Wideband Speed Race Takes Off

It looks like cable operators are starting to engage in a speed race around the world, courtesy of the Docsis 3.0 spec.

On the North American continent, Charter Communications Inc. briefly claimed the crown as the fastest cable provider in the land late last month, launching wideband service in St. Louis with downstream data rates as high as 60 Mbit/s. With the deployment of its "Ultra60" service, Charter seized the speed lead from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. , and other early Docsis 3.0 players, all of which are offering download rates of up to 50 Mbit/s.

But then Canadian MSO Shaw Communications Inc. trumped Charter with the launch of an even faster Docsis 3.0 offering in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (of all places). Shaw quietly began rolling out its "High-Speed Nitro" service last week, offering downstream bursts of up to 100 Mbit/s. That made it the first North American MSO to break the 100-Mbit/s barrier.

Now Comcast, not to be outdone, is making noises about hiking its wideband speeds further. Speaking at the SCTE Canadian Summit in Toronto last week, Chris Bastian, senior director of network architecture for Comcast, said North America's largest MSO is exploring the idea of boosting its Docsis 3.0 rates. But he didn't indicate how high Comcast might go, or when it might act. (See Comcast Widens Wideband Footprint .)

Other big U.S. and Canadian MSOs will join the Docsis 3.0 speed race soon. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Cox Communications Inc. , and Rogers Communications Inc. (NYSE: RG; Toronto: RCI) are all gearing up to launch wideband service in the first half of the year. And RCN Corp. just began deploying 3.0 service in Boston and New York, with download speeds of 50 Mbit/s "and faster."

On the global stage, Japan's Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM) is still setting the bar with a 160-Mbit/s downstream service. And in Europe, UPC Broadband appears to be leading the pack with a 120-Mbit/s service in the Netherlands. So the North American MSOs are still playing catch-up.

But, as we'll explore at Cable Next-Gen Broadband Strategies, a Light Reading Live event that will be held Feb. 24 in Denver, this new Docsis 3.0 speed race clearly shows that the big cable operators are getting serious about offering wideband service. While 2008 was mainly the year for field trials and pilot deployments, 2009 seems likely to be the year for major product launches and extensive rollouts.

In fact, Heavy Reading projects that Docsis 3.0 will pass about 40 million homes in North America by the end of 2009 – nearly triple the estimated 14 million homes passed at the close of last year. We then see the total jumping to 70 million homes passed at the end of 2010. Detailed analysis of the Docsis 3.0 market, product approvals, and vendor positioning can be found in Heavy Reading's latest "Cable Next-Gen Technology Tracker."

— Alan Breznick, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

For more information, or a FREE PREVIEW of the "Cable Next-Gen Technology Tracker," please contact:

    Lee Salem
    Sales Director – Custom Research, Heavy Reading
    [email protected]

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