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Iskratel Calls on Cable Broadband Operators to Ditch DOCSIS and Go FTTH

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 (12:58 pm) - Score 1,455

The Chief Architect of Slovenian telecoms technology provider Iskratel, Simon Cimzar, has warned that DOCSIS based Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) networks (e.g. Virgin Media) need to “look past the latest cable upgrades” (DOCSIS 3.1) and go directly to Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P).

At present most of Virgin Media’s network in the United Kingdom, which is being expanded to cover around 65% of premises by 2019, is based off EuroDOCSIS style HFC technology that mixes fibre optic cables and copper coax. The technology has done a good job of delivering ultrafast class broadband speeds and the forthcoming upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 will continue to deliver plenty of future speed boosts.

By the end of 2019 Virgin Media expects its network to cover 17 million homes and businesses in the country, although around half of their current Project Lightning expansion (i.e. 2 million premises passed) will actually be delivered using Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTH/P) technology.

However Simon Cimzar argues that such operators should be doing more and thinking even longer term because they’re “only delaying the inevitable migration from DOCSIS 3.x to fibre.”

Simon Cimzar, Chief Architect for Iskratel, said:

“In the current market, cable operators are faced with an increasing number of competitors offering fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband services through gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks (GPON). By using the DOSCIS 3.0 standard today, operators can theoretically offer gigabit services in the downstream, but find themselves limited by the upstream throughput it provides.

This leaves operators with the quandary of whether to remain with the standard coax network and upgrade to the newer DOCSIS 3.1 standard, or make the leap and become FTTH operators themselves.

The main question operators must ask themselves is whether the service disruptions of the move make changing from the coax network to a fiber-based solution unfeasible. There are many facets to this decision, but the business motivation is clear. Fiber deployments come at a lower Total Cost of Ownership [TCO] and provide a better return on the initial investment than DOCSIS 3.1, which can be migrated to at the same cost but requires further, continued investment.

Another important factor to bear in mind is the potential for symmetrical upload and download speeds that GPON offers – something which isn’t possible with cable. Once you take into account the higher ongoing maintenance costs, smaller range of services offered and disruptive migration to DOSCIS 3.1, it becomes clear that GPON provides an option that makes sense for businesses and end-users alike.

Customers’ perception is simple: fiber is the future. Cable operators are at a crucial juncture when it comes to network evolution and those who try to move forward without fiber may find themselves being left behind.”

Certainly there is some merit to Simon’s argument, particularly over the longer term, although Iskratel also has a vested interest in seeing more FTTH/P as that’s one of their main markets.

Meanwhile operators like Virgin Media are able to adopt DOCSIS 3.1 for comparatively little cost and over a fairly short period of time, which makes it an attractive upgrade for their network (expect to see some movement towards the end of 2017); they could even squeeze more out of EuroDOCSIS 3.0 if they really wanted.

Much may also depend on the different market dynamics of each country. Cable operators that exist in countries where other primary operators are adopting FTTH/P may feel more pressure to make the shift. By comparison Openreach (BT) seems to be firmly focused upon hybrid-fibre G.fast in the UK, which is something that Virgin Media can already beat with today’s network.

As usual there are also the familiar questions of consumer NEED vs DEMAND to consider and whether ultrafast upload speeds are really all that attractive to end-users. Marketing may well play a bigger role than practical need when it comes to service speed (i.e. mines faster than yours), at least for now.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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23 Responses
  1. Carter says:

    “The Chief Architect of Slovenian telecoms technology provider Iskratel, Simon Cimzar, has warned that DOCSIS based Hybrid Fibre Cable (HFC) networks (e.g. Virgin Media) need to “look past the latest cable upgrades” (DOCSIS 3.1) and go directly to Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P).”

    Could be argued to be good or bad advice a pity his own ADSL and FTTC heavy network only has a small amount of FTTP though.

    PS: HFC stands for Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (NOT cable). I hope it was not a so called “network architect” that made that error but its an editorial mistake.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Yes the HFC one was my typo, fixed.

  2. TheFacts says:

    Does Mr Cimzar have anything to sell related to this topic?

  3. CarlT says:

    Indeed the cable companies are quite aware they are delaying the inevitable, however given coax is good for 3 GHz they are probably fine for a while and can work on pushing fibre closer incrementally.

    1. Chris P says:

      GHz is frequency and not directly related to bandwidth through coax.

    2. alan says:

      I think you will find CartT was trying to explain cable companies have no real rush as coax is far more capable than twisted pair telephone lines. They do not need to rip it all out and replace with fibre. Docsis 3.1 can do well over 1Gbps down with ease, the current Docsis 3.0 can do more (though not much) than what VM currently offer. Cable companies have no rush or real need to immediately go out and switch to fibre.

    3. CarlT says:


      Bandwidth (signal processing) or analog bandwidth, frequency bandwidth or radio bandwidth: a measure of the width of a range of frequencies, measured in hertz

      Bandwidth (computing), the rate of data transfer, bit rate or throughput, measured in bits per second (bit/s)

      The second relies on the first directly; the more bandwidth at the signalling level available the higher the throughput possible. This is the basis of why FTTP is such a high capacity medium – GPON for example uses a downstream carrier that’s about 2.7 GHz wide.

      VM don’t overbuild their legacy plant’s active components, the amplifiers and optical nodes, for fun, they do it because they are out of bandwidth so need to upgrade that in order to deliver more throughput.

      With that in mind and given the article was about the apparent need for cable companies to go FTTP I was just pointing out that there is plenty of life in the C in HFC yet.

    4. Chris P says:

      Better signal processing, modulation, noise cancellation, encoding protocol etc is what eeks out more data bandwidth within a given set of frequencies. Which is why I wrote Ghz is not directly related to (data) bandwidth, thinking of docsis 3.1 vs earlier incarnations using the same cables and frequencies but achieving more throughput.

    5. CarlT says:

      Shannon’s law disagrees that there’s no direct relationship between them. Indeed OFDM allows more throughput from the same bandwidth but more bandwidth means more throughput is possible. Regardless of how many bits you’re packing into each symbol being able to use more symbols with the same modulation orders means higher throughput.

  4. adslmax Real says:

    I agree with Simon Cimzar as BT are using fibre street cabinet via copper to the property are a waste of time inc g.fast and again the same goes to virgin media DOCSIS 3.1 from the street cabinet to the property is useless.

    BT and VM should start FTTP/FTTH for all over UK right now.

    BT and VM should head their shame in disgrace. Copper and Coax is no good. True fiber to the house are the future and low cost and better investment than BT G.Fast and VM DOCSIS 3.1 via coax.

    1. Same old, just a different record.

      You always seem to be full of answers adslmax, so riddle me this, who should pay for FTTP/FTTH “right now”?

    2. Carter says:

      Mystic max again with his VM docsis 3.1 is useless outbursts even though thats not even available from them yet.

  5. adslmax Real says:

    If I was the government prime minister, I would ask the budget to put tax on the broadband vat from 20% to 24% (these 4% VAT will going to add the fund for fibre to the house)the vat of 24% is only for the fund of fiber roll out.

    1. TheFacts says:

      How much would that raise?

    2. MikeW says:

      4% of, say, a broadband charge of £10 per month amounts to 40p per month, or close to £5 per year.

      With 23 million broadband lines, you’d accumulate £120m per year.

      To fund a £20bn full-fibre rollout will take 160 years.

      I think Prime Minister adslmax needs to sack his chancellor for shoddy planning.

    3. Carter says:

      That is harsh mikew its clear he just ran out of fingers to count with.

  6. MikeW says:

    I think Mark’s final paragraph hits paydirt…

    The great gamble in all this is whether homes will ever need speeds approaching gigabit. And whether the developments for copper (coax and twisted pair) and wireless can keep up.

    If need doesn’t match up to hype, or technology can indeed keep up with need, then full-fibre may be most driven in the future by a marketing message. Gigabit is a very simple message.

    It seems to me that both BT and VM want the gamble on “need” to go one way, while the vendors (like Iskratel) that make up the FTTH council want it to go the other way.

    However, if BT and VM choose to fight each other over the size of their speed, they will create the environment where the marketing message wins instead: Whether we need it or not.

    1. Chris P says:

      Exactly Mikew

      It’s a gamble of need vs cost. Very very few need 1gb, even those on 100mbs plus lines likely don’t need that speed but say they do when they have multiple teenagers on it playing stuff at the same time, connected over wireless g or n in 2.4ghz band actually getting a wifi connection rate less than their BB speed but are happy they’ve paid more.

      How many of those on a gig connection are connected over wifi? I can almost guarantee that wifi connection will be much slower than the BB.

    2. comnut says:

      giga bit??? I don’t think many **websites** are RICH enough to be able to get up to 100Mbps, never mind higher!!! :E

      speedtest sites may be great, BUT they are NOT a representation of real download speed from many sites like YT etc…

    3. nucco says:


      You can get a $5 a month Virtual Private Server offering 10gbps of network capacity today.

      In the datacentre, there is a glut of bandwidth. The consumer side is what is lagging behind.

      That said, while I would like faster broadband, i can’t really call it a need. if it were priced better and available, I would be all over it.

    4. nucco says:

      To give an example of “priced better”, HyperOptic’s 1gbps plan is well within my reach, and a much better deal than what I currently get with VM.

      If only it were available to me.

    5. CarlT says:

      ‘However, if BT and VM choose to fight each other over the size of their speed, they will create the environment where the marketing message wins instead: Whether we need it or not.’

      This is what’s happened in the United States. Cable companies have gone in hard on marketing higher speeds. That plus a lack of loss-leading or very low margin VDSL/ADSL deals has left that as the king for marketing
      The competition at the higher end has also reduced prices at the lower end.

  7. FibreFred says:

    Where is gnewton, why isn’t he slating vm and stating they need to replace their coax with fibre?

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