The Five Stages of Upstream Grief

New Orleans — Have cable operators gone all the way from denial to acceptance about the need to invest in upstream bandwidth expansion?

At SCTE Cable-Tec Expo today, Dean Stoneback, senior manager of systems engineering for Motorola’s Access Networks Systems group, presented a paper on “Rewriting the Book of Return — A New 10-Year Plan” about cable’s options for boosting upstream bandwidth.

He compared cable operators’ changing attitude toward moving the split from the current 5-42 MHz return path to the five stages of grief (a.k.a. the Kübler-Ross model).

Here’s his take on how MSOs have come to terms with the issue:

Stage 1.Denial: “I feel fine”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”

“The return path has served us well for many years. We’re only running one or two channels in the upstream today, so we have lots of room left. There’s no way we need to make such a radical change. This option is off the table.”

Stage 2.Anger: “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; “Who is to blame?”

“This stinks. Those #@%& customers keeping sending more and more data, and, they don’t want to pay for it. We should just tell them to take a hike.”

Stage 3.Bargaining: “Just let me live to see my children graduate”; “I’ll do anything for a few more years”; “I will give my life savings if…”

“Maybe if we try to control the consumer’s usage pattern we can stop this exponential growth in data consumption. We also need to tell our equipment vendors to come up with less expensive upgrade options. The one’s they’ve given us are all crap.”

Stage 4.Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die… What’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”

“It looks like this growth is going to continue. There’s no way to stop it. Why did we agree to keep channel 2? What were we smoking? Our stock price will crash if we let anyone know that our network is not perfect and future proof for the next 100 years. I wish we had fiber everywhere. If only we had pulled more fiber 10 years ago. Now there’s nothing we can do. Everything’s too expensive.”

Stage 5.Acceptance: “It’s going to be okay”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

“This really isn’t that bad. Simply changing the plant to mid-split doesn’t change anything at all in the homes with existing service. It sure is cheaper than some of the other options, and DOCSIS is already designed for mid-split. We might need to add some filters in the homes that take the new high speed service, but that will be on a case by case basis and will only be required in the homes that are providing increased revenue to us. Actually, we might just use the new spectrum for business accounts. I can see the $$$ flowing in. Finally, we can upgrade to 1 GHz at the same time without calling it an upgrade. Life is good. I’m going to take the afternoon off.”

You can find his full paper in the Cable-Tec Expo 2010 proceedings, free to conference attendees (click here for more info).

For more on strategies to increase bandwidth see To a Gigabit — and Beyond from this week’s issue of Multichannel News (subscription required), and Big Upstream Upgrades.