Cable Tech, South of the Border

I had the opportunity to speak last week with Israel Madiedo Luna, CTO - telecom of Cablevision México, one of the biggest MSOs in the country.

Madiedo -- who will be attending his first Cable-Tec Expo this week in Orlando, Fla. -- noted that Cablevision México faces many of the same issues as its brethren up north. Subscribers want more video on more devices, and like U.S. operators Cablevision México is seeing bandwidth consumption among its broadband customers almost doubling every year.

But whereas broadband in North America is widely adopted, in Mexico it is relatively far behind.

In Mexico, there were just 10.8 fixed broadband subscribers per 100 residents as of December 2011, compared with 27.7 in the U.S. and 39.9 in Switzerland, according to the OECD. (Note that the OECD figures are connections per capita, rather than household penetration; multiple people typically share a broadband account.) That puts Mexico in 33rd place out of the 34 countries analyzed by the organization, ahead of only Turkey.

As such, Cablevision México is focused on increasing penetration of broadband -- not just for business reasons, but to help the country become more competitive worldwide in Internet connectivity speeds.

"We need to get people connected. We’ve been focusing on that a lot," Madiedo said. "We are a cable company and it’s a business. More than that, we are trying to help Mexico increase worldwide statistics in broadband.... [today] we are not anywhere near the States or Canada or Asia."

To provide an affordable on-ramp to broadband, Cablevision México offers its 3 Mbps for around $11 U.S. (149 peso) per month.

Cablevision México, a subsidiary of Grupo Televisa, has more than 800,000 TV subscribers, a little more than 500,000 broadband customers and about 300,000 phone customers. Its network passes about 2.4 million households in Mexico City and the surrounding metropolitan area.

The operator’s broadband services starts at 3 Mbps, and go up to 100 Mbps using DOCSIS 3.0. The most popular tiers are 3 and 8 Mbps.

Today, Cablevision México does not have bandwidth-usage caps.

"We do have the infrastructure to do that, and we are constantly monitoring the usage of the customers. If we find it is something of value to do, we are ready to do that," Madiedo said, adding that the MSO sees policy-based services as a new way to bring “better value” to customers in the future.

Cablevision México's CMTS vendors are Arris, Cisco and Motorola, and the operator is working with Active Broadband Networks for policy and data management along with bandwidth monitoring.

Netflix launched in September 2011 in Mexico but so far, "we’re nowhere near the rates you have in the U.S." in terms of bandwidth consumption, Madiedo said. "What we do see more of in this ecosystem is YouTube usage."

In any case, broadband usage is expected to keep surging. Cablevision México announced a deal in June 2012 with Alcatel-Lucent to upgrade the transmission network to 100 Gigabits per second, to prepare its backbone for the future.

Madiedo and his team also have gotten the MSO’s HFC house in order. Cablevision México took almost three years to rebuild its outside plant to 1 GHz, along with a fiber-deep implementation across its full network. At the same time it upgraded its CMTSs to support DOCSIS 3.0.

In addition, the MSO, which has a linear TV lineup of about 250 channels, phased out analog TV in 2006. That also took about three years, on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis to distribute digital set-top boxes to customers who needed them, according to Madiedo.

“Our growth in bandwidth consumption is humongous… and we want to be ready for the increase our customers need,” he said.

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