Consumers in small- and mid-sized markets in North America are demanding more bandwidth to receive exceptional broadband experiences that are fast, smooth, and seamless. Network service providers (NSPs) are forging their gigabit speed strategies to meet this demand and are considering a variety of technologies, including G.fast, Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), and fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH).
We caught up with Jim Brake, Technicolor’s Senior Vice President for North America Small and Mid-Sized Operators at Connected Home to discuss broadband, gigabit speeds, subscriber expectations, and how small- and mid-sized operators in the region are responding to surging demand for broadband services.
Brake: Just like the surge in demand in bigger markets, in the smaller markets across North America there’s been a huge increase in demand by subscribers for ever-greater bandwidth. The way it has been addressed depends on the nature of the service provider in question.
In some cases -- where they have traditional copper in the ground -- NSPs have enhanced that copper through new digital subscriber line (DSL) technologies, the latest being G.fast. In other cases, for cable operators there’s been a migration to ever-increasing bandwidth through the DOCSIS standard, the most current being DOCSIS 3.1.
Both of those technologies offer gigabit speeds to the end subscriber, as NSPs try to get ahead of the curve as demand continues to spiral.
So many people run around with smartphones these days, and those smartphones often connect to 4G technology, which delivers impressive broadband performance. That sets up an expectation for a certain user experience. When subscribers go home, they want to have an experience that’s at least that good -- or superior.
Brake: NSPs want to ensure that the capital expenditures they make — which can be very substantial for this segment of the market — have a long life. They also want to make sure that their investments optimize end-user satisfaction. As a result, they are making aggressive investments now, even if their subscriber base doesn’t yet demand the kind of data speeds the technology can offer.
The reason for this is that operators want to future-proof their network so that — as demand continues to increase — NSPs can just make the upgrade through software changes, by flipping a configuration switch in their network when the demand manifests itself.
It allows them to deliver higher speed to users very quickly and with no further investment. So future-proofing the network is of prime importance. In the meantime, it’s a very powerful and compelling marketing initiative in the industry to be able to say that your data network can support those speeds.
What that’s ultimately doing is causing service providers to make those investments in G.fast and DOCSIS 3.1.
Where we’re also seeing a lot of investments is in fiber. It started with the larger operators in the United States and Canada, but now new technologies have come out and new initiatives are underway to bring fiber to the home in smaller and mid-sized markets.
I believe that trend will continue since the fiber advantage is that you are ultimately future-proofing yourself for many, many years to come because it delivers such high bandwidth and will be able to sustain customer growth for the foreseeable future.
Brake: According to the United States Telecom Association, the main driver is consumer demand for video. Video is expected to increase 58 percent between 2017 and 2020.
By 2020 it is expected that 52,000 petabytes per month will be consumed in the United States alone. And just for context, a petabyte is a million gigabytes. So that’s a lot of data flow, primarily driven by video. Those would be services such as Amazon, Hulu or Netflix, YouTube, other types of video traffic that really drive up network usage.
Brake: There are a couple of things I’d like to point to. First, in terms of the products we offer, we recognize that there are a number of different operators in the industry and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
We have products that address the DSL market for G.fast and very-high-bit-rate DSL (VDSL)-capable gateways. On the other hand, we know that cable operators need a rocket-fast DOCSIS gateway, and so we have cutting-edge DOCSIS products we’re currently offering. And then finally, for the operator taking fiber to the premises, we offer fiber gateways.
So, we have a variety of different products that can meet the needs of service providers that want to offer the very fastest speeds to their subscribers.
On the services side, we have consulting services that can help service providers in the small- and mid-tier markets evaluate their needs. Technicolor can make recommendations not only on how NSPs should be migrating their network in the short term, but also how they can make long-term investments so that those investments provide a good payback.
With the services Technicolor offers, along with the hardware we have in the industry, we feel very well-positioned to support the mid-tier and smaller operators as they meet the demands of their subscribers.