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Cable industry set to benefit from new fibre tech, says CableLabs chief

‘Coherent optics’ – the new technology that enables the transmission of more data through a fibre – will enable the cable industry to delivery massively greater amounts of data at high-speed over its network without the need to lay down additional fibre, according to Phil McKinney, CEO of CableLabs.

“Part of the challenge with high-speed access networks is you become constrained with the capacity of the fibre,” McKinney told Digital TV Europe at Cable Congress. “Today a fibre strand typically supports about 40Gbps. CableLabs has invented a new technology called coherent optics that delivers 2TB across that same fibre strand at one tenth of the electronics costs at either end of that fibre. Now the cable operators will not need to do any more re-trenching. They can reuse the fibre they already have in the ground and have more than sufficient capacity to deliver multi-gigabit speeds to wherever their subscribers are living.”

Coherent optics uses advanced modulation and transmission techniques along with digital signal processing at both the transmitter and receiver ends of the fibre, to provide higher bit-rates and more flexibility.

McKinney also said that wireless is now CableLabs’ biggest research area. “Those deploying 5G networks…need a lot of backhaul. Cable is in the best position to partner with MNOs or if they are an MNO use their network for all that backhaul traffic,” he said.

McKinney said cable investment strategies differed from market to market. In Europe, because of fibre competition, there is considerable investment in DOCSIS 3.1 and ultimately Full Duplex DOCSIS, which will provide symmetrical bandwidth for the cable industry, he said. In the US, DOCSIS 3.1 is also being rolled out, primarily to offer new services such as virtual reality. “Gigabit speed is being driven as almost an economic requirement for GDP growth,” he said.