Fat pipes are the future, even if you're small. Executives from small and independent cable operators reported that broadband Internet services are the engine driving growth. As such, deploying fiber to the home and continuing rollouts of gigabit Internet are key strategies for thriving in an industry undergoing transformation.
Since its founding in 2002, Wave Broadband
has been dedicated to delivering "the fastest Internet in the markets we serve and at the best value," said Steve Weed, CEO of Wave Broadband, during the American Cable Association (ACA) Summit in Washington, D.C.
"We think GigE fiber technology is the best way to deliver broadband Internet," he said.
Wave Broadband passes 600,000 homes in a service territory stretching from San Francisco to the Canadian border. It delivers services to 250,000 households, and "almost all of them buy Internet," Weed reported.
"For the past several years, we have been expanding our GigE fiber network, leading with commercial, because the economics are much better," he said. "Our commercial business accounts for about half of our cash flow growth and about 20% of our total business this year."
Weed noted that residential broadband was also strong, with the company increasing that customer base by about 10% a year.
To deliver on its "fastest," "best-value" Internet promise, Weed said the independent cable operator is pursuing a "fiber-to-the-everything" strategy, deploying fiber to towers, data centers, government buildings, hospitals, large businesses and small businesses.
"We are also the largest Gig Internet provider to residential customers on the West Coast," he added.
As further evidence of its fiber strategy, the company is currently overbuilding its network with a new fiber product called Wave G. The Wave G network will deliver two services -- Gig Internet and 100 Mbit/s Internet, Weed explained.
"That's a fast-growing market for us in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and launching in Sacramento this year," he said.
Wave is not the only small operator pursuing gigabit Internet. Comporium Communications , founded more than 120 years ago as Rock Hill Telephone Company and serving nearly 120,000 customers in South and North Carolina, announced its Zipstream Gigabit Internet service two years ago, as part of a local economic development initiative.
"We have 20,000 homes that are gigabit capable. We have a robust business there," said Matt Dosch, Comporium's executive vice president of customer operations and external affairs.
Dosch added that for two years, Comporium has been "waving the gigabit flag," while Google is still negotiating with the city of Charlotte to "perhaps" bring Google Fiber Inc. to Charlotte.
"That kind of stuff is fun -- to be first to market and to really embrace our heritage as a network company and as a technology company," he said.
Like Wave Broadband, Comporium is also pursuing a fiber strategy.
"Going back ten years, we decided that all new growth would be fiber to the premise," Dosch said. As a result, about a third of the company's network is GPON fiber, while two thirds is HFC supporting DOCSIS 3.0.
Comporium has no immediate plans to move to DOCSIS 3.1 to deliver faster broadband.
"We are really focused on fiber to the premise and on maximizing the capability via node splits and other incremental tools to squeeze everything we can out of DOCSIS 3.0," he added.
Steve Weed agreed. Rather than deploying DOCSIS 3.1, "The most efficient model is to do a fiber overlay on top of the HCF system and go straight to the home with the fiber," Weed explained. This approach delivers all the efficiencies of a true GigE system, he said.
How will customers use these ultra fat pipes? Wave Broadband delivers all of its services -- video, Internet, phone, home security and business offerings -- over a common platform, either GigE or 100 Mbit/s Ethernet, Weed said. Another critical benefit is delivering a quality Internet stream that doesn't slow down.
He acknowledged that customers don't really use a gig of capacity, but they also don't want their connection to slow.
"People that buy Gig Internet pay extra for that," Weed said. "The more they use our product for streaming video, the more they value making sure it never slows down."
Dosch expects Comporium's fat pipes will enable the small telco to provide a robust suite of connected home services in the future.
"We think security services, connected homes and the Internet of things will be important," Dosch said. "We hope to see market demand pick up."