is considering a merger with one of the major cable operators. Comcast and Charter Communications Inc. , in particular, have the dense regional networks in a number of markets that carriers will need for 5G backhaul. While the idea of an actual merger with Verizon may be a long shot, those cable providers know they have a serious asset to leverage in any future wireless business negotiations. (See Cable Has One Thing Verizon Needs.)

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

msilbey 3/6/2017 | 3:42:30 PM
Re: Rewards of forward thinking Duh- Fantastic added detail. Reminds me I need to go digging on current fiber counts in cable deployments.
lanbrown 3/6/2017 | 1:39:26 PM
The right move I can see T-Mobile and Sprint being interested and possibly Verizon.  I would think where AT&T is the LEC that they would be looking at their existing network.  They are trying to get more and more FTTH.  Verizon is retreating from the home broadband market and has been selling off assets as such.  With AT&T staying in that market, this helps the wireless side of the house as they need to get fiber close to the home already, even if they are still using copper for the last mile to the home.  The bigger question that should be asked, has Verizon made the right move so they need to rely on others?


Also, would it be the right move for others to use the Comcast network.  My experience, the techs are undertrained and don't have the correct tools to do their job.
Duh! 3/6/2017 | 12:01:42 PM
Rewards of forward thinking When the MSOs started building out their HFC networks, there was an industry controversy as to whether the architecture should be "fiber lean" or "fiber rich". "Lean" meant using 6-fiber count cables; the "rich" camp did at least 12, and often 24.   If I recall, most of the larger MSOs that were ultimately acquired by Comcast were in the fiber rich camp (not sure about Adelphia).

That being the case, Comcast now has significant amounts of spare fiber in their feeder plant, which they can use for back/front haul, enterpise services or FTTH. With WDM or 10GEPON on top of that, they have a lot of untapped capacity out to the node level of their plant.  That is most likely what Smit is referring to. He owes a debt of gratitude to his predecessors.
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