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Cox Laying More 1-GHz Track

Cox Communications expects to upgrade an additional 12,000 miles of its hybrid fiber-coaxial network to 1 Gigahertz this year, with the goal of reaching 80% of homes in its footprint with the higher-capacity technology by the end of 2010, according to chief technical officer Chris Bowick.

To date, Cox has upgraded about 82,000 miles out of about 107,000 miles of plant across all its markets. After upgrading 12,000 more miles in 2009 and another 2,000 in 2010, the MSO will be at about 80% of homes passed at 1 GHz and the other 20% will be at 860 MHz, Bowick said.

“As an industry, we've always invested in bandwidth,” Bowick said. Cox refers to its HFC architecture as the Extensible Optical Network (EON).

Bowick was interviewed by Multichannel News columnist Leslie Ellis. (The video interview segments are available at multichannel.com/video.)

Moving to 1 GHz will provide Cox systems at least an additional 140 MHz of bandwidth, enough room for the equivalent of more than 40 high-definition channels. Cox executives have discussed using the headroom above 860 MHz to offer next-generation DOCSIS 3.0 services.

“DOCSIS 3.0 is kind of the poster child for placing above 870,” Cox senior vice president of technology Jay Rolls said in an interview last fall. “It requires new [customer-premises equipment] anyway, so you have this new capability you can introduce without impacting any of your existing services.” (See “Cox's Rolls Kicks Up Bandwidth,” Oct. 27, 2008, p. 43.)

As part of the EON project, Cox has performed 2,100 node splits and the company expects to do another 1,600 node splits in the next couple of years.

Bowick said the operator currently is down around 550 homes passed per node.

Ellis asked Bowick whether the cost of upgrading to 1 GHz was an order of magnitude less expensive than the upgrade from 550 to 750 MHz in years past, suggesting the number was around $40 per home passed to move to 1 GHz compared with $400 last time.

“We haven't quite gotten to the $40-per-home-passed range … but it's well below 100 bucks,” Bowick said.

In addition to providing more room for HD, DOCSIS 3.0 and other services, EON will expand available bandwidth so Cox will be able to keep an analog tier of between 70 and 75 analog channels for competitive reasons, according to Bowick. “No other competitor in the industry can do that,” he said.

Ultimately, Bowick said, “I don't see us going beyond 1 GHz,” saying that the HFC architecture provides “beautiful capacity out to 2018.”