Cable continues to squeeze higher capabilities out of its delivery infrastructure. Embracing IP technologies allows for more efficient use of bandwidth for higher delivery speeds and more applications.  

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Fiber/Hybrid-Fiber Coaxial (HFC)DOCSIS 3.0/3.1 (Gigasphere)
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)Multicast / UnicastAdvanced Wi-Fi

Fiber/Hybrid-Fiber Coaxial (HFC)

Cable providers are pushing the higher speed and capacity offered by fiber optic networking while preserving their current use of coaxial cable in hybrid-fiber coaxial (HFC) cable system architecture. With HFC, cable is finding all the speed and capacity that it needs by using fiber to transport video and data to neighborhood nodes, where it transfers to coaxial cable that is connected to homes. For businesses, schools and other large institutions, cable often provides dedicated fiber access connections to provide Gigabit Internet speeds.

Increasingly, fiber backbone networks are being used to backhaul video content from programming networks to cable headends. New passive optical network (PON) technologies are dramatically increasing transmission speeds over backbone fiber. When it comes to network architecture, engineers talk about “hubs” or the network “edge”: locations around their service areas where content data may be stored or routed. By storing popular TV content closer to where customers are, transporting it to their homes can be more efficient and economical.     

DOCSIS 3.0/3.1 (Gigasphere)

DOCSIS (data over cable service interface specification), developed through CableLabs, has provided the technical foundation for cable modems and high-speed Internet service. Currently cable providers are embracing the latest version, DOCSIS 3.0, to bond channel capacity together and offer higher speed Internet tiers.

On its heels is DOCSIS 3.1 (branded as Gigasphere), providing new levels of Gigabit Internet speed and the capacity for high usage of IP video. Among the goals of DOCSIS 3.1 are to enable broadband speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second and produce a 50% increase in downstream and upstream capacity. Among the keys for DOCSIS 3.1 are OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing), a technique to more efficiently pack and transport data, and LDPC (low density parity check), which enables higher data order modulation. DOCSIS 3.1 requires new equipment in the data center and home. Initial products are expected in late 2015, followed by fuller market rollouts in 2016 and 2017.

Find out more:

View talking points, FAQs and access the consumer –facing website

Cable Industry Announces Gigasphere

DOCSIS 3.1: Where We Are Today

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

Cable’s content delivery networks (CDNs) are centralized distribution centers that can shuttle around any type of IP video content over large regions. They act as a cost-effective central point for cable to ingest and stream IP video. The CDN aggregates linear, on-demand or other video and then streams the content over national fiber backbones to regional fiber rings and then on to local service areas.

Advances in fiber-optic technologies promise to continuously speed up backhaul delivery and increase capacity for more video content. New cloud-based program guides can be quickly updated or modified through the CDN. Over time, this new distribution method promises to reduce the industry’s reliance on and expenses associated with satellite delivery of programming, while also providing a launchpad for more Internet video services and interactive applications. 


Cable currently broadcasts TV channels and other content in a multicast (one to many) process, meaning one piece of TV content gets distributed broadly to many viewers. The Internet delivers content in a unicast scenario (one to one), so that each user gets a separate stream of content.

Unicast can be used to provide more personalized services to users, such as a programming lineup tailored to your interests or addressable advertising that’s for something you might actually want. But it generally requires more bandwidth and bandwidth management tools. Cable technicians are seeking a happy medium between the two; for example, using multicast for linear TV and unicast for on-demand video. Over time, some technologists predict that cable will provide more personalized applications to consumers through greater reliance on IP unicast.

Advanced Wi-Fi

In the United States, more data is carried over Wi-Fi than any other Internet source. Cable providers are playing a central role in Wi-Fi delivery. From large cities to small towns, cable companies are setting up millions of hot spots so consumers, businesses and schools can gain Internet access through community Wi-Fi networks outside their homes. Five major MSOs (Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable) enable seamless roaming across each company’s service area through a common CableWiFi SSID (service set identifier, the Wi-Fi network name). Cablevision is using Wi-Fi for phone service – what some call VoWiFi for “voice over Wi-Fi” – and the industry is promoting “WiFi-first” strategies so consumers rely upon Wi-Fi instead of cellular and avoid mobile data caps.

Inside the home, the latest Wi-Fi router technology (802.11ac), is being built into cable gateways to increase throughput for higher video consumption, with the possibility of eventually reaching Gigabit speed. By taking advantage of Wi-Fi, cable providers can remain competitive against potential video services by mobile carriers that use 4G, LTE and emerging 5G mobile technologies. The cable industry also is wary of mobile carrier plans to use Wi-Fi spectrum for LTE service – an effort known as LTE-U (for unlicensed) and LAA (license-assisted access). Critics warn that sharing of Wi-Fi with LTE could create a wireless traffic jam.

Find out more:

Wi-Fi Alliance

Wireless Broadband Alliance

Industry-Facing WiFi: Trends & Developments

Will Wi-Fi Have to Share the Waves?


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