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.
Years away, while DOCSIS 3.1 can do an upstream gigabit today. If the wireless guys think they can go both upstream and downstream on the same frequency, why can't cable? Alcatel has already demonstrated a DSL full duplex prototype. Belal Hamzeh at CableLabs believes the answer is probably yes. (Blog below.) Cable worldwide is excited, as the comments below from Australia's NBN CTO Dennis Steiger, demonstrate.
Full duplex cable won't be delivered to most customers soon, even if things go well. "If all signs remain positive, the project will transition from an innovation effort into an R&D project, open to all interested participants," Hamzeh reports. I expect it will take months even to begin the research project and more time after that for the research to yield a reliable standard. Upgrading the equipment, including the subscriber boxes, will take additional years. We all know projects like this often take longer than hoped.
Meanwhile, Verizon is winning away customers with 50 and 100 megabit upstreams. BT has begun deploying 15M lines of G.fast, also capable of hundreds of megabits. AT&T is deploying 12M lines of fiber home or G.fast. France, Spain, Korea and Taiwan are moving rapidly to G.fast and fiber home.
The Halo Effect: Announce you're offering a gig to a few thousand people and a million become more positive about your company. The pr is working well. AT&T discovered signups increased across 10X or even 100X more homes than they actually reached. At AT&T, ~5% have the option - and the large majority never will.
AT&T explains to Wall Street they believe 45-70 megabits is enough to compete with cable while teasing consumers with what's mostly a token rollout.
Gigabit (shared) to nearly all of 53M homes and businesses. Comcast is going to upgrade 40% of the U.S. to DOCSIS 3.1, offering a gigabit. Brian's boys are going to start in 2016, probably early, and continue for another year or two. Comcast VP Robert Howald dropped a bombshell. "We're testing it this year. Our intent is to scale it through our footprint through 2016. We want to get it across the footprint very quickly. We're shooting for two years," he said in Mike Dano's Fierce Cable interview. The story was picked up by the Washington Post and a dozen others. Everyone in broadband has known for years gigabit cable was on the way and now the big papers are getting the message.
"Shared" speeds will be 500+ megabits down 95+% of the time, I predict. That's similar to the 400-700 megabit speeds of AT&T's coming "gigaclear" G.fast fiber to the basement.
Standard cable coax systems have a total capacity of 4.7 gigabits when used just for data. Most of the bandwidth today is used for TV. As the TV side goes all digital, data can claim more of the pipe.
First generation cable modems shared a single 6 MHz or 8 MHz channel for a maximum speed of 35-50 megabits, shared.
DOCSIS 3 initially bonded 4 channels for 150-200 megabits downstream. The systems now coming out of the labs bond 25 channels for a shared gigabit. The typical cable system has 132 6 MHz channels, but carrying 100 HD TV channels and the remaining analog TV takes up many of those. Upstream is typically limited and offered to customers as no more than 5-6 megabits. Higher upstream speeds are practical, but would require more changes to the system and are very rarely implemented.
Intel began sampling gigabit chips in 2012 and Arris has shown working gear at trade shows. Kabel Deutschland CTO Glanz is optimistic he’ll begin serving customers by the end of 2013.
DOCSIS 3.1 is expected to be 1 gigabit (shared) upstream and 10 gigabits downstream, according to John Chapman, Cisco’s chief cable architect and a member of the committee. Manufacturers are targeting 2015 but were two years late with DOCSIS 3.0. It uses more efficient OFDM coding and I believe will use higher frequencies as well. Most systems will require (modest) upgrades to CMTS, amplifiers and other gear. The cost should be moderate (? < $200 most places) but real.
Tom Cloonan of Arris is confident of remarkable speeds. (Video and transcript below). At CableLabs' 2015 summer event he predicted DOCSIS would reach 15 gig (shared) in a few years and 50-80 gig a decade later. 15 gigabits would require using 1.7 GHz and higher speeds would require going to 6GHz and more. Jeff Baumgartner at Multichannel calls this "supersonic DOCSIS."
Every cableco has plans but how will they price? Using DOCSIS 3.0, Videotron now is serving customers in Montreal (pr below) with the whole city set to upgrade in the near future. Hitron modems are going into use in the U.S., presumably at Altice's Suddenlink and at GCI in Alaska. (Also below). Suddenlink is charging $109 for the gigabit.
Comcast and Cox also offer a gigabit in many areas but today it's mostly a pr stunt. Comcast is charging $300/month and $1,000 for the install. They run a dedicated fiber and deliver the service as they would for a large business.
Both companies tell me they will switch to using their existing coax when DOCSIS 3.1 is ready.