HeavyReading: Cable operators turning to fiber

FEBRUARY 27, 2009 -- However, significant issues are emerging that may affect the extent and timing of cable fiber deployments, HeavyReading's report warns.

FEBRUARY 27, 2009 -- Cable network operators around the world are now investigating technology options that will enable them to compete more effectively with telco rivals by driving fiber-based offerings deeper into their networks, according to Next-Gen Cable Networks: Opportunities for Fiber-Based Technologies, a new report from Heavy Reading (search Lightwave for HeavyReading). However, significant issues are emerging that may affect the extent and timing of cable fiber deployments, the report warns.

"By extending fiber deeper into their networks, cable operators could support the more reliable delivery of greater downstream spectrum and services to residential and commercial subscribers," notes Alan Breznick, senior analyst at Heavy Reading and author of the report. "Because RFoG [RF over Glass] supports the delivery of up to 1 GHz of spectrum to the customer premises, MSOs could more easily upgrade their system capacity to carry more digital video channels, HDTV services, VoD choices, higher-speed data signals, VoIP services, and other offerings."

Despite RFoG's apparent benefits, cable operators are increasingly concerned about the actual performance of RFoG-based networks compared with competing fiber-based telco initiatives, Breznick says. "Unlike the various PON technologies that the phone companies are increasingly deploying, RFoG doesn't actually produce any more bandwidth or faster transmission speeds on its own," he explains. "While RFoG systems can support cable networks with up to 1-GHz capacity, they don't provide any extra capacity for the industry's typical 750-MHz systems. Cable operators must still upgrade the rest of their plant to increase their overall bandwidth capacity."

Other findings include:

  • At least two dozen cable operators around the world are exploring, testing, or building FTTP systems or extensions. MSOs investigating fiber-based deployments in North America include Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks, Rogers Communications, and CableOne. In Europe and Asia, the growing list features Virgin Media in the U.K., Ziggo in the Netherlands, ZON Multimedia in Portugal, and Jupiter Telecommunications in Japan.
  • In the past year, two major, influential U.S. MSOs -- Time Warner and Cox -- have issued wide-ranging requests for information regarding cable FTTP architectures. The two RFIs, issued separately about six months apart, also seek information about related PON technologies from equipment vendors. Other MSOs are expected to follow their lead this year.
  • Cable operators are showing genuine interest in FTTP architecture and related PON technologies for the first time because they see promising markets. MSOs are eyeing such key niche segments as master planned communities, new housing developments, multiple dwelling units (MDUs), rural areas, and business services. Cable providers are also exploring fiber network builds in response to stiffer competition from telco fiber network initiatives, such as Verizon's FiOS and AT&T's U-verse projects.
  • More than a dozen equipment suppliers have begun offering or are planning to offer fiber, optical, and electrical gear for cable operators to use in FTTP deployments. Large, well-established equipment vendors from both the cable and telecom sectors are involved, including Arris, Calix Networks, Corning Cable Systems, Cisco, Harmonic, Hitachi Telecom, Motorola, and Tellabs. But the vendor lineup also includes smaller and/or newer firms such as Alloptic, Aurora Networks, Salira Systems, and SMC Networks.

Next-Gen Cable Networks: Opportunities for Fiber-Based Technologies costs $3,995 and is published in PDF format. The price includes an enterprise license covering all of the employees at the purchaser's company.

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