US cable provider Comcast is deploying a new Xfinity Wireless Gateway. Manufactured by Cisco, the DPC3941T is a DOCSIS 3.0 device that uses 802.11ac with dual band functionality, 3x3 MIMO, MOCA 2.0 support, 80MHz wide Wi-Fi channel support, and is be capable of 700Mbps throughput. In addition, the device has an Intel Atom-based CPU and an additional 512MB RAM in order to lengthen its field life. While initial 2014 deployments will remain limited, throughout 2015, Comcast plans to make the technology available throughout its entire footprint.
Comcast is also partnered with ARRIS to integrate new software into broadband CPE, as well as incorporate this software into a new version of the Reference Design Kit (RDK) for broadband devices. The ARRIS Touchstone TG1682 is also slated to launch in early 2015. The device is a DOCSIS 3.0 voice gateway, with 802.11ac with dual band functionality, MoCA 2.0 support, and will include RDK support for broadband devices.
As Comcast continues upgrading network infrastructure in order to offer more competitive broadband speeds, the demand for higher end gateway equipment is commensurately growing. The bottleneck in the network is no longer the last mile, but instead within the home, and recent 802.11ac deployments represent this growing need within the home.
The family room television will remain as the main screen upon which to consume video content, but there is growing demand for portability of content, to include HD quality video to other screens in the home, such as tablets and mobile devices. Quality of service for a multiscreen experience is a key element in customer satisfaction, and higher Wi-Fi bandwidth is an obvious pillar to the ability to transmit high-quality content over the home Wi-Fi network. Additionally, 802.11ac functionality is increasingly important because many of 2014 consumer devices such as smartphone and tablets have incorporated the technology into their specifications.
The inclusion of its RDK underlines the strategic importance of the broadband home gateway as more than a simple gateway to the Internet, but instead the most central pillar of the home network. This enables the operator to help the consumer manage their home network without reliance on a retail Wi-Fi device, and is another strong example of a cable company, taking strategic steps to avoid becoming the dumb pipe. Not only that, but it highlights that interoperability between devices is incredibly important, and further signals the convergence of the CPE market as a whole, including connected devices, STBs, MHGs, and broadband CPE, with the internet gateway at the center.
These Comcast gateways will represent the most advanced pieces of equipment deployed by United States MSOs. The competitive landscape in the US has initially focused on infrastructure upgrades in order to provide higher bandwidth speeds, which Comcast has done with DOCSIS 3.0, with some areas of the cable footprint offering speeds as high as 500Mbps. In the next 12 – 18 months there is likely to be more focus on the utilization of that bandwidth, to include more deployments of advanced broadband CPE in order to provide more Wi-Fi throughput within the home. 802.11ac Wi-Fi devices will experience strong growth through 2015, and the US market will be the largest, topping more than 17M 802.11ac broadband CPE shipments.