Cable Companies Facing Big Bandwidth Crunch

With internet usage expanding exponentially and demand for high-speed connections ever growing, cable internet companies may soon be facing serious bandwidth issues, according to a report by ABI Research. The problem comes from more demanding applications, including high-definition video, video on demand, online gaming, and higher-bandwidth Internet applications, which could lead to fewer high-definition television channels and sputtering internet speeds. "The increasing bandwidth demands on cable operators will soon reach crisis stage, yet this is a 'dirty little industry secret' that no one talks about," said Stan Schatt, VP and research director for ABI Research.

Currently, cable providers utilize roughly 750MHz worth of bandwidth: ~676MHz for downstream applications like analog cable, digital cable, HD programming, video on demand, Internet data, and VoIP service and 54MHz for upstream transmissions; according to ABI, however, 750MHz just isn't enough to deal with future growth. "Uploading bandwidth is going to have to increase," Schatt stated. "And the cable providers are going to get killed on bandwidth as HD programming becomes more commonplace."

In order to keep customers happy, cable companies may have to resort to costly methods to increase available spectrum such as purchasing spectrum overlay devices capable of providing up to 3GHz of spectrum. Beyond that, few options are available, including rate shaping (controlling the rate at which data packets are transmitted), digital switching (more on that below), overlaying fiber over existing coaxial cable installations, and better MPEG-4 compression (which will lower the bandwidth overhead for HD video). Evenutually, however, cable companies may have to adopt IPTV, which treats video programming as IP data, and thus allows for selective transmission of channels, whereas currently cable companies transmit every channel they provide to each house. "Digital switching is key," Schatt argues. "Ultimately, the cable companies will have to move to IPTV. They'll be brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century."

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17 Comments

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there is no bandwidth problem theres space money hardware staff and electricity problems

look back 10 -15 years ago and how slow the internet was as hardware becomes better bandwidth increases but because they try to get more people online more hardware is needed staff to maintain it and electricity bills go up as well as the need for land and buildings = shrinking or not growing profits

Lack of bandwidth is a myth. As evidence of this, I suggest you look at 100Mbit internet in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Sweden, France, and other areas around the world. According to US cable company robber barons, such a thing is impossible. Do they think Americans are too stupid to see what's happening outside of the US? Ok, maybe most Americans are (e.g. Bush voters), but anyone who bothers to look up the info will find that US broadband is lagging behind several other countries.

The truth is, the cable companies are looking for ways to established tiered internet services, so they can price gouge customers more than they are doing even now. Not only for broadband, but for content. They bundle a bunch of unwanted channels along with popular channels so that customers are forced to pay for the entire package, with channels they don't really want, instead of individual channels. The cable companies would like to extend this kind of tiered service packaging to broadband as well.

Ever notice how cable prices continue to rise even though equipment costs are DECREASING? They're still charging customers 1990s tech-era prices, even though they are now using servers with 1000x the capacity of 1990s tech!

The telecom scammers are second only to the oil companies, military contractors, and medical insurance companies in corruption.

Uh... I thought cable companies were still using coaxial cable made out of expensive copper. Had they opted to fiber optics a few years back, they wouldn't have this struggle.

Lack of bandwidth is a myth. As evidence of this, I suggest you look at 100Mbit internet in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Sweden, France, and other areas around the world.

When you show me a country with the landmass of the US that has it throughout the entire country, I'll believe you.

Holding up countries that aren't even as big as some of our states as examples of how it can be done is comparing apples to watermelons.

(8-n-1 said @ #7.2)

When you show me a country with the landmass of the US that has it throughout the entire country, I'll believe you.

Holding up countries that aren't even as big as some of our states as examples of how it can be done is comparing apples to watermelons.

That doesn't count because the cities in America are dense enough that having a fiber network would make perfect sense. They simply want to keep milking profits from their old copper network as long as they can.

And in my town they just turned down Verizon installing FIOS because Comcast convinced them that Fiber optics wasn't the way of the future and that they had more then enough bandwidth in our 1GHz CMTS... yet we only have 10 HD channels... and they can't even fit more in... going by what the techs say...

neufuse said,
And in my town they just turned down Verizon installing FIOS because Comcast convinced them...

Convinced them? I call BS on that one. Either Comcast paid somebody off or your city fathers are total morons. There's no other rational explanation...at least none that I can think of.

Octol said,

Convinced them? I call BS on that one. Either Comcast paid somebody off or your city fathers are total morons. There's no other rational explanation...at least none that I can think of.

I don't knwo what they did behind our backs, but they convinced the town somehow not to allow verizon to go with Fios in the area... Comcast likes its monopoly of the area and is doing all it can to keep out competition...

I have cable Internet and I really don't care.
Unless they start pushing H.D. and phasing out regular cable.
I am happy with my Internet speed and somewhat pleased with the cable television.

As far as I know, virgin media is almost all fibre optic with some areas like ex C&W still using the old infrastructure but even those are going through an upgrade.

I don't see how this can pose a problem since when the cable companies stop transmitting analogue there will quite a bit of bandwidth for stuff like HD content and the channel bonding stuff for the next gen of cable Docsis 3.0 will allow over 480Mbps and 120Mbps upstream.

Btw what's FiOS, is it different to cable or is it the same technology but instead of copper it's fibre optic.

120Mbps upstream? Bredbandsbolaget http://www.bredband.com/ operating in norway and sweden already offer 100mbit upstream. We upgraded out TV-Cable connection three years ago by laying a cable to each house and it's already "old" :)

Hopefully our neighbourhood get open net fiber so we can have some competition against the cable.

Open net http://www.bynett.no/ means the fiber connection and its services are seperated, so I can choose the Internet provider that give me IPv6 and good upstream.

DodgeViper said,
As far as I know, virgin media is almost all fibre optic with some areas like ex C&W still using the old infrastructure but even those are going through an upgrade.

I don't see how this can pose a problem since when the cable companies stop transmitting analogue there will quite a bit of bandwidth for stuff like HD content and the channel bonding stuff for the next gen of cable Docsis 3.0 will allow over 480Mbps and 120Mbps upstream.

Btw what's FiOS, is it different to cable or is it the same technology but instead of copper it's fibre optic.

With Bonding you still have all the same issues you have on DOCSIS 2.0... the 480Mbit is shared... not dedicated... and then the more channels you bond the more bandwidth it takes up... more channels running cable modem, less TV channels you can have...

Cable Companies are going to have to follow the lead of Verizon and dump everything into a Fibre infrastructure. They have been leaching every cent out of the old copper network for 20-30 years, and now it is time for an upgrade.

Verizon's FiOS service will be in my area very shortly. I think they won't have to deal with these issues because their communications run over fiber optic cables.

This is an interesting article because if CableCos have to move to IPTV it could have the effect of making it seem as if they actually have the ability to deliver on the channels that consumers want; thus making the argument for a la carte pricing more of a reality.