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Mediacom, Comcast to Ride DOCSIS 3.1 Hard

Though a small number of cable operators are pushing toward all-fiber foundations, for most others the road ahead will be paved by a hybrid of fiber and coax, with DOCSIS 3.1 layered on top.

Both Comcast and Mediacom Communications made that abundantly clear last week, with Comcast holding that DOCSIS 3.1 is the most efficient and economical path to delivering Gigabit-class speeds rapidly across its footprint, and Mediacom Communications pledging to have its entire HFC footprint Gigabit-ready by the end of the month.

DOCSIS 3.1 remains the best way to rapidly deliver big speeds across the MSO’s footprint, Mike Cavanagh, Comcast senior vice president and chief financial officer, maintained at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference last week.

“From where we sit, we’re rolling out DOCSIS 3.1,” Cavanagh said at the event last week in New York. “We think that’s the most effective and efficient way to give big speeds across the footprint most quickly, most economically.”

Mediacom would seemingly agree with that assessment after announcing it would deploy DOCSIS 3.1 across its entire network by year-end, putting it in position to be the first major U.S. cable operator to go all-in with DOCSIS 3.1

Comcast, meanwhile, has consumer trials underway in Nashville, Tenn.; Chicago; and Atlanta, with Detroit and Miami on deck. Next year, it will be deploying DOCSIS 3.1 in several other markets, such as Denver; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, Mo.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Portland, Ore.; the San Francisco Bay Area and San Jose, Calif.; Salt Lake City; and Seattle. RCN and WideOpenWest have also been deploying DOCSIS 3.1 aggressively.

With that momentum underway, Netgear is expected to offer its first DOCSIS 3.1-based device, the CM1000, at retail this week via Amazon, along with plans to offer it at Fry’s Electronics and Best Buy stores soon. Arris’s first retail-facing DOCSIS 3.1 modem, the SB8200, will go on sale later this month.

The most significant DOCSIS 3.1 outlier is Altice USA, which is pivoting away from hybrid fiber-coaxial in its Optimum and Suddenlink systems and pushing a plan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises architecture across most of its footprint over the next five years.

Cavanagh noted that Comcast is also eyeing multi-Gigabit symmetrical speeds, an apparent reference to Full Duplex, an extension to DOCSIS 3 .1 that will enable MSOs to deliver speeds up to 10 Gbps in the upstream and downstream directions.

He also acknowledged that Comcast always has the option to deploy fiber-to-the-premises “anywhere it makes sense,” such as in MDUs, “hyper-builds” for business services and greenfield situations. Comcast already offers a fiber-based 2-Gbps residential broadband service called Gigabit Pro across a sizable portion of its footprint.

“But it’s … area by area, situation by situation,” Cavanagh said. “We’ve got a pretty full toolkit and we think we deployed capital in a smart way against an opportunity that we’re very optimistic about.”