Making Business Sense Out Of The Wideband Protocol For A DOCSIS Network (2005)

By John T. Chapman

To date, cable operators have enjoyed an upper hand in the competition to deliver highspeed services because of their network capacity and bundling strategy. In the U.S., telcos’ attempts to counter this advantage by reliance on digital subscriber line (DSL) service have been somewhat successful in attracting new subs. But because of data throughput restrictions and the carrier’s reluctance to enter the video space, these services did not threaten cable operators’ advantage. However, with recent announcements of fiber-to-the-X (FTTX) and metro Ethernet architectures in the U.S., and deployments of advanced DSL, fiber networks and true triple play services elsewhere in the world, the playing field looks much more level and the true battle is ready to begin. The situation is even more intense in the Asia Pacific, Japan, and European regions where competitive broadband services are showing a growing traction with residential customers. So how can cable operators respond to these threats and the telco promise of 25, 50 or even 100 Mbps and greater broadband service to the home?

Fortunately for the cable industry, the answer does not lie in replicating its $80+ billion investment to add new physical capacity on top of existing networks or matching the $10 to 20 billion telcos will invest in fiber-based IP services. The answer lies in unleashing the full power of the cable industry’s existing hybrid fiber coax (HFC) networks.

With sixty percent of today's HFC spectrum being used to carry less than two percent of its data capacity, the goal is to take the available HFC bandwidth and data capacity and use them more efficiently. By simply modifying the connectivity of the backbone to the plant, operators will achieve ten times, 100 times, or even 1000 times of today's cable data capacity and at significantly lower price points than existing per-port broadband costs.

The technology that makes this possible is the wideband protocol for a Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS®) network. The technology promises to leapfrog the telco fiber strategy, dramatically alter the communications industry competitive landscape, and unlock more upside revenue potential for the cable industry than the original specifications.

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