Singapore-based StarHub is one of 12 companies and consortiums that is in contention to develop and build Singapore’s Next Generation National Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN).
In order to bolster its chances at winning the government tender, StarHub has hooked up with Vyyo to use the latter’s 3 GHz Spectrum Overlay within StarHub’s existing HFC infrastructure. Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority wants Next Gen NBN to reach speeds of 1 Gbps or more and provide affordable broadband to 95 percent of the homes and businesses on the island by 2012. (For more on Next Gen NBN, see the story below.)
StarHub is a quad play provider in Singapore that offers services over fixed mobile (3G and GSM) and Internet platforms to half a million cable TV subscribers and 300,000 broadband subscribers, while also serving a large chunk of the island’s wireless market.
StarHub has coupled Vyyo’s Spectrum Overlay with pre-DOCSIS 3.0 CMTSs and cable modems, both by Motorola, en route to successfully channel bonding four downstream channels. Spectrum Overlay uses higher frequencies on existing coaxial cable to double the downstream bandwidth while increasing the upstream bandwidth by a factor of at least four.
"I think Vyyo has a great product that gains a lot more spectrum in the upstream in a very cost-effective manner," said Thomas Ee, StarHub’s senior vice president for cable, fixed and IP services. "With the Vyyo product, you get an additional 130 MHz of upstream that works transparently with all of the equipment that is needed. Vyyo brings a lot more capacity to both the upstream and downstream. In terms of cost effectiveness, if you compare it to some other options, whether it’s node splitting or moving upstream from 42 MHz to 85 MHz, Vyyo is going to work out pretty well."
Along with performance and cost effectiveness, Ee said another criterion for the selection of Vyyo was experience in the field.
"We clearly wanted a product that was proven to work and that wasn’t in the lab or field," Ee said. "We’re already working with pre-DOCSIS 3.0 set-top boxes and gear, and if we do decide to do a full-scale rollout in step with the IDA’s timeline, we can’t expect to go into labs and then the RFP process."
Regardless of whether StarHub gets the Next Gen NBN contract, it will use the Vyyo overlay solution in residential greenfield deployments later this year. Moving to DOCSIS 3.0 The prospect of getting involved in the Next Gen NBN project led StarHub down the path of reevaluating its network and services. Ee said planning for bandwidth-intensive services such as VOD and more HD channels led to the question of, "Do you have enough spectrum on your existing 860 MHz plant?"
"When you combine the roadmap of broadband as well as video, we had to ask ourselves the fundamental question of, ‘Is there enough spectrum to fulfill our business needs?’" Ee explained. "The next thing that comes along quite nicely is that if you look at DOCSIS 3.0, it’s easy to get three or four channels to bond together, and then when you get a modem at 120 Mbps or 160 Mbps terminating with fast Ethernet, you get a 100 Mbps product."
StarHub upgraded its entire network to a pre-DOCSIS 3.0 platform using the Motorola gear and started offering its 100 Mbps service on Dec. 28 of last year. Customers are able to go into stores, buy Motorola 6100 modems and get them to work themselves through plug and play.
"We’re pretty happy with what we’ve done over past few months in the places where we’ve launched that service," Ee said. "The way CableLabs decided to go with channel bonding for DOCSIS 3.0 allowed us to hit the accelerator very quickly. It has exceeded our business case expectations." Future-proof networks StarHub sees DOCSIS 3.0 and the Vyyo Spectrum Overlay as part of its roadmap for not only providing services now, but also future-proofing the network down the road.
"The U.S. operators, in my view, are just now looking at what Thomas (Ee) was looking at last year," said Jeff Fryling, Vyyo’s VP Corporate Development, Cable Solutions. "The RFI/RFP process in Singapore had given them kind of a jolt to go out and look at the options, think through what the implications were for the different options and at the costs of adding of enhanced real spectrum."
Fryling said operators are looking at taking fiber deeper, nodes splits and switched digital video to add spectrum, but "they don’t add the magnitude of spectrum that Vyyo does." With fiber-to-the-home and VDSL deployments ramping up, Ee said cable operators need to be planning ahead to stay ahead of the competition.
"When you look beyond just adding a few hundred megabits into a gigabit network, you have to have enough upstream to make sure you can combine 20 or 30 channels to get in the 1 Gig range," he said. "If you look at the CableLabs DOCSIS 3.0 spec, I don’t think there’s an issue between a CMTS and a modem to do that, but I’m not sure the cable plants can guarantee they have enough spectrum to do that.
"I think as an industry we really need to think about and decide on a plan so that we’re all working towards a common path and we get the economies of scale from all of us moving in a common direction." – Mike Robuck