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Cable’s Surging Fiber Majority

Many cable companies today boast about having more fiber than coax in their outside plant, and according to recent research from Omdia, those numbers are expected to dramatically increase over the next decade.

“Forty-three percent of MSOs have already deployed PON in their networks,” said Jaimie Lenderman, Principal Analyst and Research Manager at Omdia covering the Broadband Access Intelligence Service. “It’s split between the largest and smallest providers. Middle-sized organizations are expected to deploy PON in the next 12 to 24 months or longer.”

Omdia’s most recent MSO fiber research was conducted between February and March of this year and surveyed 60 cable companies across 5 regions around the world. North America made up 64% of the survey sample. Around 76% of those surveyed have deployed fiber to the home (FTTH) services within the last three years.

Multiple factors are driving cable providers to deploying PON, including gaining competitive advantage (56%), the ability to offer new business services (46%), being able to add enhanced revenue services such as low latency for gaming (39%), lower operational expenses (35%), and 32% of respondents are deploying fiber in greenfield scenarios.

However, MSOs are also dealing with various obstacles slowing their march to fiber, including capital expenditures when compared to simple cable plant upgrades, time to market for upgrading existing plant verses deploying an all-fiber network, questions on the return on investment for fiber, and issues involved in migrating existing customers off of coax onto PON, such as truck rolls and switching over last-mile services.

In spite of various hurdles faced by cable companies that want to switch, Lenderman sees an all-fiber future for the majority of the industry–and fairly quickly.

“Omdia expects 77% of MSOs will sunset HFC broadband within 10 years,” Lenderman stated. “Three percent have already sunset HFC and 31% will do so in the next two years.”

Hold-outs on coax plant believe that DOCSIS 3.1 has “a lot of runway,” but few in the industry are looking at a successor to DOCSIS 4.0, a technology not expected to be in service by 2024.

To learn more about the cable’s love-hate-love relationship with fiber, listen to the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast.