Charter network DOCSIS 3.1 ready, Rutledge says; RFP for new modems is out


After sitting on the sideline as North America’s other top cable operators have begun testing and deploying DOCSIS 3.1 services, No. 2 U.S. MSO Charter Communications appears poised to finally get into business with the next-generation cable network standard. 

“I was with our engineering group last week, and we went through all the DOCSIS 3.1 opportunities. All the hardware inside our network is DOCSIS 3.1-ready. We could light that up today,” said Charter Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge, speaking Monday at the Deutsche Bank 2017 Media & Telecom Conference. (The conference call is available on Charter’s investor relations site.)

“We just put out an RFP for the [DOCSIS 3.1] modems,” Rutledge added. 

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Rutledge’s comments were the first definitive indicator of Charter’s deployment of DOCSIS 3.1, which is viewed as a savior of legacy HFC cable networks, buying them perhaps decades of additional life. No. 1 U.S. cable company Comcast has already begun deployment of the tech standard, most recently infiltrating parts of Alabama and Tennessee.

This is not to say Charter didn’t previously commit itself to DOCSIS 3.1. In earlier talks in front of investors, Rutledge said Charter plans to someday deploy Full Duplex DOCSIS 3.1, which is theoretically capable of delivering symmetrical 10 Gbps speeds. 

Commenting on other aspects of Charter’s business, Rutledge told Deutsche Bank event attendees that the integration of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Network customers acquired through big-time M&A last year will be completed in the continental U.S. next week.

“Hawaii may still be an outlier,” Rutledge said. 

Plenty of work, however, still needs to be done, with 40% of the acquired footprint still using analog systems—conversion to digital will take through the end of 2018, Rutledge added. 

“And we still have 10 billing systems,” he said, noting that Charter is still in the process of “moving all the pieces into the right buckets.”

There have, however, been happy discoveries. Rutledge, for example, lauded the acquired TWC infrastructure, noting that components like the VOD delivery system were actually better than Charter’s legacy equivalents. 

“The VOD infrastructure was superior to what Charter had, so we plugged into it,” Rutledge noted.