The Future of the Internet Is Fiber Deep

Migratory path promises to boost internet performance, deliver cost savings
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Netflix is the poster child for over-the-top (OTT) content and has no doubt played a large role in shifting the status quo when it comes to entertainment and viewing habits. The company can be credited with reimagining content distribution — investing in homegrown content and a content delivery network to feed our binge-viewing habits.

However, these habits are primarily supported on MSO networks, which have one of the best internet service products on the market. These companies are focused on the future, making investments in the people, processes and infrastructure necessary to help them match their capabilities to a new generation of users.

Delivering an Ideal Customer Experience

Consumer demand for improved viewing options has created an environment where MSOs can’t tolerate service disruptions or quality issues. However, aging coaxial plants, analog repeaters and limited spectrum make meeting customer demand for fast and reliable service a challenge. MSOs recognize this and are already moving in the right direction, but they will advance even faster with fiber deep — the concept by which operators push fiber closer to the end user, which helps improve service.

The impact of Netflix and other streaming services on MSOs is clear: they offer OTT content, but when their services are slow, customers are quick to blame their network provider. Because of this, MSOs must find a way to offer the OTT service that today’s viewers demand, and fiber deep is the best way to achieve that goal.

Fiber deep eliminates amplifiers and pushes the optical-to-electrical conversion closer to subscribers, increasing the potential bandwidth to homes and cutting power and maintenance costs. The clearest reason to embrace fiber deep is simple: it doesn’t require dismantling the existing Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) network, providing for a migration to Remote PHY Devices (RPDs) and scalability.

MSOs will also see additional benefits by moving toward fiber deep, including:

• More responsive internet services: With more than $1.4 trillion invested to deploy broadband networks, cable operators are available to 93% U.S. homes, according to Kagan. Fiber deep reduces the homes passed per node and moves headend functionality to the node, enabling significant performance improvements for things like Ultra HD or 4K broadcast, as well as faster access speeds.

• Cost savings: Fiber deep allows MSOs to eliminate out-of-date and expensive equipment, as well as integrate services, platforms and management tools to drive greater efficiencies. In addition, by consolidating existing headends and hubs, the MSOs use less energy and resources, reducing both environmental impact and operational cost.

Putting Bandwidth at the Edge

A fiber deep network must be designed to physically reach the intended number of users and also scale to the changing capacity needs of the users, which are expected to grow significantly throughout the life of the network. To meet these requirements, the network needs to support many physical interfaces and differing levels of throughput and transport capacity.

While the impact of streaming services and cord-cutting has made naysayers question the viability of MSOs, consumers are not actually abandoning them. Instead, they are changing their viewing habits, thus shifting their service needs.

Cable providers’ rich pedigree of content ownership and delivery experience makes them well-suited to deliver the best user experience in the business. It’s the nature of MSO architecture that provides a distinct advantage, all because the network and assets are relatively close to the user, not miles away in a large data center. The MSOs are in a great position: their customers want more and better service, and fiber deep gives them the technology to give those customers what they want.

Eli Cagiannos is vice president and MSO practice leader at Ciena, a Hanover, Md.-based network strategy and technology company.

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