A Holy Grail, if not the Holy Grail, for network builders is gigabit performance from existing resources. Fiber networks have demonstrated superior performance to coaxial cable, but installing it is expensive. Coax has been around since 1931 and used everywhere in radio and TV. It’s already paid for, but it doesn’t offer the speed potential of fiber, or at least it hasn’t until now. A technology that allows coax speeds in excess of those currently available from fiber networks could make high-speed Internet available to virtually every consumer in America in no time at all.

Networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. believes new technology, called converged cable access platform (CCAP), will make it possible to transmit data at 10 Gbps across standard coaxial cable networks. Most coax networks can currently deliver speeds up to 150 Mbps, which is far faster than the national average, and more speed than many customers need or want. But for some, the idea of increased speed is irresistible, and that idea could soon become reality.

No Pipe, Err, Cable Dream

We’ve run many stories on tech breakthroughs that might help speed up the Internet once they make it out of the lab¬; this isn’t one of those technologies. Cisco’s technology is already on sale and is being tested by major providers. One of Cisco’s competitors believes their system could be in operation starting later this year. Although Cisco isn’t the only company building a CCAP, it says its system, which it calls cBR-8, has more speed and bandwidth than competing devices. That’s good news for consumers, as competition should help reduce the expense passed on to customers when compared to proprietary technology.

More Speed, Less Money

Assuming the technology works as advertised, it has the potential to lower broadband cost, particularly for gigabit speeds. One of the biggest reasons 1 Gbps access often costs $70 or more is that providers have to recoup the cost of building a fiber network. One estimate put the cost of Google’s Kansas City’s fiber network at $84 million, and while the cost of CCAP technology isn’t readily available, Cisco says cBR-8 saves 40 percent compared to other CCAP products.

It’s too soon to know how 10 Gbps plans might be priced, but we can guess at how such speeds will affect the value of other plans. With existing infrastructure in place, cable Internet providers could potentially use CCAP to undercut providers using fiber where available. In areas where building fiber networks is prohibitively expensive, it could mean 10 Gbps speeds for any residence with cable TV access. And it may well drive down the price of cable companies current top-tier plans, which will soon seem slow by comparison.

No Exclusives

Although brands are already invested in cBR-8, Cisco says it’s available to other interested companies as well. While the term is overused, the company calls it a “game changer,” and we admit it’s hard to imagine that other U.S. cable and Internet providers won’t begin using cBR-8 or competing technology in the near future.

Even for extremely rural customers without cable access, there may still be hope for faster Internet speeds. If you’re not satisfied with what you have now, you may be surprised at what’s now available.

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