The accelerating adoption of data-intensive services such as high-definition television and multiplayer gaming will lead to a "bandwidth crunch" that will force cable operators to upgrade their digital networks, experts warned today.
A number of options are available, according to a new study from ABI Research which estimates that the total revenue from this market is expected to exceed $24bn in 2012.
"The looming bandwidth crunch, which is more pronounced in the US due to its deeper penetration of digital cable, will present different problems to different operators, and each will need to find its own bandwidth upgrade formula," said ABI Research principal broadband analyst Michael Arden.
The severity of the crunch will depend on factors such as the speed at which HDTV is adopted in particular markets, and the extent to which cable operators add extra HDTV channels.
ABI's report suggests that the available technology solutions are ranked along on a 'you get what you pay for' range.
Some approaches, such as rate shaping and switched digital video, are relatively inexpensive but do not deliver very much in the way of increased capacity.
Others, such as a fibre-to-the-home, are "outrageously expensive" but can provide all the bandwidth most operators will ever need.
"When designing an upgrade strategy operators should consider how much competition they face in their markets," said Arden.
"Where there is significant IPTV competition, the need to grow capacity is more urgent because IPTV automatically comes with greater bandwidth capabilities.
"Markets with high sales of HDTV sets and substantial numbers of digital cable subscribers may also justify a greater investment in capacity upgrades."
In practice, network upgrades will naturally start in the major urban cen tres and gradually spread to less densely populated regions, according to the study.
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