80% coverage at Comcast leads the way

By 2019-2020, more than 100M of America's 133M households will be able to get gigabit cable downstream. Comcast, the largest with 54M homes passed, is at 80% today and headed close to 100% by yearend. The second largest, Charter with 49M, is beginning to turn on the gigabit and will be deploying heavily in 2018 and 2019. #3, Cox, is planning complete coverage soon.

About 40M will be able to get 1 gigabit symmetric from the telcos. Verizon has essentially frozen at around 15M, which AT&T intends to match by 2020. Millions more are fibered at smaller companies.

The upstream for most cable will be 5-20 megabits, with a few able to receive 50 megabits. Higher cable upstreams will mostly wait until 2020 or later. John Chapman of Cisco tells me full duplex DOCSIS will yield hundreds of megabits upstream initially and gigabits eventually. He expects first units in 2019 and volume in 2020.

Today's cable systems use separate spectrum for upstream, a limiting factor. Full duplex uses the same spectrum for both upstream and downstream. Kumu Networks, a Stanford spinoff, is exploring similar for wireless systems.

Full duplex cable will require a substanial network upstream. Today, the CMTS controls the cable data system, both physical and logical. To deliver full duplex, the phy needs to be a separate unit closer to the customers. This "Remote Phy" allows a considerable performance increase.

Comcast has made clear they will move to Remote Phys. Chapman expects other cablecos to make a similar investment, but they haven't publically committed.

Verizon reports their 5G mmWave systems will also deliver a gigabit in both directions. They have already deployed 200 cells and will expand to three to five cities in 2018. If all goes well, they will cover perhaps 20M homes by 2021.

The "over 100 million homes covered by 2019-2020" is informed by the companies’ comments to Wall Street. Cable covers 92% of U.S. homes. Most of those homes will offered a gigabit by then, probably over 100M. The 40M homes covered by telcos mostly overlap, so they will only add a small number to the coverage.

In 2010, the CITI Columbia Report for the Broadband Plan postulated that ~90% of American homes will have robust offerings. At that time, "robust" was perhaps 20-100 megabits. In 2017, the standard offering at Comcast and Charter, about 75% of the country, is 100-150 megabits down. In the next few years, most will be offered a gig.

5-10% of the country has far inferior choices, the Columbia report reminded policymakers.