Multi-gig competition to heat up as fiber takes center stage – GlobalData

Analyst firm GlobalData tipped cable to lose ground to fiber over the coming years as competition among broadband providers peddling multi-gigabit services intensifies.

Tammy Parker, principal analyst at GlobalData, said in a statement the multi-gigabit marketplace is already heating up despite the fact that very few households actually require such speeds “even if they engage in simultaneous internet access for remote working or schooling, video conferencing and entertainment.” She pointed to Comcast’s decision to up the symmetrical speeds available on its top-tier Gigabit Pro plan from 2 Gbps to 3 Gbps as evidence of this trend and the cable industry’s efforts to fend off competition from fiber-based services.

Comcast’s website states 3 Gbps speeds will be available to all Gigabit Pro customers this month.

“Numerous U.S. broadband service providers are charting paths to offer multigigabit services in the coming years. Providers whose service maxes out at 1 Gbps, and even Google Fiber with its existing 2 Gbps service, have been put on notice that they will need to amp up their speed game,” Parker said.

Cable operators have a path to support downstream speeds of 10 Gbps through deployments of DOCSIS 4.0 technology and providers including Altice USA and Alaska’s GCI have already outlined plans to make the leap to 10-gig service. Experts from CableLabs recently told Fierce future cable technologies could push speeds even further to 25-gigs or beyond.

RELATED: Fiber is all the rage but DOCSIS isn’t dead: CableLabs

But GlobalData’s forecast indicated cable operators are fighting a losing battle. The analyst firm predicted the number of fixed broadband lines (including fiber, cable and fixed wireless) in the U.S. will grow to 112.3 million by end-2026, up from 103.1 million in 2021. Within this timeframe, fiber lines are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.8% to 28.2 million lines. Cable’s market share, meanwhile, is expected to dip from 68% in 2021 to 67.1% as it loses ground to the other fixed technologies.

New Street Research recently made a similar prediction, forecasting cable’s subscriber count will grow from 73.3 million in 2020 to 85.9 million in 2023 but its residential broadband market share will drop from 67% to 64% over the same period.