A panel today at Cable Congress in Brussels, featuring the CTOs from Kable Deutschland and Comcast, headlined high-speed data. The question, as ever, is just how fast?

Kabel Deutschland CTO Lorenz Glatz several times pointed to the “theoretical” top speed of delivered data in an all-IP cable plant, namely: 5 Gbps.

In light of Google’s announcement three weeks ago of plans to deploy a select number of trial networks capable of delivering 1 Gbps, the reiteration of cable’s potential capacity for speed appears timely.

But it almost makes you wonder. And Comcast CTO Tony Werner was ready for that question. “We have not held back at all,” he said. “Comcast offers 50 Mbps to more homes than all other ISPs combined.”

Perhaps even more than market dynamics warrant. “There’s still not a ton of demand,” Werner said.

The combination of accelerating speeds and more online video, however, is remaking the market. “Everything is growing on multiple axes,” Werner said, referring specifically to broadband video quality, length and amount.

As with any disruptive technology, there are winners and losers. As for pain points, Werner pointed to the U.S. Postal Service and the newspaper industry, offering a surprisingly detailed analysis of the latter.

From Glatz’s perspective, the telcos are coming up short. “The only answer they have is fiber to the home or building, which is prohibitively expensive,” he said.

But the big question is how cable maintains value as a video provider. Werner asked: “How do we easily get that (broadband) content to the TV so they can consume it in an easy manner?”

What Comcast has in place is “a significant work effort” to answer that question. Werner alluded to some components that are network based, and others that are more in the way of a gateway.

That semi-secret effort is on top of the new Xfinity brand, which at this point represents the fruits of both the ongoing analog reclamation project and the two-year build of Comcast’s (broadband) content distribution network (CDN).

So it’s not all speed. “The corn will not grow to the sun,” Werner said.

However, within 18 to 24 months, he sees devices coming on production with 32 tuners and 40 to 50 channels. “You’re at pretty big numbers,” he said.

-Jonathan Tombes

The Daily

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