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Four Tech Trends to Watch

The tech agenda will be a busy one in 2015, but here’s a boiled-down view of four areas we’ll be keeping close tabs on in the year ahead.

1-Gig Gets Going: While Google Fiber and AT&T’s “GigaPower” rollouts set the stage (and the bar) for residential broadband speeds, expect cable operators to amp up their Gigabit Internet plans in 2015.

Bright House Networks was the first U.S. MSO to announce a targeted residential 1-Gig offering, while Cox Communications jumped in with a pledge to begin market-wide deployments of Gigabit speeds by the end of 2016. Suddenlink Communications, meanwhile, has unleashed a project of its own under the “Operation GigaSpeed” banner.

So what about everyone else? Keep a close eye on Comcast. It’s highly doubtful that Comcast applied for the “True Gig” trademark just to keep the lawyers busy.

Onward, DOCSIS 3.1: When you think of 1-Gig via and at scale, it’s impossible not to include DOCSIS 3.1 in the conversation.

The emerging CableLabs-specified platform is promising to deliver multi- Gigabit speeds (up to 10 Gbps downstream and at least 1 Gbps upstream).

D3.1 products aren’t fully cooked, but they’re in the oven. Last week, CableLabs said six vendors (Cisco Systems and Averna among them) participated in a DOCSIS 3.1 interop that took place in early December. More vendors, including Arris, are expected to join the mix when the next interop gets underway in January.

That work will set the stage for official certification testing (by mid-2015) and the first wave of deployments toward the second half of the year. Big rollouts? Put that on your 2016 calendar.

WiFi: What’s Next? Operators have turned their growing WiFi networks into a retention tool and a nifty out-of-home broadband perk for high value Internet subscribers. Next year, expect MSOs to start to push the needle on how to turn WiFi into a more significant money-maker.

As MSOs emphasize “carrier-grade” WiFi, that will pour the foundation for more advanced wireless services, possibly setting up operators to target the hot mobile market using a so-called “WiFifirst” strategy that would prefer WiFi connection and use cellular as a backup. Cable execs like to downplay the idea when asked, but don’t believe for a minute that using WiFi for a bigger mobile play is not part of the long-term agenda.

4K: Ultra HD, or Another Ultra Dud?

4K/Ultra HD has not hit the consumer mainstream yet, but early indications are that it won’t be the disappointment that 3DTV was. We’ve already seen DirecTV and Comcast dip their toes into the 4K waters with some small offerings. Next year, expect many other pay TV operators to hop on board the 4K train, if only to keep pace with UHD products from over-the-toppers such as Netflix and Amazon.

4K won’t quite become table stakes in 2015, but cable operators will need to at least show that they’re in the game.