Joe Selvage is vice president of IP Networks for Mediacom. He and his team have been building out the Mediacom OneNet backbone network for the past four years. The OneNet backbone today carries voice, video, and data for 80 percent of the MSO’s subscriber base.
What trends in the converged IP/GigE/optical networking area are you following, such as 40 Gbps, 100 Gbps, OTN, ROADMs, and Carrier Ethernet?
The explosive growth in capacity enabled by these technologies is the most exciting aspect of the area. We are currently migrating to 10 Gbps on our internal backbone. These technologies promise to provide inexpensive capacity upgrades in the future. The acceptance and deployment in the carrier networks provides us with inexpensive options that were unavailable just one to two years ago.
What particular advantages do you think MSOs such as Mediacom have in metro area networking?
I think our largest advantage is our people and our network. We already have the staff and infrastructure in place to execute on metro area networking, and we are managing more than 500 sites today. We have a number of technologies that we use to deliver metro area networks, ranging from cable modem delivery to PON and campus-type network designs.
How do you view the relationship between the access and core data networks?
The Mediacom OneNet, our core backbone network, has transport relationships with numerous access networks. High-speed data makes up one of the access networks, but VoIP, digital video, enterprise, and IT traffic are all taking advantage of the common backbone network. The OneNet backbone is the primary transport for all digital services and must be highly adaptable to accommodate the various services.
How is the convergence of services impacting network infrastructure?
Our challenge with OneNet is keeping up with expansion of both the geographic footprint and the capacity headroom. As the network grows, more and more services are able to take advantage of the backbone. Managing the network and QoS requirements for the various services is going to be the largest challenge. Today we rely heavily on layer 1 or layer 2 separation of traffic, but scaling up this methodology becomes increasingly difficult to manage efficiently.
How have you seen traffic patterns shift over the past several years? And how much visibility into packet flows do you require?
CableLabs does a great job of monitoring traffic patterns, and our traffic tracks closely what is going on the Internet as a whole. The pendulum has been swinging toward the downstream recently, and asymmetry is increasing. We understand the traffic flows on our networks and work diligently to ensure that all of our customers get a good experience.
Which networking technologies on the horizon appear most promising for the industry?
The industry’s largest technology base is DOCSIS, and I think that DOCSIS 3.0 holds the most promise. The ability to upgrade our entire cable modem subscriber base is huge from a business perspective. The increased capabilities on both the cable modem and EMTA side will allow DOCSIS technology to penetrate deeper into the SMB markets and dramatically lower our costs to serve this market.
Are there any particular networking challenges that smaller operators will face over the next few years?
I think the most significant challenge facing any operator is the creation of a core backbone network. The access cost for high-speed data and VoIP is significant in the smaller markets, and the ability to aggregate the traffic from smaller systems into larger circuits or direct fiber builds into carriers improves the economics for small systems considerably.