coaxThe cable industry’s next generation of broadband has a new name – Gigasphere. Introduced at the Cable Show 2014, the annual cable industry event sponsored by NCTA, Gigasphere will be the public name of emerging ultra-broadband services powered by the next generation of DOCSIS technology, DOCSIS 3.1.

“Cable marketers and communications executives will develop guidelines for proper usage of Gigasphere,” reports NCTA in a press release announcing the initiative.

The move hopes to seize on the momentum of Gigabit services that offer 1 Gbps speeds, which has been primarily the domain of municipals, telcos, and of course Google, all of whom are competing with cable companies for broadband speed and performance bragging rights. The cable industry had those bragging rights for some time, leveraging the much faster broadband speeds enabled by DOCSIS technology in comparison to telco DSL services. But the emergence of Verizon FiOS and Gigabit services via FTTH from the likes of numerous smaller providers like EPB, CenturyLink, and more recently Google and AT&T, has stolen that broadband thunder from the cable industry. Gigasphere is their latest response.

A few cable companies have entered the Gigabit arena, with Cox CEO Pat Esser adding his company’s name to the list at this week’s cable show. Cox is not revealing details about how it plans to deliver gigabit service, which Esser said would be available this year in some areas. But interestingly enough, most other cablecos jumping on the ultra-high-speed bandwagon are not using DOCSIS technology. EPON and FTTH PON technologies are being used by cable companies for these initial Gigabit entries. That will change when DOCSIS 3.1 becomes commercially available, sometime late in 2015. It promises to offer multi-gigabit speeds, including 1 Gbps speed for upstream services. The fact that the cable industry introduced Gigasphere now, despite the fact that the technology underlying it won’t be in the market for at least a year or more, demonstrates the importance the cable industry places on not wanting to lose the speed perception race.

Gigasphere is actually a smart move, even with the awkward timing issue. It represents the collaborative nature of the cable industry (if you count the large national and regional MSOs as the ‘cable industry’ – smaller rural cable companies are less represented in these efforts) and their willingness to partner for the ‘common good.’ They’re doing a similar effort with CableWifi, which links their respective WiFi networks into a single national ‘footprint.’ CableLabs, the R&D arm of the cable industry that developed DOCSIS technology, is another good collaborative example. You don’t see similar efforts from the telco industry, maybe due in part to more competitive posturing with each other, particularly over enterprise, cloud, and wireless services.

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