DOCSIS 3.1 likely to set the trend for cable broadband, not FTTP

Pay-TV operator Comcast recently grabbed headlines by declaring aggressive intentions to deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP). The company, which started deploying the service in June,  has said it will make FTTP available to 18 million business and homes before year-end.

However, as recently noted in FierceInstaller, Comcast has not revealed how many FTTP customers it has, and some speculate that its pricey FTTP service, coupled with weak marketing, is not popular with consumers.

But deploying FTTP is not an easy process. Comcast must trench the fiber, roll a truck and attach an optical network terminal to the customer's house.

By contract, according to Jeff Heynen, IHS research director for broadband access and pay-TV, upgrading a household to DOCSIS 3.1, will probably not cost more than the price of a modem.

What do customers get for all the extra expense of fiber that they won't get with DOCSIS 3.1?  Heynen said that, while DOCSIS 3.1 may have a theoretical maximum downstream speed of 10 Gbps, 300-500 Mbps is more realistic as a "sweet spot" for DOCSIS 3.1 broadband.

Comcast recently said that it will trial DOCSIS 3.1 during the fourth quarter of this year, with wide-scale deployments of the technology beginning in 2016.

So, why is Comcast rushing to deploy FTTP? For business customers, FTTP is often a sensible option. And since FTTP is the gold standard of broadband technology, making it available is likely something of a PR move.  --Jeff