Cable Quietly Nudges Into 5G Slam

LAS VEGAS — At CES last week, the major U.S. wireless carriers were fighting among themselves about 5G, in between the moments when they weren’t touting a network standard they’re calling the “fourth industrial revolution” that “will change everything.”

Amid this deafening 5G discussion, cable operators and their technology vendors decided that it would probably be a good idea to let the world know they have a next-generation network standard of their own, Full Duplex DOCSIS, that will turn their hybrid-fiber coax lines into blazing-fast transoms for 10 Gigabit-per-second symmetrical broadband in just a few short years.

The cable guys had been relatively quiet about this. They’re just getting done with deployment of the current standard — 1 Gbps-capable DOCSIS 3.1, and they’re still not disclosing the nascent number of users who are paying for 1-Gig service. But with 5G festooned on virtually every CES booth in Vegas, and infiltrating the minds of policymakers in Washington, D.C., Big Cable decided it was time to do a little marketing.

So, at CES, some of the biggest names in the cable business came together to formally launch a new catchy brand name, “10G,” which will symbolize the industry’s hastened migration to 10-Gig wherewithal.

NCTA–The Internet & Television Association announced that it trademarked 10G, and major vendors including Intel and Arris published blogs supporting the branding initiative. Then, at Vegas’ Four Seasons Hotel, NCTA president and CEO Michael Powell, CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney, Cox Communications CEO Pat Esser and Comcast technology chief Tony Werner convened a panel discussion to tub-thump Full Duplex, which is already spec’d out and will begin field trials in 2020.

“Whether the customer is asking for it or not, we don’t want to be the second one at the door with the product,” Esser said. “And what goes on the floor at CES probably motivates me more than anything.”

A giant Verizon 5G presentation took place just 15 hours earlier down the street in a huge ballroom. That event featured Verizon CEO Hans Vesterberg, wearing a tight “tech guy” T-shirt, hyping the new wireless tech standard as a kind of Holy Grail which will not just revolutionize communications, but fields like medicine, too.

For its part, Verizon also took shots at rival AT&T, which had recently told some customers that the enhanced 4G LTE signal they were getting is actually “5G Evolution,” a brand name that AT&T just thought up and has nothing really to do with 5G. At his own packed-ballroom event, AT&T’s top wireless exec, John Donovan, doubled down, expressing pride that his company managed to get its rivals “frustrated.”

Despite all the sturm und drang, however, no one at CES could talk about it — with zero latency! — on a 5G smartphone, because those devices aren’t even out yet.

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!