BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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88 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | JULY 2016 TECHNOLOGY Cable and the Gigabit Competition from fiber to the home is pushing cable companies toward providing gigabit service – and, in some cases, toward providing fiber to the home. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities I n the vast areas of the United States that lack access to fiber to the home, cable companies have easily maintained their positions as broadband speed leaders. Moderate investment over two decades kept them well ahead of DSL and wireless competition – and, in many cases, ahead of residential bandwidth demand. Unless developers mandated fiber in new construction or coaxial infrastructure was in a condition too poor to upgrade, few cable companies saw any need for FTTH. All that changed with the Game of Gigs. Once Google demonstrated it could provide gigabit speed at a moderate cost and consumers responded with enthusiasm, the strategy of gradual evolution was no longer good enough. Large and mid-sized telcos began building gigabit networks. New providers suddenly appeared on the scene. Hundreds of municipalities started to review their options, develop broadband plans and issue RFPs. Areas that once had seemed safe for cable were no longer so safe. e gigabit genie wasn't about to go back into the bottle. In the last year, cable companies have launched ambitious plans to meet the gigabit challenge wherever it appears – or to stave off competition where they think it might appear. ey have a wide variety of technologies to choose from, and where they will deploy each of these is still unclear. What does seem clear is that providers will use their capital unevenly, based on demographics and competitive threats, and that cable infrastructures will become more rather than less diverse. "MSOs are more comfortable than telcos in having a diversity of networks," says Erik Gronvall, senior manager of product management, fiber innovation, for CommScope, which makes a variety of equipment for cable providers. "ey're already doing wave- division multiplexing and other things that are complicated to manage, so it's not a big challenge to manage multiple networks." Communities need to be aware of this growing diversity and make sure they are not left behind. Mike Coco, president of Choice Property Resources and a keen observer of the multifamily broadband industry, comments, "It's possible we'll have an increasing broadband gap. Not just rural areas but also suburban and metropolitan areas will have gaps." In addition to financial considerations, he says, political factors may influence providers'decisions about where to invest. Cities that are loud and clear about their residents' need for better broadband are more likely to get better broadband, other things being equal. GIGABIT STRATEGIES Here are some strategies for cable providers to approach and ultimately achieve gigabit service. Most require significant effort and investment. Channel bonding. Most cable providers today use a hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) architecture, running fiber to a neighborhood node and serving the neighborhood with coaxial cable from that node. With DOCSIS 3.0, that configuration can provide up to 40 Mbps per channel. Bonding multiple channels allows higher speeds. "at's the type of activity happening now," says Tom Cloonan, CTO of