“Due to consistent investment in network and new technologies, cable operators are not only increasing their market share, but have also developed a cost-effective evolution path to meet future demand…” Arthur D Little

In Australia traditional telecommunications carriers have chosen to evolve their wired networks to either VDSL2 or fibre using either GPON or GePON in the belief that these technologies deliver superior access economics to cable technologies. Alas, academics seem to share the same view.

I openly challenge this myth. And in the process debunk other myths:

  • Wireless broadband, cable, VDSL2, and GPON are all shared media infrastructures. All these media share the broadband bandwidth to the available users connected, or active, at that time. For example, GPON has 2.5 Gbps for the downstream. Shared amongst 32 concurrent users means they have 78 Mbps per active user not 100 Mbps. In the upstream, GPON has 1.2 Gbps or 37.5 Mbps;
  • Each media has its implicit differences in how much bandwidth and how well they support different applications like interactive video using QoS as a technology to provide the differentiated services. The laws of physics apply to each of these technologies. Point-to-point infrastructures are a non-shared media within the confines of the direct links, only;
  • I take exception to academics espousing the benefits and speeds of fibre technologies without acknowledging that there are other broadband network technology challengers;
  • Cable broadband networks are not proprietary technology. The networks use IP transport protocol, for the delivery of superfast internet, from the customers’ modems to the optical core of the World Wide Web.
  • Australian cable broadband networks are “closed” only because the existing owners choose this. They could quickly deliver wholesale bandwidth to independent virtual operators just like wireless and DSL networks.

The original cable broadband networks were built after the copper-based networks were funded and established, in our case by the Australian Government. In the much touted AT&T and Verizon geographic markets, the cable operators are investing heavily and available public data shows that they are winning their fair market share: customers are switching to the cable operators because they offer attractive services, be that better video experience or superfast internet or a better value proposition. The operators and the policy makers must be prepared to expect consumers to demand a certain quality of service from specific applications such as broadband telephony.

Radical thought: Cable networks create infrastructure based competition. They can be the source of wholesale services where differentiation is based on throughput speed, quality of service, and pricing by independent retailers or resellers.

The prevailing view of fibre and the ADSL2plus / VDSL2 vendors is that cable broadband has had its day. They are still investing substantial marketing resources to communicate the merits of their technology and their view of the future.

In 2010 the next wave of cable modems, based on EuroDOCSIS, will deliver down load speeds approaching 400 Mbps and 100 Mbps per customer, a solution that offers a lower cost and longer term future.

Finally, the Professor Rod Tucker has exposed his bias and failed his technology research assignment. The emerging view of the cable broadband operators and vendors, such as ARRIS Inc., is that the soon to arrive RFoG technology (Radio Frequency over Glass is based on standards alignment work by CableLabs, IEEE and ITU-T) will deliver massive ultra-bandwidth in the near-term, a solution that offers a lower cost and longer term future for cable operators as they go head-to-head with telco fibre operators in new network builds. Yes, cable broadband networks are moving to deploy fibre-to-the-premise for new network builds.

Peter Fray

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