There have been some critical comments recently on the state of U.S. broadband. Some have claimed that there has been little improvement in broadband speeds over the past several years; others question whether there’s a path to next generation capabilities.
It’s time to set the record straight. Cable broadband networks have delivered impressive speed increases over the last several years and they are poised to accelerate service level upgrades over the near and medium term. The elegance of the Hybrid Fiber Coaxial cable (HFC) platform is that it enables cable broadband networks to continually evolve into better and more robust networks.
A personal anecdote provides a good example of a typical American broadband experience. Over the last three years, the speed (downstream) of my northern Virginia residential cable broadband service has increased from 6 Mbps to 50 Mbps, with three of the four speed increases having been initiated by my cable service provider at no additional cost. While there currently aren’t consumer applications that require anywhere close to 50 Mbps, the robust bandwidth does enable multiple household users to simultaneously access the network and all have a great online experience. And cable broadband networks stand ready to deliver high bandwidth applications if and when they develop.
These are impressive advancements within a short span of time, but speeds will soon go even faster. Below is a chart that depicts the progression of top speeds offered by Comcast over the last decade, ending with the recently announced 305 Mbps service tier that will soon be offered throughout markets in the company’s Northeast division.
In addition, it was recently disclosed that cable broadband equipment will be shipping in September of 2012 that will be capable of supporting throughput of up to 960 Mbps. And finally, according to a recent research paper co-authored by four leading technology companies, with certain fundamental changes DOCSIS networks could deliver as much as 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of bandwidth downstream and 2 Gbps upstream.
Cable providers and their networks have been delivering industry leading broadband performance to consumers since introducing residential broadband to American households in 1996. These networks are anything but static. Through a combination of engineering prowess and hundreds of billions of dollars of private risk-capital investment, they are continually evolving and becoming more robust and are leading the broadband industry into next generation capabilities. Today’s cable broadband networks are better than they were a few years ago, and in a few years they will be vastly better than they are today.