Cable’s 5G Backhaul Opportunity 'Moving From Concept to Reality,' Analyst Says

Cowen's Gregory Williams gets bullish after visit to Cable-Tec Expo last week
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It has been speculated for several years that 5G would represent an opportunity for the cable business, too, providing backhaul either for wireless companies or themselves.

Returning from Cable-Tec Expo in New Orleans last week, Gregory Williams, analyst for equity research company Cowen, said in a note to investors this morning that the opportunity is “moving from concept to reality.”

“Cable is the only one that could deploy at scale at a reasonable cost, and expeditiously,” Williams wrote. “Specifically, cable has the plant assets and unique footprint (reach) for small cell backhaul, mid-haul or fronthaul.”

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As the analyst noted, the cable industry, led by CableLabs, is currently working on “low-latency X-haul,” “a technology specifically designed to reduce the latency experienced by any mobile traffic while traversing the DOCSIS transport network on its way to the internet,” as CableLabs describes it.

Meanwhile, ahead of the conference, the NCTA published a white paper noting that, not only does hybrid fiber coax (HFC) have a much larger footprint than fiber (around 3.5x more), fiber lacks the power supply needed to make backhaul happen.

“Developing the backhaul and powering infrastructure will be a daunting task for any potential [fixed wireless access] operator [except cable]," the NCTA said.

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Cable operators, meanwhile, can deploy small cells throughout their networks and leverage the aerial amplifier nodes as the “ideal co-location opportunity with plenty of power in nearly all housing density scenarios.”

Also notable: As Williams pointed out, cable operators who are pushing fiber deep are freeing up network equipment, and thus, making more power available for small cells. 

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