Monday, February 22, 2010

100 Mbps "Can't be Done"

I learned long ago that when somebody says something "can't be done," it is best to understand that claim as "I can't do it." I think we also have learned that even when somebody says something can be done, they might mean "it can be done so long as not that many people want to do it."

And that might be the case as cable operators prep broadband access services capable of running at speeds as high as 250 Mbps, at least so long as most people do not desire to buy services running at such speeds.

Broadband Reports says cable operators will start talking about a 250 Mbps service sopmetime later this year, though nobody will be able to buy it. Comcast also says it will be offering 100-Mbps service to about 25 percent of its potential customers by the end of 2010.

Comcast should be congratulated for that move, though it is not clear what might happen if lots of people actually bought it.  The rub is that providing 250 Mbps requires bonding of about eight standard 6-MHz channels.

The issue there is the same problem satellite operators have when providing downstream bandwidth. There are finite numbers of channels available, so cannibalizing bandwidth for data services reduces the amount of bandwidth available for video services.

The point is that some providers--particularly cable operators--will be able to claim speeds of at least 100 Mbps, at least in terms of what is commercially feasible at low penetration. it isn't clear any network can support 100 Mbps at high penetration, at least not at prices in two, rather than three digits.

Still, it is a reminder that when somebody says something "can't be done," one has to consider the source. Just because one company can't do it does not mean all companies cannot do it.

The other relevant observation is that "hero" devices and services are feasible. What is not clear is whether "mass market" availability is possible.

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