After Charter Communications claimed the top spot in regard to the fastest data service with the news of its DOCSIS 3.0 deployment yesterday, Verizon fired back in a company blog that purported to show the weaknesses of the channel-bonding technology.
While Verizon and Comcast both have data services that currently top out at 50 Mbps into customers’ homes, Charter rolled out a 60 Mbps service in part of St. Louis County (story here).
In a blog by Eric Rabe (available here), who is Verizon’s senior vice president of media relations, Verizon counters by saying its fiber-optic pipeline has an advantage over cable’s DOCSIS 3.0 deployments.
“Comparisons of Verizon FiOS Internet service, offered at up to 50 megabits per second downstream and 20 megabits upstream, to the cable industry’s broadband speeds powered by DOCSIS 3.0 ignore some key facts,” Rabe quotes Brian Whitton, Verizon’s executive director of technology, in his blog. “With channel bonding, two or more channels originally allocated to carry broadcast video to customers are cleared to free up capacity for services such as high-speed Internet. This technique consumes bandwidth from cable’s broadcast video capacity in those neighborhoods where DOCSIS 3.0 is being provided.
“By deploying DOCSIS 3.0 and channel bonding, many of the cable companies’ existing customers are adversely impacted because the channels seized for DOCSIS come at the expense of video channels that their customers will no longer get unless they upgrade to the more costly digital video product line. It is not a new data networking tool. It’s a low-tech response to a high-tech demand. It still gives cable a limited capacity network that forces them quickly to choke off through-put or take other management measures.”
Whitton acknowledges that cable is in the midst of increasing its bandwidth through node splits and running fiber deeper into the network. While we don’t know for certain, it would seem logical that Charter, and Comcast, which has deployed DOCSIS 3.0 technology in 20 percent of its footprint, took into account potential network slowdowns due to increased customer uptake of the faster service, and provisioned its network accordingly to handle the increased loads.
In-Stat analyst Gerry Kaufhold said in an e-mail to CED that there’s a lot more to winning the hearts and wallets of Internet subscribers than pure speed.
“While the peak available downstream bit rate delivered by a broadband service grabs headlines, what really gets customers to sign up and stick around is old fashioned customer service and value for money,” Kaufhold wrote. “In actual deployments of DOCSIS 3.0, the use of channel bonding has not reduced the number of TV channels or video-on-demand streams available to end-users. Switched digital video (SDV) and improved video compression approaches continue to improve the number of individual streams that can be delivered by modern cable TV systems.”
There’s no arguing that Verizon currently has a bigger pipe into subscribers’ homes, Whitton said. It’s 15 times the size of cable, and it’s 2.4 Gigabits per second to the 160 Mbps if all four downstream channels are bonded using DOCSIS 3.0.
Cable operators will be bonding more downstream channels in the future, but right now CableLabs’ minimum requirement is bonding four upstream and four downstream channels. Broadcom said it already has a chipset in the works that can bond eight downstream channels.
Verizon does have an edge currently on upstream speeds with its speed of 20 Mbps, compared with the 10 Mbps that some cable operators currently have in their DOCSIS 3.0 deployments, but Comcast is slated to increase its upstream speeds this year, as increased upstream speeds are another feature set of DOCSIS 3.0.
Lastly, the blog states that Verizon’s FiOS service is currently available to 10 million customers and businesses, while cable’s DOCSIS 3.0 rollouts are limited. While that holds true today, the cable industry will ramp up its DOCSIS 3.0 deployments this year, especially in the areas where it competes against Verizon.
“Just because Charter Communications can create 60 Mbps downstream service to some customers does not mean it has caught up to FiOS,” Rabe’s blog concludes. “As much as this is a numbers game, one must look behind the numbers.”
The numbers are changing for both cable and Verizon, so the final chapter of the data speed war is far from written.