Day-to-day life has been dramatically altered for most during the first half of 2020 due to the global pandemic. The movement of people has come to an almost standstill. Over 90% of the global population has been under some form of travel restrictions or mandated quarantine orders. Sheltering at home is the new normal. Most office work and education has moved to a fully virtualized environment. Video streaming has surged, putting bandwidth demands on the residential network. Fortunately, cable broadband access networks have been able to support drastic bandwidth surges.
This is truly a testament to the resilient infrastructure that has been built by cable operators. Not only have these networks been able to support surges in broadband demand, but continuous surges from before sunrise and well into the evening hours. Cable networks were constructed to include capacity headroom to support network bursts and CMTS schedulers and mappers were designed to distribute bandwidth and prioritize packets. These aspects are working as intended and many of the applications causing bandwidth increases are fortunately elastic in their demand.
To further support all-day peak bandwidth demand, cable operators have undertaken several additional measures to boost networks and QoE in the short term including temporarily upgrading lowest level bandwidth subscribers; switching on digital video where not enabled; digital node splits; increasing spectrum utilization (particularly on the upstream); and upgrading headends using legacy CMTS/CCAP technology. In order to reduce internet congestion, several prominent OTT providers such as Netflix have dropped resolution slightly in a number of countries and across Europe. In addition, several regulatory bodies have required a reprioritization and throttling of different types of internet traffic.
As several countries begin to lift stay-at-home mandates, bandwidth demands on the residential networks will settle down to new normal levels. Expect to see lasting changes to bandwidth usage from factors like increased rate of permanent work from home. It is important for cable operators to stay vigilant to these changes and as well as the threat of another pandemic wave at a later date requiring further quarantine measures. Some cable operators will see this as the time to transform their cable networks with distributed access architecture (DAA) sooner rather than later. Omdia analyzes the changing cable broadband access equipment landscape in a forthcoming report.
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