Did you know that when cable TV started more than 50 years ago, the size of the pipe was less than half of what it is today? Even around 25 years ago cable operators were running 330 MHz networks, while today they’ve deployed 750 MHz, 870 MHz and even 1 GHz networks.
But, forgive the trite turn of phrase, it’s not just the size of your pipe that matters. Let’s say you have a 750 MHz network. What would an upgrade to 1 GHz buy you in downstream bandwidth? Just looking at video, that’s about 42 extra analog channels or 420ish digital channels. Not bad. But of course if you already have an 870 MHz network (as 40-50% of North American cable operators do), you’re only getting about half that bonus in moving up to 1 GHz. Is the upgrade worth the cost?
In the short term, there are many other strategies for expanding bandwidth that operators (at least those with existing 870 MHz networks) find much more attractive: switched digital video, channel bonding, not to mention general analog bandwidth reclamation. Even those who are upgrading to 1 GHz aren’t seeing benefits yet since no consumer premise equipment (CPE) supports it. (CPE should start entering the market in 2008-2009.)
So 1 GHz isn’t a panacea. And yet…
Infrastructure equipment supporting 1 GHz (optical nodes, RF amplifiers, etc.) is selling like gangbusters. Many of the 50-60% of cable operators in the US with networks of 750 MHz or below are willing to make the upgrade investment. And in Latin America demand is even higher. As unsexy as it seems, operators see long-term value in 1 GHz networks as the projections for bandwidth demand keep growing.
In other words, it’s not just the size of your pipe that matters, but if you’re below 870 MHz, there’s probably an upgrade in your future.