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DOCSIS 3.0 Hitting Rural Markets

Motorola announced a new deal yesterday with rural cableco Armstrong to provide DOCSIS 3.0 technology across the operator’s entire footprint, and it looks like the move is part of a larger trend. Bernie Arnason over at Telecompetitor lists several MSOs who have gone the D3 route in rural markets including Armstrong, Bend Broadband, Mediacom, Midcontinent, Suddenlink, and Sunflower Broadband. But here’s the question: are these cablecos moving to DOCSIS 3.0 strictly to get higher speeds? Arnason notes that, “It’s kind of human nature to choose bigger and faster when it’s available, regardless of whether you actually need it.” In this case, however, speed isn’t the only advantage.

In a briefing yesterday with industry veteran Jim Barthold (subscription required for Pike and Fischer report), Motorola’s Brian O’Neill explained the “dirty little secret” of DOCSIS 3.0. Motorola can actually help operators migrate to D3 with just a software upgrade, but by adding in specific D3 hardware – as Armstrong is doing with Motorola’s Tx32 decoupled downstream module – the advantages go beyond channel bonding and higher peak speeds. The Tx32 hardware significantly increases network efficiency, making it cheaper (60%-per-port savings) to provide more bandwidth to all customers. Armstrong, in fact, isn’t planning to implement channel bonding for all of its subscribers right away, but the cable operator will still be able to deliver an extra 64 QAM channels (bonded or not) out of its existing chassis equipment.

Bottom line: rural operators have multiple reasons to move to DOCSIS 3.0, and several are making the upgrade as a result.