Will 10G be a long and winding road for cable? Depends

NEW ORLEANS — This week's SCTE-ISBE Cable-Tec Expo in New Orleans is chock full of panels and sessions on 10G, but when the cable industry actually deploys or needs it is an open question.

The cable industry first announced its 10G initiative in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. While 10G includes the old cable standbys of DOCSIS and HFC, it's an access technology project that also has wireless technologies and fiber-to-the-premise under its umbrella.

Speaking on a pre-conference panel, CommScope's Tom Cloonan, chief technical officer for network solutions, said he views 10G as a lighthouse that the cable operators and vendors can point their boats toward. It could be five, 10 or 15 years before the cable industry migrates to 10G speeds, but "at some point in time we'll arrive at 10G services," Cloonan said.

"There will be a lot of stepping stones," Cloonan said. "We'll take a lot of little steps leading to bigger steps and eventually we'll get there."

Cloonan said that 10G is not an endpoint but rather one point in cable's future, and that there are various definitions of what 10G is.

"Some look at 10G as bandwidth capacity for subscribers, and some folks just look at it as downstream capacity," Cloonan said.

For 10 Gigabits in the downstream, Cloonan said 1.3GHz of spectrum would be required. For symmetrical 10G speeds, 2.6GHz of total spectrum would be required. A 10 Gbps downstream with a service level agreement (SLA) would need 1.8GHz while a symmetrical downstream of 10Gbps with an SLA would require 3.6GHz of total spectrum.

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Does the industry need that much bandwidth capacity?

"I'll be honest with you, I don't know and neither do you is what I tell other people," Cloonan said.

Using Nielsen's Law to calculate internet bandwidth, the cable industry would need 100Gbps of capacity by 2032, but Cloonan doubts that number. Using an alternative model, which includes bandwidth CAGR of 25% per year instead of 50%, Cloonan said the cable industry would need 10G by 2029

While Cloonan said apps that haven't been invented yet could skew those projections in the future, a real world example includes virtual reality and augmented reality services that need 600Mbps per stream for a "retinal immersive experience level." Light field displays, which are 3D volumes of light as opposed to the ordinary 2D planes of light, may need up to 800Mbps per stream. Real world drivers for 10G include 4K and 8K video streams as well as IPTV services.

Some of the other factors that could push 10G deployments include the widespread launch of 5G and newer competitive PON services, Cloonan said. Whether 10G takes off in 2035 or in 2029, Cloonan said cable operators need to be thinking about replacing aging taps and amps in their networks to be ready.

One of the other features for 10G is enabling low latency. Bob Ferriera, general manager, strategy and technology for Intel's connected home unit, said building low-latency into 10G was just as critical as the speeds it enables.


The cable industry increased its focus on enabling low latency in DOCSIS two years ago, according to Ferriera. An initial specification for low latency services was issued in January and five interops running from September through June of next year are in the works.

With online gaming an initial focus, Ferriera said early field trials could start by the middle of next year. Once those interops are completed, certification will follow.

"We still have about four or five opens in the specification that we need to work hard on and close," Ferriera said when talking about a few issues. To test low-latency DOCSIS features, Intel has worked with the Israel-based company that created the online game "The Unspoken."

In addition to low latency and higher bandwidth, the other two foundational pillars for 10G are security and reliability. CableLabs' Brian Scriber, distinguished technologist and vice president of security technologies, said on the panel that massive bandwidth capacity would cause people with "security" in their job titles to lose sleep due to IoT deployments, botnets, privacy issues, crypto mining and crypto jacking computers in headends to use computational power against the cable operators.

CableLabs Fellow Alberto Campos said "reliability is really the art of avoiding failure and becomes more important." Campos said the cable industry should adopt the mantra of "failure is not an option" when it comes to reliability and 10G.