Canada’s Shaw reveals plan to fend off fiber competition

Canadian operator Shaw Communications outlined its strategy to stave off competition from fiber-optic builders in the country and mapped a course to move from a mid-split architecture to DOCSIS 4.0 for Frequency Division (FDD) by 2030.

Speaking during a session at SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo, Shaw Principal Network Engineer Mike Darling said the operator began upgrading its network to a mid-split band plan in 2017. More than 90% of this work has already been done, and the rest expected to be completed in early 2022.

Darling explained that the move has helped reduce congestion on its network to a “historic low”. Although there is no need for further upgrades in the short term to combat congestion, he noted that it could start to become a problem again in 2025. But what really makes Shaw continue to strengthen his network is competition from telecom competitors using fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) with symmetric gigabit capabilities, he said.

Shaw debuted service levels that offered 1 Gbps and 1.5 Gbps downstream last year, but do not yet have a symmetrical product.

RELATED: Fiber is all the rage, but DOCSIS is not dead: CableLabs

He said Shaw was considering two primary avenues to upgrade his network: jumping directly from a mid-split to full-duplex DOCSIS 4.0 (FDX) or a more gradual transition to FDD. Although the former would take more time and money because it would require the construction of a passive plant or FTTH, Darling noted that it would provide efficiency benefits as “we do not have to go back to that node for a long time” when updated .

However, Darling said Shaw is currently leaning toward a gradual transition to FDD. Once its mid-split rollout is complete, it moves directly into a high-split upgrade. Around 2024, it will begin implementing FDD with a 204 MHz configuration and abut a 396 MHz implementation starting in 2026.

“Although we are losing efficiency and may have to go back to nodes several times, speed is really important, especially in our context, while we are currently competing with fiber for the home. It allows for a shorter upgrade cycle, ”he said of the rationale behind the plan.

RELATED: Canada’s Rogers snaps at rival Shaw in $ 16B deal

Earlier this year, Rogers Communications announced plans to acquire Shaw for approximately $ 16 billion in a deal expected to close in the first half of 2022. It is unclear whether or how this transaction will affect Shaw’s plan.

Several other cable players recently outlined their plans to take fiber. In the US, Comcast recently focused on upgrades to an intermediate division as an important step on the road to implementing DOCSIS 4.0 technology, while Charter Communications said it would pursue major divisions in selected markets. Cox Communications currently has sub- and mid-split configurations, but looks set to switch to a high-split in the near future.

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