Comcast CFO: DOCSIS 3.1 Most Efficient, Economic Way to Bring Big Speeds Across Footprint

But company option to deploy FTTP ‘where it makes sense’
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DOCSIS 3.1 won’t be central to the future strategies of all cable operators, but the next-gen, multi-gigabit platform remains the best way to deliver big speeds across the MSO’s footprint, Mike Cavanagh, Comcast’s SVP and CFO, maintained Wednesday at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference.

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

Mediacom Communications would seemingly agree, as it will have D3.1 rolled out across its network by year end. An outlier is Altice USA, which is pivoting away from HFC as it gears up for an ambitious plan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises architecture across most of its footprint over the next six years.

RELATED: Altice USA to Skip DOCSIS 3.1, Roll Out All-Fiber Network

Comcast is expanding its deployment of DOCSIS 3.1 for a new tier of service that delivers up to 1 Gbps in the downstream.

RELATED: Comcast Sets DOCSIS 3.1 Expansion, Launches 1-Gig in Detroit

“In a couple of years' time, we'll have the next-generation DOCSIS, which will allow for a multi-gig symmetrical. So that's our roadmap,” Cavanagh said in an apparent reference to Full Duplex, an extension to the D3.1 spec that will enable MSOs to deliver symmetrical speeds up to 10 Gbps. At the same conference, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said his company would also be pursuing Full Duplex and symmetrical speeds up to 10-Gig. 

RELATED: ‘Full Duplex’ DOCSIS Speeds Ahead

He also acknowledged that Comcast always has the option to deploy fiber-to-the-premises “anywhere it makes sense,” such as MDUs,  “hyper-builds” for business services, and in 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. We got a pretty full toolkit and we think we deployed capital in a smart way against an opportunity that we're very optimistic about,” Cavanagh said.

As for 5G, an emerging technology that AT&T and Verizon intend to use to deliver gigabit-class speeds to the home, Comcast sees “plenty of opportunity in it,” particularly for backhaul.

He said the degree of the threat of 5G to Comcast is unclear, but allowed that “there may well be use cases that are interesting that impinge on some of what we do.”

Cavanagh also reiterated a belief that Comcast still has room to grow on the broadband side, noting that there are about 6 million DSL homes in its footprint to go after.

As for Comcast’s triggered MVNO agreement, he said the company feels comfortable that it will be able to use it to assemble a compelling offering, expected to debut by mid-2017.

RELATED: Roberts: Comcast Can Make Money on Wireless

“[We] know that the proof is in the pudding and we've got work to do to bring it to market and overcome some of the skepticisms of whether MVNOs can work, but we're optimistic that it can work for us against the goals that we have for that,”  Cavanagh said.

As for recent skepticisms about the model,  T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter said at the same conference that MVNO deals don’t provide deep integration that providers require.

“Having that ecosystem is extremely important,” he said Monday, according to Fierce Cable. “But there's a reason where it's even more important: You're never going to get deep integration in the network with an MVNO. The only way you're going to get deep integration is by owning and controlling what you're doing. And that's absolutely critical.”

Cavanagh said that the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger has no effect on Comcast’s mobile/wireless plans, noting that the MSO already has 150 people working on the project, being led by Greg Butz.

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