WideOpenWest’s 1 Gbps expansion enhances business services reach, speed awareness

Coaxial cable cord cut (FDominec / Wikipedia)
WOW! has set the stage to get a bigger hold on the business market by extending its 1 Gbps service across more of its network footprint. (FDominec/Wikipedia)

By expanding its DOCSIS 3.1 footprint with 1 Gbps speeds to 95% of its market, WideOpenWest is positioning itself to be even more competitive against traditional LECs in the small to medium business (SMB) market.

While the cable MSO has a sizable fiber network footprint in 19 markets, a large portion of its network footprint is HFC.

Brian Hoekelman, VP of product for WOW, told FierceTelecom that by completing the expansion, it can immediately get to more businesses over its existing infrastructure.

RELATED: WideOpenWest announces 95% completion of DOCSIS 3.1 rollout

Brian Hoekelman

“It helps us tremendously from an addressable market perspective,” Hoekelman said. “If you look at the 19 markets we’re in, we’re a little north of 40,000 route miles and half of that is coax and the HFC plant and helps us deliver on-net capabilities to our commercial customers.”

Eligible business customers can purchase the 1 Gbps DOCSIS 3.1 service for $199 a month, making its price competitive with comparable offerings. Customers can also purchase several other tiers, including speeds that start at 8 Mbps and scale to 1 Gbps.

Like other cable MSOs, WOW!’s ongoing migration to DOCSIS 3.1 allows it to leverage and extend an existing set of assets to deliver 1 Gbps and potentially higher speeds when ready.

“In terms of what we did in terms of moving to DOCIS 3.1 allows us to extend the life or future-proof the network infrastructure,” Hoekelman said. “It allows us to have a lot faster up speed and the infrastructure is more efficient from an opex and capex perspective, so it modernizes the asset.”

Driving EoHFC

For business customers, the advent of DOCSIS 3.1 can also be used for WOW Business to further enhance its Ethernet over HFC (EoHFC) capabilities. Traditionally, EoHFC services were often relegated to 10 Mbps and other speeds, but having a 1 Gbps option means the cable MSO can address the growing need for EoHFC with an option offered on fiber plant.

“DOCSIS 3.1 is also enabling our Ethernet capabilities,” Hoekelman said. “On the HFC plant, we’re delivering Ethernet over HFC with Class of Service for the infrastructure.”

Interestingly, the presence of 1 Gbps is also enhancing the awareness of the service provider’s array of speed tiers. Even if a business customer does not want to purchase 1 Gbps, the actual presence of such a service encourages them to purchase other high-speed services.

“1 Gbps is awesome with a lot of capacity, and it’s creating a halo effect,” Hoekelman said. “When we talk to customers about networking and the capabilities we can deliver, it’s more about how we deliver the service and prioritizing VoIP traffic over the HFC plant as well as E-LINE and E-LAN configurations to help customers link their sites together.”

Unsurprisingly, the service provider has found that the best targets for the 1 Gbps service are businesses that have large bandwidth needs. This could include local medical offices that process large image files to show other doctors or their patients.

“When we look at customers with two to 10 employees, most of them don’t have a need for this type of bandwidth,” Hoekelman said. “When we start to identify customers that have bandwidth-hungry types of use cases such as a hosting company or a technology company have a lot more interest and customers who have assets in data centers.”

Hoekelman added that customers that have data center needs are citing interest in the 1 Gbps HFC service.

“Some customers are using this type of service inside of a data center so they can have all that capacity to move those large radiation images to all of their clients,” Hoekelman said.

Eyeing software, automated solutions

Now that it can offer 1 Gbps speeds for businesses, the question is what’s next for WOW! Business? A key focus will be on delivering software and virtualized services to business customers that can be delivered more rapidly than the traditional methods for businesses.

In 2016, WOW! Business conducted a trial of Juniper Networks’ Cloud CPE solution as a way to deliver new services to business customers. By leveraging Juniper’s cloud-based Contrail platform, the cable MSO can pave the way to delivering more automated services to businesses.

Following these trials with Juniper last year, WOW continues to build on the foundation it started with Juniper by offering virtual firewall and other services in a bundle with the 1 Gbps service.

“We have an initiative this year to do service orchestration,” Hoekelman said. “We have a virtualized firewall in our CMTS infrastructure, which enables us to offer an HSI customer buying 1 Gbps service attach a virtual firewall and deliver that to the customer as well.”