A new suite of technology standards is getting ready to hit the market as the network service provider (NSP) sector transitions away from an economy that was defined by a global pandemic — which introduced significant supply-chain and production disruptions.
Over the course of 2023, NSPs will be tasked with a different set of challenges. As the logistical elements of the ecosystem are resolved, industry leaders will have to contend with an uncertain economic outlook and consumer concerns about keeping their costs in check.
To understand how these new economic and technological trends will affect customer premises equipment (CPE) strategies for the connected home market, we sat down with Ashwani Saigal, VP of Broadband and Video CPE at VANTIVA.
Network service providers (NSPs) will face new challenges in 2023, as long-term logistical disruptions caused by the pandemic crisis are gradually resolved, only to be replaced by an uncertain economic outlook that is prompting concern from consumers and industry players alike.
The good news, however, is that resurging supply chains have allowed a suite of next-generation solutions based on the latest developments in technology standards to enter the market, according to Ashwani Saigal, VP of Broadband and Video CPE at VANTIVA, in a podcast interview for journalists.
“Technologies leveraging DOCSIS 4.0, 10G Fiber, 5G with Wi-Fi 7 are now moving into the production and distribution phase. Each of these technologies opens the door to multi-gigabit performance to — and within — the home, laying the foundation for the next phase of the connected home economy,” explains Saigal.
These technologies will enhance the customer experience and create new revenue-generating opportunities for NSPs, even as markets navigate a perilous business landscape.
“In 2022, the market transitioned from the complete lockdown during the global pandemic to a new hybrid work model in which a significant percentage of the workforce continues to work from home while others return to an employer facility to perform their tasks on a full-time or occasional basis,” says Saigal.
This new reality has cemented and made permanent the need to have a home infrastructure that can support professional — and even industrial — connectivity requirements. As a result, demand for broadband throughout 2023 and beyond is likely to rise significantly.
Cable Sector Gets DOCSIS 4.0 Ready for Prime Time
To meet ultra-high-speed broadband requirements, all NSPs — including cable, telco and mobile operators — are moving technologies that have been on the drawing boards for years to the market.
The cable sector, for instance, is now ready to adopt and deploy DOCSIS 4.0 technology. It has been almost a decade since CableLabs introduced the DOCSIS 3.1 standard with specifications to support capacities of up to 10 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) downstream and 1 Gbps upstream using 4096 QAM — setting a new standard for high-speed connectivity to the home.
“In 2023, after delays caused by the pandemic, the market can expect a new generation of products from cable providers based on the DOCSIS 4.0 standard. These products will deliver symmetrical 10 Gbps performance without the need to dig up and replace the vast physical cable infrastructure that currently reaches millions of homes worldwide,” says Saigal.
It is a development that will have serious implications for smart homes, internet-of-things and other emerging market opportunities that promise to enhance consumers’ digital lives.
The Emergence of Hybrid Coax Fiber Networks
Not to be outdone, telecom carriers are wasting no time in harnessing the full potential of fiber optic technology in 2023.
There may have been a time when fiber and coax technologies were considered competing — and even conflicting — elements in the market, but attitudes are changing.
“Fiber technology in general — and 10G/XGS-PON in particular — are rapidly gathering steam in the market. Due to the rapid adoption of fiber in places like China — and other emerging markets — the cost of optics and lasers has dropped considerably in recent years, making 10G fiber technology increasingly affordable as a mainstream solution for all geographies,” explains Saigal.
In highly developed markets — like the United States — telecommunication organizations are decommissioning copper lines — and, therefore, digital subscriber line (DSL) services — at accelerating rates. Moving forward, these players have two paths for upgrades: 1) deploy fiber; or 2) embrace 4G/5G fixed wireless access networks.
“A variety of factors determines which path ultimately makes the most sense. That said, we are currently seeing record deployments of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) and fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC), as well as many other configurations (FTTX). As a result, fiber is going deeper and deeper into the network, even within cable provider networks,” Saigal notes.
To be clear, FTTH remains an expensive proposition. It is not as forgiving as a coax network. Fiber, however, is a future-proof technology that will rapidly evolve to deliver 20 Gbps — and even 50 Gbps — connectivity as we move deeper into the decade.
5G FWA Wild Card
Over the course of 2023, 5G will play an essential role in situations that are either impractical or uneconomical for cable or fiber solutions. Indeed, the rise of 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) introduces competition that will continue to force industry players to innovate and provide cost-effective value to connected-home customers.
“While much of the initial 5G interest revolved around exciting applications for mobile handsets, many carriers have concluded that personal devices will not drive the data consumption needed to secure a return on their investments in the 5G spectrum. With plenty of under-utilized spectrum left on the table, 5G FWA is a no-brainer. These players have already paid for a high-quality infrastructure that covers the nation. Provisioning CPE is the only additional element in which to invest to connect customers and leverage financial resources poured into spectrum and infrastructure,” says Saigal.
In-Home Wireless LAN Connectivity
It does not make sense to have ultra-broadband access to the home if the wireless LAN cannot ensure high-speed connectivity for the growing number of intelligent devices within the home.
“The maximum in-house data rate supported by today’s Wi-Fi 6E technology is capped below 10 Gbps. This can lead to bottlenecks in the wireless LAN as the growing number of devices in the home seek WAN access. That is why Wi-Fi 7 is another technology that will play a critical role in the 2023 connected home market,” Saigal says.
Wi-Fi 7 technology raises the maximum wireless LAN data rate to 40 Gbps. As a result, data streaming into the home at up to 10 Gbps is unlikely to be blocked.
“In addition to enabling faster speeds, Wi-Fi 7 is also smarter and more responsive than Wi-Fi 6E, reducing latency significantly. It is an important feature because of the dramatic rise in sensitive applications being introduced into the market.”
VANTIVA Integrates Latest Standards on Open CPE Platforms
At CES 2023, VANTIVA will showcase how these next-generation standards are integrated into open CPE platforms, enhancing connectivity to and within the home.
“VANTIVA is one of the world’s first OEM vendors to have a Wi-Fi 7 gateway that works with ethernet and XGS-PON 10 G configurations. We are working on DOCSIS 4.0 designs that will be demonstrated in 2023. Regarding 5G, we have a portfolio of products supporting Millimeter Wave and the Sub-6 GHz technologies that offer reliable FWA broadband connection to consumers,” says Saigal.
VANTIVA is also bringing together industry-leading connected home players in network optimization, monetization, navigation, security, remote support — and other critical areas of operation — through the VANTIVA HERO Partnership Program.
“Best-in-class solutions from Airties, Broadpeak, CUJO AI, Hoppr, Plume, RealVNC and others can be pre-integrated into VANTIVA CPE in a customized fashion. This enables our NSP customers to deliver solutions tailored to the specific needs of subscribers in every corner of the world,” concludes Saigal.