However, after sitting in on a few of the sessions, the conference’s hot topic became clear to me — how do I balance providing a quality subscriber experience and the growing demand for bandwidth with the burden on my network? Options abound for cable providers and most are asking: Do I cap? Do I cache? Do I reshape the habits of my subscribers? Do I just throw more bandwidth at my network?
In the end, most operators and vendors seem to be in agreement— a bigger pipe does not necessarily equal a better experience. A range of ideas are on the table, including fair usage policies, bandwidth caps, new service offerings and even partnerships with over-the-top (OTT) video providers.
DOCSIS 3.1 and Software Defined Networking will play a big part in helping providers tackle the bandwidth challenge. DOCSIS 3.1 promises faster speed and capacity than 3.0, with support for up to 50% more data throughput. This will allow cable operators to deliver up to 10 gigabits per second downstream and one to two gigabits per second upstream. This still may not be enough to satisfy subscribers’ increasing appetite for bandwidth in the long run, but it’s a start.
Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) was another technology platform that received attention at NCTC WEC. CCAP is gaining more and more momentum and is predicted to take off this year. Watch this space.
Another theme that dominated the show was the multiscreen experience. Content delivery is no longer just about the set-top box — it’s about delivering quality viewing experiences to subscribers, no matter what they are watching, what device they are using, and where they are watching it from.
This links to the battle for bandwidth. Part of the solution might be for operators to reduce peak hour congestion by adjusting subscriber downloading habits. This does not necessarily mean decreasing or punishing downloads but could instead come in the form of special packages that allows unlimited downloads on weekends and late nights while setting a limit during busy hours.
One thing is for certain — subscribers are tied to their devices, not their operators. This in itself may be a unique opportunity in disguise. Operators looking to increase subscriber stickiness and to better position themselves could consider WiFi offloading partnerships in the future. This strategy could be a revenue driver, without relying solely on the habits of subscribers.
Overall, it’s an interesting time for independent cable operators in North America. We’ll be back for more in the summer when we attend The Independent Show in Kansas City, MO — see you there!