Cable's Future 'Gigabits' Networks

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Rouzbeh Yassini, inventor of the cable modem, doesn't see bandwidth demand leveling off anytime soon. As Comcast begins rolling out DOCSIS 3.0-based “wideband” services that provide up to 50 Mbps, he is already anticipating Gigabit-per-second broadband connections that deliver more than 20 times that. Yassini, founder and CEO of YAS Broadband Ventures, which engages in consulting, research and investments, spoke recently with Multichannel News technology editor Todd Spangler. An edited transcript follows:

MCN: The first cable modems ran at less than 100 Kbps. Today, DOCSIS 3.0 provides 160 Mbps downstream and 120 up — and more. Did you anticipate cable modems would evolve to these capacities?

Rouzbeh Yassini: Absolutely. In 1988, at LANcity [the cable-modem company Yassini founded] we had a T-3 cable modem with 45 Mbps. Cable modems were originally an Ethernet-to-coax bridge. People said, “What application are you going to run?” It was too expensive, so we dropped it down to 10 Mbps.

The other part of this is affordability: In 1980, a T-3 was about $100,000 per month. Now you can easily get 100 Mbps for $5,000 — that's twice the speed for one-twentieth of the price.

MCN: Where do you see broadband speeds topping out a decade from now?

RY: That will be a gigabits network [more than 1 Gigabit per second]. The only question becomes, what's the priority for operators? The vision is there. The technology is there. It's just a matter of lighting it up.

MCN: What will people do with all this bandwidth?

RY: The basic application and services you can think about are corporate networking, commercial services to connect buildings. Second, you are talking about running a service bureau or a CAD/CAM [computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing] office out of your home. It's corporate networking, remote offices, medical services and security services.

MCN: What kind of security do you mean?

RY: Security of our country's networks. Somebody is going to realize that there is the potential to steal data out of our networks. But you can't build a wall across the Mississippi overnight. … It's controlling access to the things you have paid for. We don't have that level of security today. It's more than just digital rights. It includes the access, the identity of the user, their content — it's end-to-end security, real security.

MCN A 50 Mbps downstream connection is enough for several live, high-definition video feeds. Isn't broadband fueling the rise of Internet TV businesses, and won't those compete with cable TV?

RY: Absolutely. I'll give you this number: 50% of the traffic by 2012 will be video, according to Cisco. That's why Comcast is working on their Internet-video strategy. You need the Gigabits network because of the video. Remember, cable operators are very smart. Content is king. If it comes through the Internet, you're going to pay. Which pipe you use doesn't matter.