Almost 1 million households across 300-plus communities in Iowa now have access to 1 Gbit/s Internet service, following Mediacom Communications' completion this week of its plan to deliver high-speed broadband to customers across its 22-state footprint.
As a result, residential and small-business users now have access to download speeds up to 40 times faster than the minimum broadband definition the Federal Communications Commission crafted. Previously, Mediacom's Iowa customers could receive top download speeds of 150 Mbit/s, Tom Larson, senior vice president of Government and Public Relations at Mediacom Communications Corp. , tells UBB2020. By comparison, DSL speeds typically top out at 10 Mbit/s, he says.
Across the Hawkeye State
With its investment in DOCSIS 3.1, Mediacom now makes 1Gpbs broadband available to customers in cities like Des Moines and Bellevue, as well as rural areas.
"I think it's going to force DSL competitors to bring up their game as well. They need to do better. That's encouraging for those communities because it creates more incentive to compete and invest," says Larson.
Enablers and road blocks
Like many cable operators and other service providers, Mediacom's network upgrade comes with an eye steadily focused on the present and future. In CableLabs' DOCSIS 3.1 spec, the company found a platform that provides 1 Gbit/s service today and that can be upgraded as new capabilities become available, Larson says. For example, Mediacom is particularly interested in Full Duplex DOCSIS 3.1 -- at least two years away from deployment -- which promises to deliver 1 Gbit/s to 10 Gbit/s on the downstream and up to 2 Gbit/s on the upstream, he says.
"The equipment we've installed on the network allows us to seamlessly go to Full Duplex DOCSIS," adds Larson. "We knew it had a future-proof element to it. We looked out 10 years, 15 years, and said, 'We know we've got the network that can go that long.' You want to have enough right-of-way on either side of the road so you have enough room to widen roads and still add more traffic."
Mediacom also laid the groundwork to provide enterprises with multi-gig services in the future, said Chief Technology Officer JR Walden in a statement. This offering also is based on DOCSIS 3.1, developed and advanced by CableLabs , and consists of a blend of optical fiber and coaxial cable elements.
The biggest roadblock preventing Mediacom from providing 1 Gig service to all customers today is a shortage of DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems. The cable operator cannot buy enough modems in large volume, Larson says, since many only became available late last year. Once modem vendors increase inventory, the last hurdle remains a dearth of off-the-shelf wireless routers that reach 1 Gbit/s levels, he adds.
Early adopters -- those who quickly called Mediacom upon hearing the news -- are typically tech-savvy home users, perhaps involved in video or heavy gaming, who can build their own work-around routers on personal, home-based networks, says Larson. As wireless-modem vendors catch up and use cases develop, the market will dramatically increase, he says.
Driving 1 Gig
Internet of Things -- including smart homes and self-driving cars -- will generate residential demand for high-bandwidth, says Larson. Worldwide IoT revenue is predicted to reach $3 trillion in 2025, versus $750 billion in 2015, according to Machina Research. Of that, end users will generate $1.3 trillion via devices, connectivity and applications, the research firm says.
The federal government also propels broadband investment in rural and "underserved" regions -- including parts of Iowa. Mediacom communities include the city of Des Moines, but also encompass small towns with about 50 residents and vast swathes of farmland, says Larson. Programs such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) BroadbandUSA offer incentives, advice and tools to those organizations looking to increase broadband deployment.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020
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