Cable MSO Market, U.S.: DOCSIS 3.1 and Fiber Investments, Comcast & Charter MVNO Partnership

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 with No comments

What's new in the U.S. cable MSO space? In the long-term, breaking into the wireless market appears to be the name of the game. More immediately, DOCSIS 3.1 and deep fiber are major focuses. Here's an overview of recent industry trends and how they are driving strategies for some of the top players in the market. 

Comcast and Charter are moving ambitiously into the wireless space. Case-in-point, noted Light Reading, is the recent launch of Comcast's Xfinity Mobile service, and Charter's 5G trials. Both have also stressed the importance of their fixed-line networks as backhaul for future carrier-driven wireless services. 

But, breaking into this space won't be easy, and not just because they're new to the market. They also, Light Reading noted, face a variety of challenges that even experienced mobile operators are struggling to develop strategies around. Such as: WiFi-to-cellular handoff, bandwidth aggregation (aka call bonding for voice apps), and support for Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity technologies. 

Ultimately, all players in the wireless space—be they traditional MNOs or cable MSOs—will succeed or fail based on their ability to manage the convergence of many types of wireless networks, Light Reading concluded. 

"Eventually there will be numerous different types of wireless connections on offer in the same geographic neighborhoods. When that happens, it will be to cable's advantage to know how to operate across most, if not all, of them," Light Reading advised. 

In the shorter-term, deploying DOCSIS 3.1 and extending fiber deeper into the access network are top priorities for cable MSOs, said Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader at Light Reading, in a recent article. That conclusion is based on results from a UBB2020 poll.  

"Deploying DOCSIS 3.1 remains an important cable industry priority," Breznick said, and is becoming ever more so as "cable operators seek to compete with telco FTTH deployments by offering gigabit speeds to their broadband subscribers." Extending fiber deeper, too, "has taken on much greater importance as cablecos look to upgrade their networks for faster, more efficient delivery of more advanced broadband and IP video services by the end of the decade." 

Back to that longer-term strategy of targeting the wireless market, Comcast and Charter recently teamed up to increase their operational efficiencies as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) on Verizon's network, RCR Wireless News reported. Planned actions include creating common operating platforms and working together on standards development and harmonization. 

Teaming up to conquer a new market certainly makes sense. And, as Telecom Ramblings pointed out in an article about speculation around a possible (though seemingly unlikely, given regulatory realities) Verizon-Comcast merger, "Comcast and Charter don't actually compete against each other directly."

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