Broadband/Cable Television Trends for 2014

Ric Johnsen, senior vice president, Broadband, CommScope, provides insight into what he expects will be the biggest broadband/cable television trends and challenges in 2014.

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Recently, operators have effectively reclaimed available spectrum by converting to an all-digital video lineup and using switched digital video (SDV). The emergence of over-the-top (OTT) video services like YouTube, Hulu and Netflix, combined with the prevalence of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops) accessing the network, is creating a surge in data demand. Operators must meet this demand and the only way to provide the necessary bandwidth is by evolving the network. Current networks still have substantial bandwidth capacity potential. It can be enhanced through key network changes; however, if operators plan to stay competitive and support future growth, they must devise a plan that evolves the network from a hybrid fiber/coax networks (HFC) platform to a converged optical platform delivering Ethernet/IP-based services to the user.

Network evolution will vary from operator to operator. It will be based on available capital, competition and the current state of the network; however, migration phases will drive at least four key changes in the network.

Fiber is Migrating Deeper into the Network
Today, operators are serving between 250 and 1,000 homes per HFC node as the norm. This level of bandwidth sharing creates congestion and over subscription during peak demand periods. To improve speed and capacity during peak periods, operators must continue to split nodes and create smaller service group sizes. This decision is based on usage with a focus on subscribers who generate higher average revenue per user. Node splits will shrink service groups over a period of time to a range of 64 to 250 homes.

Headend Convergence
Operators must make their networks and network management systems more efficient. One way is to eliminate duplicate network engineering efforts. By eliminating service group separation, operators can simplify the headend. A universal platform, capable of supporting carrier channels for both video and Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), provides the maximization of available spectrum and eliminates the need for a large portion of the combiner function in the headend. A single platform also generates significant savings on space and power requirements.

Increase Upstream Bandwidth
The biggest limitation of current network architecture is the potential for upstream bandwidth capacity. Deep fiber architectures and unity gain drop amplifiers support the use of four-channel configurations by overcoming the noise floor challenge; however, demand requirements will quickly outstrip the network¹s capacity of 160Mbps. The bottom line is the mid-split needs to move to free up more upstream capacity to accommodate subscriber demand. The decision to move the mid-split is not easy and will require significant network investment.

Video Format
With an increasing trend towards a long term conversion for an all Ethernet /IP service delivery, video formats are rapidly evolving and will start the evolution from analog and digital MPEG formats to IPTV-based formats capable of supporting multi-screen device and time shifted viewing. While IP video formats run over DOCSIS channels, operators can also insert additional IP video channels directly into the universal edge quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) or carrier rather than using the more costly CMTS (cable modem termination system) ports alleviates network congestion. The concept of maintaining separate video channels for operator inserted content also maintains a level of value in content subscription for the consumer.

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