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AT&T’s Cable Bandwidth Test


Cynthia Brumfield picked up a story this morning on a field study AT&T did showing cable subscribers’ Internet speeds averaging well below the promised six to eight Mbps throughput. According to AT&T executive John Stankey, in a test of 150 residential homes, average cable Internet speeds ranged between 300 and 400 kbps.

I don’t know the details of the AT&T experiment, but I found one of Stankey’s points very interesting. He said, “the way you manage performance is by having a complete set of skills that you manage across the network.” I don’t know exactly what he was referring to, but it is true that the DSL world (including AT&T) has more remote management capabilities built into its ecosystem, at least at the customer premise equipment level, than the cable world does. Are cable subscribers suffering because of it? And will there be a significant change when new remote management technologies are deployed in new cable modems?

2 Responses

  1. I would like to add something:

    The Wall Street Journal got hold of a secret Cable Labs report, that essentially says that CableCos will not be able to withstand a bandwidth challenge from Verizon’s fiber network. They will have to spend money to upgrade and keep up with fiber. The cable industry executives are spinning the story and saying not quite true. Folks are more knowledgeable are rubbing their hands in glee and pointing out, I told you so!

    Cynthia Brumfield, who is quite wise in the ways of cable companies writes a very good response to the WSJ report, and it is worth reading to get a full understanding of the issue. Andrew Schmitt has posted a good analysis as well. Here are my two cents on this issue:

    It is Cable Labs job to be the canary in the coal mine, and if they don’t then why are they being funded by the cable companies to begin with. Moreover, this is a warning signal to the cable providers, telling them: Sure there is lot of headroom right now, but dudes’ don’t get too comfortable.

    However, lets look at market reality. The cable companies can offer a semblance of real broadband: 6-to-10 megabits per second, right now. They have video, and they have just rolled out voice services. Some forecast that the cable companies will have 11 million voice customers by end of 2007, which are coming at Phone Companies’ expense. Now if you have these three services, you are making money, and building up a war-chest to fight the phone companies, even if it means spending on upgrades.

    Upgrades are inherently cheaper than building a new network from ground up, including digging streets, and fighting the municipalities and city governments. In short, cable operators have time (and money) on their side. Phone companies in general, and Verizon in particular, is in bit of a financial bind. It is selling off its yellow pages, rural lines and what not!

    Of course, will the phone companies ever make the bandwidth so freely available that it undermines their IPTV plans. Unclogging the tubes to handle higher capacities of data also means that phone companies could be reduced to the role of bit carriers. And we all know how much they hate that.

    Sure technology might be in Verizon’s favor, but their incumbent thinking, and financial realities still give cable companies a bit of an advantage.

  2. I would love to hear more about this issue.

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