80% coverage at Comcast leads the way
By 2019-2020, more than 100M of America's 133M households will be able to get gigabit cable downstream. Comcast, the largest with 54M homes passed, is at 80% today and headed close to 100% by yearend. The second largest, Charter with 49M, is beginning to turn on the gigabit and will be deploying heavily in 2018 and 2019. #3, Cox, is planning complete coverage soon.
About 40M will be able to get 1 gigabit symmetric from the telcos. Verizon has essentially frozen at around 15M, which AT&T intends to match by 2020. Millions more are fibered at smaller companies.
The upstream for most cable will be 5-20 megabits, with a few able to receive 50 megabits. Higher cable upstreams will mostly wait until 2020 or later. John Chapman of Cisco tells me full duplex DOCSIS will yield hundreds of megabits upstream initially and gigabits eventually. He expects first units in 2019 and volume in 2020.
All 6M Cox customers should have a gig available by the end of 2019. Correction: I had reported that Cox had intended to offer a gig to all in 2016. I believed that was a commitment to a consumer priced DOCSIS 3.1 service. I was wrong. Cox did have a near-universal gigabit offering, but it was a business priced dedicated fiber, ($thousands, I believe.)
Todd Smith of Cox writes, "DOCSIS 3.1 is live now with employees and we will begin deploying to customers in some markets later this year. 40 percent of the households we serve nationwide will have access to Gigabit speeds by the end of 2017."
Cox Vice President Philip Nutsugah tells Mari Sibley, "The company plans to reach the rest of its customers (or at least 99% of them) with gigabit broadband by the end of 2019."
50M home giant Comcast expects, "DOCSIS 3.1 across the majority of its footprint by year-end."
Ready for customers 2019-2021. John Chapman made cable engineering history with the first demonstration of full duplex cable at ANGA COM in Cologne, pictured. The setup doesn't look like much until you realize this is the world's first prototype of a 10 gigabit down, 5 gigabit up, cable system. By using the same spectrum upstream and down, remarkable speeds are possible.
Chapman outlined the path to gigabit cable in 2005. Almost no one believed it possible except for a handful of innovative engineers. His ideas became central to DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1. Comcast today is offering the gig downstream to millions of customers. If John says FDX gigabit upstream will work, I'm a true believer. (The schedule isn't guaranteed, of course.)
Full duplex communication has a long history, but not at the speeds of today's wireless and modems. Phil Levis & Sachin Katti of Stanford have spun off Kumu Networks, which has ambitious plans for wireless FDX and inspired renewed interest.
FDX for cable is a harder problem. Cable systems are "point to multipoint" - one central unit, the CMTS, attaches to many homes. The challenge with point to multipoint is that an echo canceller can only be used at the CMTS end.
So cheap, all of cable will go DOCSIS 3.1. DOCSIS 3.1 is designed to do a gig up and down, but only the downstream is widely deployed. Gig downstream cable is deploying rapidly, with Comcast and Cox expecting to cover 50% of the U.S. in the next 24 months. Until now, cable upstream doesn't match fiber or G.fast, running 20-35 meg at best. Upstream DOCSIS 3.1 is not yet deployed anywhere, although Comcast has announced they will begin in 2017. Others will wait for full duplex. Vodafone in Spain now has promised a gig across their entire network by the end of 2018, including upstream.
Until now, cable upstream doesn't match fiber or G.fast, running 20-35 meg at best. Upstream DOCSIS 3.1 is not yet deployed anywhere, although Comcast has announced they will begin in 2017. Others will wait for full duplex. Vodafone in Spain now has promised a gig across their entire network by the end of 2018, including upstream. I wouldn't be surprised if the pr is running ahead of the likely deployment and that the upstream is a little later.
Vodafone Spain is built around the former ONO, purchased by Voda in 2014 for €7.2 billion. It has 2.1M cable customers while passing 9.5M.
First major cableco to make the switch. The cost will be high but investors seem happy. The stock went up in a down market. I found the move particularly surprising because Altice is very heavily leveraged after paying well above market for Cablevision and others. Patrick Drahi is of the John Malone school: high leverage and risk, GAAP losses, prayer. That is working well in today's low interest environment.
Other cablecos trust DOCSIS 3.1 to remain competitive with fiber. Comcast is offering a gigabit downstream of DOCSIS 3.1 to millions of subscribers, with hundreds of megabits of DOCSIS upstream beginning in 2017. Cablevision faces Verizon FiOS, still America's best network although getting a little long in the tooth. I suspect Altice expects savings from a new, all IP network and ultimately lower operating costs. Fiber will enhance their strong share of the many businesses in Long Island. Once the decision was made to go all fiber, offering 10 gig was logical. The difference in equipment cost is small.
Liberty Global is using fiber home for as much as 2/3rds of the new homes they are passing and many other cablecos are installing more fiber. As far as I know, Altice is the first large cableco to rip out a DOCSIS network and bring in fiber home. (Calix is providing gear for some small cablecos.)
Altice wants to IPO the U.S. division, cash out a portion, and use stock to acquire more companies.
Daniel Frankel reports, “because 3.1 was not available in upstream. ... I think it’ll be in 2017.” Comcast's $70 gigabit downstream is available today in parts of Chicago, Nashville, and Nashville with a promise to cover over 40M homes by 2018. The upstream is limited to 35 megabits, but that's about to change.Jorge Salinger is ready as soon as the vendors can deliver. Casa Systems has already demonstrated 400 megabits upstream and will soon show 600 megabits. They will only offer gigabits downstream in 2016,
I had heard from cable people that they would wait for Full Duplex before upgrading speeds, so this is good news. Full Duplex - sending both upstream and down in the same spectrum - is an active project at CableLabs but likely 3-7 years from volume deployment. Comcast instead will use dedicated spectrum for upstream, possibly eight 6 MHz channels. AT&T is serious about adding 12M "gigabit" homes, using GPON and G.fast, and Comcast wants to be able to match the gigabits soon available to about 30% of the U.S.
Cable systems are about to get a massive capacity improvement with software defined CCAPs running on easily upgradable hardware. Harmonic has just entered the market with a software-defined unit running on a common, off-the-shelf Intel PC.
Shared networks can work remarkably well. Across the U.S., AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are in a fierce marketing battle to offer fiber to new developments. Table stakes now are a reliable gigabit network and premium TV offerings. 400,000 new apartments go up every year. They add less than 1/2 of 1% to the housing stock but are a prime growth market.
I suspect there's a slight exaggeration here, but 97-99% would make most of us very happy. U.S. & U.K. government testing (SamKnows) have long demonstrated that most cable networks are darn close to 100% delivery. In 2014, FCC tests showed 95% of Comcast customers received between 109% and 119% of advertised upload speeds.
"Gigabit without a backhoe. ... We don't have to dig up the streets and can go incredibly fast. You're going to see us go coast-to-coast in the next 12 months," Comcast CTO Tony Werner tells Amy Maclean in a short but important interview. I'm told there are unannounced Comcast deployments of DOCSIS 3.1 in Chicago and California, as well as the large public trial in Atlanta. I'm guessing that Comcast has already upgraded the CMTS for millions of lines, ready to turn on large systems when they believe everything is ready. (That's consistent with what manufacturers are shipping but I don't have confirmation.)
Cable supplier Arris expects substantial sales of DOCSIS 3.1 modems starting early next year, which is consistent with Tony's prediction. Note that the high speeds are likely to be download only. Upload looks mostly to be 90% slower.