Next-gen DOCSIS over HFC or all-in on Fiber? The strategic decisions facing cable operators
By Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader at Light Reading
Facing ever-mounting competition from fiber, fixed wireless, 5G, and other rival broadband service providers, as well as quarterly broadband subscriber losses for the first time in its history, the cable industry now finds itself standing at a crossroads.
Should cable operators move ahead with their legacy hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) architecture and next-generation versions of DOCSIS technology? Or should they junk HFC and DOCSIS and embrace all-fiber networks and next-gen versions of PON technology? Or should they try to cobble together some combination of both approaches?
As they weigh their long-term future, cablecos are coping by urgently developing a wide range of strategies for upgrading and/or replacing their legacy HFC networks, as they seek to maintain their competitive position. These strategies include: adopting enhanced versions of DOCSIS 3.1, rolling out one or both versions of DOCSIS 4.0, building fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) extensions to their existing HFC plants, ripping up their HFC networks and replacing them with all-fiber lines, deploying distributed access architecture (DAA) technology, carrying out spectrum mid-splits and high-splits, and deploying network virtualization, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, among other measures.
Although few, if any, operators are looking at carrying out all these options at the same time, most are examining multiple technologies, platforms and services as they search for the magic formula to survive and thrive in an intensely competitive environment over the next decade. As a result, they are scrambling to create proofs-of-concept, conduct lab tests, run field trials, build new equipment, develop novel business models and plan their next moves.
Yet the clock is ticking for cablecos as fiber, fixed wireless and mobile providers continue to make impressive strides in the broadband market and lure cable’s core customers away. Operators also face the prospect of shelling out huge sums of capital to upgrade their legacy networks and keep them competitive at a time when the U.S. government is handing out tens of billions of dollars to subsidize mostly new fiber network builds.
So what does the future hold for cable? Which network upgrade strategies will prove successful? How will this all work out?
These are the types of question that we will examine at our Cable Next-Gen Technologies and Strategies conference in Denver on Tuesday, March 12 and Wednesday, March 13. Returning for the 17th consecutive year, Cable Next-Gen will bring together the tech titans of the cable industry to dissect, discuss and debate the direction of the industry over the next decade.
The key topics that we will cover include: the latest developments with DOCSIS 3.1 and DOCSIS 4.0, cable’s growing deployment of PON technology, the impact of the U.S. government’s huge Broadband, Equity, Access & Deployment (BEAD) program on the broadband market, the strategies for boosting upstream capacity, the industry’s adoption of such next-gen technologies as network automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the development of new video apps and services.
So come join us and about 300 of your friends and colleagues at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Denver on March 12 and 13. We promise to make it worth your while.