From The Expert Feature Article
February 21, 2017

Why Cablecos Are Uniquely Positioned to Deliver Business Services

By Special Guest
Mark Alrutz, Director of field applications engineering, CommScope

The big cable TV companies that expanded over the years to offer a variety of communications services have been pursuing the business sector for some time by adding to their existing residential networks. This strategy has provided double-digit growth opportunities and is expected to continue as a growth area for years to come.

Types of Businesses

In the early years of Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification services, cable operators focused their attention on small office/home office opportunities. These customers welcomed the availability of higher speeds and lower costs. The small business market came next, often when businesses in this group were passed by or adjacent to existing HFC plant.

Today, medium-sized businesses that may be located further away from existing plant and enterprise-type business are on the roadmap. This may consist of a geographically spread out blend of small and medium sites that are only now being targeted.

But brick-and-mortar businesses aren’t the only opportunities for cable companies’ multiple system operators. Backhaul of wireless services and other diverse businesses like security or the emerging Internet of Things market are also ideal places for MSOs to compete, largely because of the advantages their existing hybrid fiber/coax networks can offer.

Benefits of HFC

HFC networks consist of a tree-and-branch type structure of both optical fiber and coaxial cables. The HFC network has been upgraded for years to provide extremely high bandwidth capability within both the optical and radio frequency coaxial portions. Tiered service can be made available with modern HFC networks, allowing a variety of service plans and costs.

When approaching a potential business customer, small or large, an HFC network operator can offer gigabit data speeds with high reliability over either coaxial or dedicated fiber connections. In a typical HFC network, a coaxial or fiber connection point is rarely far away. Fiber has been placed deeper into the HFC networks over recent years, and easy attachment points to the coaxial network are flourishing.

Significant to the HFC network is the availability of line power. Coaxial RF networks operate using line-powered devices, and can offer distributed power at almost every point in the network. The availability of power is significant since wireless devices like 5G small cells and IoT devices will likely be distributed widely throughout geographical areas, and will certainly require power in addition to data backhaul. HFC networks are in a unique position to efficiently provide that power and backhaul.

And DOCSIS continues to evolve as a data transport specification. Today, many operators are deploying DOCSIS 3.1-capable equipment, providing gigabit speeds over the HFC plant. Looking ahead, speeds between five and 10Gbps are on the DOCSIS roadmap.

Challenges to Overcome

Of course, business customers differ from residential subscribers in several ways, so there are numerous challenges the MSO community must overcome.

First, businesses often require managed networks. Providers are investing in resources to provide those services across a wide range of business customers. A residential customer may only have a cable modem and a Wi-Fi router, whereas a business could have multiple routers and various types of equipment.

Second, a business customer may have multiple sites, and some of those sites may not be in the service provider footprint. Working out of the footprint and developing partnerships with other service providers will be required to serve larger enterprise-type businesses.

Finally, these services, provided through diverse partnerships, must remain consistent and support high reliability service level agreement terms.

The MSO community has a powerful tool in its evolving HFC network to compete in the business services space. HFC networks offer tiered services; accessibility to fiber; and, perhaps most significantly, accessibility to power. 

Edited by Alicia Young