Videotron Plans 100-Mbit/s Service
A large Canadian MSO, Videotron Telecom Ltd. , is shooting to become the first North American cable operator -- and probably the first access provider of any kind -- to offer 100-Mbit/s downstream data speeds to broadband subscribers before the year is out.
Videotron, Canada's third biggest MSO with nearly 1.6 million basic cable subscribers, said it aims to launch both residential and commercial cable modem service with such high download speeds in its markets. The planned download rate would be five times faster than the company's existing top rate of 20 Mbit/s and twice as fast as the top speed that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ - message board)'s FiOS Internet now offers.
Videotron officials aren't exactly sure yet what kinds of content-enabled and interactive services they might offer with all the extra bandwidth. But they reckon that the new bandwidth will be mighty useful for such increasingly popular applications as video downloads from Websites like YouTube Inc.
"Tomorrow there will be more of them [YouTube users] out there asking for faster speeds and more capacity," said Manon Brouillette, senior VP of marketing and content/product development at Videotron. "We see another need coming around."
Videotron executives outlined their new ultra-broadband plans in a conference call that also featured officials from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO - message board). They spoke after starting field trials of Cisco's new Wideband channel-bonding technology with 150 residential and business customers in December.
In the early field trials, Videotron officials say they have "tested and managed" stable downstream speeds as high as 98 Mbit/s on their existing hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network, using the emerging Docsis 3.0 specifications from Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) for virtual bonding of RF channels. They say they've achieved even faster download speeds in technical trials.
"We know we can go higher," says Pierre Roy, VP of engineering and IP technology for Videotron. "We have tested it with multiple channels and it really works great."
The Montreal-based MSO, which easily leads the Canadian cable industry with 769,000 data subscribers, has been conducting the trials with such standing equipment as Cisco's uBR100012 cable modem termination system (CMTS) in its headend. Cisco added new software and Wideband SIP cards to upgrade the CMTS for bonding of up to 24 Docsis channels.
"We did not deploy a new network or new special cable," Roy said, stressing that the cable operator did not have to put extra fiber in its architecture. But the company did add new QAM modulators to work with the Cisco CMTS.
Working with Cisco, Videotron has been testing two new Wideband modems, a Scientific Atlanta model that can handle up to three bonded channels and a more advanced Linksys version that can handle up to eight bonded channels. Theoretically, the three bonded channels can support download speeds of up 120 Mbit/s while the eight bonded channels can support downstream rates as high as 320 Mbit/s.
Surya Panditi, VP and general manager of Cisco's optical technology and CMTS business unit, said Cisco engineers have successfully tested the company's Wideband technology with cable modems from several other tech vendors as well. He declined to name the vendors.
Despite the geometrical increase in downstream speeds, the upstream speeds remain the same as before. Videotron and Cisco officials say they will tackle the upstream capacity issue later on as the Docsis 3.0 spec matures.
Docsis 3.0 sets a floor of four bonded channels for greater downstream and upstream capacity. But it places no cap on the number of channels that can be linked.
Videotron executives say they plan to continue the Wideband trials with Cisco for several more months. They haven't set a date for launching the new service yet.