Questions over whether cable will soon have to increase capital spending to improve bandwidth continue to linger. A Merriman Curhan Ford report issued days ago warns of an "impending bandwidth ‘crisis’ driven by current HFC network capacity limitations" relative to the telcos’ "unlimited fiber deployments." The issue also came up at a recent Goldman Sachs’ investor conference. "Cox has always invested and continues to invest in our network in order to make the most efficient use of this resource," Cox CTO Chris Bowick told Cfax. "Numerous technologies and tactics discussed in the [Merriman] report are involved in this effort, and we have a plan for meeting customers’ near- and long-term demands." Bowick downplayed the telco threat. "With the RBOCs purportedly investing as much as $8K per home to deliver services we are already delivering today, we are very comfortable in continuing our sensible and timely approach to network investment," he said. Merriman expects HFC access network infrastructure spending to start rising in the 2nd half of this year and continue into ’07 after several years of declines. It notes that MSOs have multiple technologies to enhance bandwidth, including switched broadcast and new compression technologies. The report, titled "I Want My MTV in HD! Cable’s Looming Bandwidth Crisis—A Shift From ‘Success-based’ to ‘Survival-based’ Spending," identified several companies that may benefit from the spending boost: Vyyo, Harmonic, Commscope, C-Cor, BigBand Networks, Modulus Video, Aurora Networks, OpVista, Narad and RGB Networks. At Goldman Sach’s Communacopia, Comcast’s Steve Burke addressed last month’s WSJ piece suggesting cable might need billions in upgrades. "We don’t think there’s any need anywhere on the horizon … to rebuild the infrastructure," Burke said, explaining bandwidth recapturing measures. Gone is "the old concern that used to haunt the cable industry, because it was true until 5 years ago, that we’re constantly needing more capital and another rebuild," he said.

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