Could next-gen cable broadband hit 5 gigabit speeds or more?

Cable broadband at 5 gigs downstream? That's just the beginning; it could be significantly more. The next-gen concept is just on the drawing boards right now at CableLabs' R&D facility--and it may never go any further--but if it does, the new look at how data is sent over coax will, as Multichannel News reports, leave DOCSIS in the dust.

The posited technology would eliminate the 6 MHz channel divisions that are currently in use, and would use existing coax, giving cable operators more flexibility. Operators now bond multiple 6-MHz channels together to gain broadband speed as needed.

Being able to radically increase the size of the pipe without any physical changes to the infrastructure would allow cable operators to stay on existing coax for years, reducing the need for big capex. MCN says a cable exec told them companies would, however, need to invest in new STBs. Still, financing new set-top boxes is far cheaper than having to adopt a FTTH delivery strategy.

Over-the-top delivery could be a major beneficiary of any speed increase, as it currently is generally relegated to whatever channels operators are willing to "sacrifice" to broadband service. With a 5 gig pipe, operators might be willing to offer massive Internet speed increases. That would make OTT more attractive to both consumers and operators, who could potentially offer it as a value added proposition to attract customers.

For more:
- see this MCN report
- see this FierceCable report