Altice shuns DOCSIS 3.1, sets ambitious 5-year FTTH deployment plan

Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei
Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei. Image: Getty

Altice USA announced that it will eschew the cable-industry standard of upgrading its network to DOCSIS 3.1 standards, instead choosing to achieve next-generation gigabit speeds with an ambitious, five-year fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) rollout.

Altice—the nation’s fourth-largest cable operator following its acquisitions of Suddenlink and Cablevision earlier this year—said it will extend fiber deeper into its existing hybrid fiber coax (HFC) network, leveraging “cost-cutting and proprietary technologies” developed in its European research facilities, Altice Labs. 

“Across the globe Altice has invested heavily in building state-of-the-art fiber-optic networks, and we are pleased to bring our expertise stateside to drive fiber deeper into our infrastructure for the benefit of our U.S. Optimum and Suddenlink customers,” said Dexter Goei, Altice USA chairman and CEO, in a statement. “Today, we have a best-in-class network with incredibly fast speeds and quality service, and by taking immediate steps to create the fastest next-generation network, we will be positioned to support our customers’ needs well into the future.”

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Led by No. 1 U.S. operator Comcast, which has been first out of the gate, cable operators have gotten behind the DOCSIS 3.1 standard as a means of competing in the heated realm of gigabit-service delivery, without the hassle of replacing its HFC infrastructure. 

Comcast has deployed 2 Gbps FTTH services in select markets with robust fiber backbones. But those services are quite pricey, and the leading MSO has made clear its plans to sustain the relevance of its HFC network infrastructure. Comcast has already made the expensive network and CPE upgrades necessary to deliver DOCSIS 3.1-powered gigabit speeds in key markets like Chicago. It said recently it will have deployed DOCSIS 3.1 in 15 U.S. markets by early 2017.

For its part, Altice USA has announced speed upgrades—usually to 300 Mbps—in several markets, but it has been conspicuously mum on its own DOCSIS 3.1 plan. Now we know why. 

Through its New York-centric Cablevision acquisition, Altice USA is competing head-on with FTTH-based Verizon FiOS in a number of key markets. With AT&T, Verizon and other wireless operators about to adopt a 5G wireless network standard that’s said to be competitive with gigabit-speed DOCSIS 3.1, FTTH will allow Altice to deliver speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

Altice USA, which serves 4.6 million homes across 20 states, said it will begin its FTTH U.S. rollout sometime in 2017.

Altice France is on track to reach 22 million fiber homes by the end of 2022, and Altice Portugal will reach 5.3 million fiber homes passed by the end of 2020.

CableLabs -- the cable industry's research consortium and the organization that created the DOCSIS 3.1 standard -- declined to comment on Altice's announcement.