CES 2019: Cable Declares It Won’t Be ‘Second to the Door’ to 5G With ‘10G’ Branding Launch

LAS VEGAS—With wireless leaders breathlessly touting the emergence of the “fourth industrial revolution” about to be wrought by 5G at CES keynotes, some of the cable industry’s most high-profile figures convened here at the Four Seasons to gain a little marketing traction over their own newly concocted buzz brand, “10G.”

“No, we didn’t pick the name just because it’s twice as fast as 5G,” said NCTA president and CEO Michael Powell, who moderated the discussion that included CableLabs chief Phil McKinney, Cox Communications CEO Pat Esser and Comcast’s top technology executive, Tony Werner.

Related: Verizon CEO Vestberg Takes 5G Hype to 11 at CES

Indeed, Powell first publicly introduced the term 10G in October at the SCTE’s Cable-Tec Expo Show in Atlanta, identifying the need for the cable industry to gain attention for its 10-gig-capable Full Duplex DOCSIS standard at a time when the wireless industry was busy capturing the “optimistic narrative of the future” with 5G.

While he said the more conservative cable industry doesn’t want to be as “hyperventilating” as the wireless industry in touting Full Duplex, Wednesday’s relatively small, and buttoned up, panel discussion served as a means of bringing the cable industry’s operators and technology vendor partners together to launch the 10G branding campaign.

Certainly, the event was all about marketing. Full Duplex standards have already been developed and codified by industry technology consortium CableLabs.

“There’s nothing new that has to be invented” in order to deploy Full Duplex DOCSIS, which is capable of symmetrical delivering 10 Gbps speeds, McKinney noted. “Everything has been specified. Everything has been designed. The technical work has been done and proven.

McKinney said field trials of Full Duplex will begin in 2020—an assertion agreed with by Werner.

The U.S. cable industry is still only about 80% finished with deploying the current standard, DOCSIS 3.1-enabled 1 gig services. And actual customer uptake rates are still too low for them to disclose any numbers.

But with the term 5G festooning almost every other technology product at CES, and wireless operators building the narrative of a ultra-high-bandwidth, low-latency multi-gigabit network powering all sorts of applications that we’re not yet using, but are about to use, the pressure is suddenly on for cable to beat its chest a little about Full Duplex.

Esser, for one, conceded that the bombardment of 5G hype is going to accelerate Cox’s deployment plans for Full Duplex.

“Whether the customer is asking for it or not, we don’t want to be the second one at the door with the product,” Esser said. “And what goes on the floor at CES probably motivates me more than anything.”

Wednesday’s presser, produced by CableLabs, followed a cable-industry-wide series of corporate blog postings by cable industry operators, vendors and technology orgs, all announcing their support for the new 10G brand, which the NCTA has trademarked.

Powell told MCN that industry leaders are still discussing ways to put the brand in front of consumers—10G stickers on modems, perhaps?

Much of the work, he noted, will be on the lobbying end, with the NCTA working to make policy leaders in Washington just as aware of Full Duplex as they are with 5G.