March 25, 2019
By Craig Leddy
When cable leaders announced a trademarked technological initiative called 10G, even many stalwart industry veterans couldn’t suppress a wry smile. Since cable leaders had publicly chided mobile carriers for their hype of 5G, the 10G effort seemed like a marketing campaign to double-down amid the coming threat of 5G mobile broadband.
Never mind that in mobile’s case the G stands for generation and in cable’s case it means gigabit. The clash of the Gs marks an effort by mighty industries to draw a line in the sand in the battle over the future of broadband. In this age of instantaneous perceptions and knee-jerk tweets, marketers have learned not to let facts get in the way of a good story. You’ve got 5G? We’ve got twice as much G, baby!
But cable leaders insist the effort isn’t aimed at countering 5G marketing, and it isn’t empty hype. The 10G moniker, which is trademarked by NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, signifies a quantum leap in cable internet speed, plus lower latency and tighter security. Having successfully launched gigabit coax downstream service using DOCSIS 3.1 technology and existing hybrid fiber coax infrastructure, the industry is developing Full Duplex DOCSIS to provide 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) upstream too.
Can cable engineers really deliver symmetrical 10 Gbps? Don’t bet against them. Cable’s technology community has an uncanny knack for squeezing more capacity out of their pipes. During the recent Light Reading Cable Next-Generation Conference, engineers said the industry’s focus on 10G may be a prelude to working on 25G, 50G, 100G or you-name-it G. And they said that with a straight face.
Yet technologists struggle to describe real-world use cases for this firehose of data. Like 5G, 10G is getting encased in language about IoT, AI, advanced video, smart cars and other marvels for consumers that may sound cool but are struggling to scale up. Currently consumers don’t really need 1 gigabit and most of their devices can’t even handle it. Giving a household 10 Gigs is like building an airport runway to land a supersonic jet in their garage. Upgrading to 10G is regarded as an important way for cable to future-proof its delivery networks, but that can be a tough sell to the guy who has to pay for it.
Channel Partners’ “Cable Connection” column focuses on cable provider developments in business services and channel-partner relationships.
The good news for cable business-service marketers and their channel partners is that their customers are the ones who will benefit from gigabit speed the most. Businesses and institutions are the best candidates for ultra-gigabit, low-latency services: health-care networks transferring massive MRIs and X-rays; universities providing rich-media resources to students; financial and government entities uploading voluminous files; and SMBs and enterprises increasingly relying on cloud, e-commerce, video communications and streaming. Higher connectivity supports platforms for SD-WAN, advanced security, unified communications and other emerging business applications.
10G provides the opportunity for business marketers to …
… position cable as a durable provider of broadband connectivity and products while countering the growing drumbeat that 5G is the next thing that signifies the death of cable, following a long lineage of technologies that failed to kill cable. The challenge is to turn the technology and that colorful logo into a meaningful sales and marketing proposition.
When cable leaders announced the 10G effort at CES 2019, Tony Werner, Comcast’s astute technology leader, famously noted that the technologies being developed will unleash speeds closer to 14 Gbps but 14G “didn’t have the same ring” as 10G. Werner said 10G is “a very rational number. It’s not a BS number by any means.”
“10G is a collection of technologies to create a seamless experience all the way to the consumer,” said Phil McKinney, president and CEO of CableLabs, during the Light Reading conference. In addition to DOCSIS 3.1 and FDX, CableLabs is working on applying coherent optics, which carries data on fiber trunks around the globe at 100 Gbps or more, to the cable access network. Wireless is part of the mix, using Wi-Fi 6. CableLabs also has a presentation of light field display, a Star Wars-like holographic imaging technology that relies on multiple terabytes of data and would require 10G-like capability for delivery.
The 10G initiative has produced a natural tendency to view the future as a 10G versus 5G showdown. The saber-rattling and marketing over broadband will get intense, but in the end, mobile carriers and cable providers need each other.
Ironically, the mobile carriers could become one of the biggest beneficiaries of 10G because 5G cannot work without using a vibrant wired transport network like cable’s. Meanwhile, cable providers are moving into the wireless arena and are exploring ways to take advantage of 5G. The requirements of meeting sky-high public expectations suggest there is room for the two industries to work together rather than engage in a costly 10G versus 5G marketing war.
However, neither 5G nor 10G will arrive quickly. The mere physics of putting all of the pieces into place – standards, specifications, certifications, chipsets, equipment and devices – suggest that estimates of widespread deployment of 5G or 10G in 2020, 2021 or 2023 are just more puffery. Working out the complexities of development and implementation will consume both mobile and cable industries throughout the coming decade.
Movers & Shakers
… developing new partnerships, managing existing partners and building a winning partner experience approach in the Midwest.
It’s official: Spectrum Enterprise has announced the national availability of its managed SD-WAN service, touting a unique capability of stitching together SD-WAN networks and Ethernet networks. The managed SD-WAN service runs on software-defined networking (SDN) and a network function virtualization (NFV) platform that is integrated into the Spectrum Enterprise fiber network across the United States and includes a virtual security layer. For the past year, Spectrum, part of Charter Communications, has been developing the platform and a white-glove installation process for enterprises.
Comcast is making X1, its video navigation platform that has been popular with consumers, available for businesses. Targeted for bars, restaurants, hotels, gyms and other businesses across Comcast’s footprint, X1 for Business includes easier search and navigation, voice control and a picture-in-picture, sports content companion called the X1 Sports App that includes team and players profiles, statistics and real-time, game-specific data.
Two smaller providers stepped up their Wi-Fi game for businesses. Atlantic Broadband, the nation’s ninth largest cable operator, launched Enhanced Wi-Fi (E-Wi-Fi) utilizing multiple wireless mesh access points and intelligent routing algorithms designed by AirTies to provide reliable wall-to-wall coverage in business locations such as warehouses, sales floors, waiting rooms and offices. Wow! Business announced Whole-Business WiFi using the Eero mesh Wi-Fi system to blanket stores and offices with internet coverage.
Craig Leddy is a veteran cable industry writer, speaker and market analyst, and a contributing analyst for Light Reading and Heavy Reading, with are Informa properties. Leddy founded Interactive TV Works, a media consultancy, to promote understanding of advanced digital services. He is a former editor of Cablevision magazine, senior analyst for The Myers Group and contributing editor for Multichannel News. He teaches the popular How Cable Works industry courses that include CTAM’s Advance Executive Education. He also founded and hosts the Interactive Case Competition, a leading case study contest for business students. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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