Forget fiber; cable shows off 4.5 Gbps speeds

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The cable business isn’t going to cede its share of the broadband market by waiting around for coaxial cable to become obsolete, and now those providers won’t have to make an expensive transition to a fiber-to-the-home infrastructure to achieve gigabit networks. Cable equipment provider Arris will demonstrate on Monday that it can deliver speeds of up to 4.5 gigabits per second by upgrading the existing cable broadband networks.

Today’s cable networking technology, known as DOCSIS, is currently deployed by providers such as Comcast in a version known as DOCSIS 3.0, and ISPs are using it to deliver up to 200 Mbps downstream. But Arris has upped the ante by allocating more channels for broadband and bonding them together, enabling speeds of up to 4.5 Gbps downstream and 575 Mbps up. Doing so takes away from the channels used to deliver actual TV channels, but if one accepts the thesis that television programming will gravitate toward an on-demand IPTV model, this becomes less of a concern than delivering more broadband capacity.

The new technology from Arris is merely a demonstration, but given that right now, about 56 percent of Americans get their broadband from cable providers, and that few large-scale telecommunications providers outside of Verizon are deploying fiber-to-the-home yet, enabling faster and future-proof cable networks will become an important step in keeping U.S. broadband competitive.

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