At OTELCO, we are always striving to improve our customer experience. Sometimes that means offering new services, and other times it means improving on our existing ones. To do the latter, we have been upgrading our cable Internet network in Alabama. In 2018 OTELCO started revamping the Oneonta Cable broadband system to provide a faster, more reliable connection for our subscribers.
This week’s blog looks at how cable Internet works, and how OTELCO is working to improve upon it.
A Broad Look at Cable Internet
Traditionally, coaxial cables were reserved for transmitting TV signals into homes. In the late ’90s, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) realized they could also use coaxial to transmit broadband signals at higher speeds than they could using traditional telephone lines; cable Internet was born.
With Cable Internet, a Cable Modem and a Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) are necessary to send data up and downstream. You may be familiar with a Cable Modem, it is the box that sits in your home providing you with a cable TV and/or Internet signal. The CMTS is what ISPs use to provide said connection.
The CMTS acts as a very large router, providing Internet for everyone on the cable network. When the CMTS receives signals from a modem, they convert them into Internet Protocol (IP) packets and then distributes them across the web. When the CMTS sends a signal, it translates the transmission into something that can be sent to your modem.
In Alabama, OTELCO employs a Hybrid Fiber and Coaxiall (HFC) Network. HFC networks use fiber-optic cables to connect network nodes to the CMTS. From the nodes, traditional coaxial cables are used to bring broadband to individual homes and businesses. The node works as a hub, receiving the signal through the fiber, and translating it into a signal that can be sent through a coaxial cable and into your home.
OTELCO’s HFC network became bogged down in early 2018 because the number of subscribers using the service was outgrowing the capacity of the older equipment. This was resulting in slower speeds, which was a big problem for our customers. It was clear to our engineers in Alabama that something had to be done, so they decided to give the HFC a facelift.
First, OTELCO invested in a new CMTS called the C4 Chassis. It is more powerful, has double bandwidth, and is better equipped to handle high numbers of subscribers. Moving nodes over to the new CMTS isn’t an easy process though. IPs must be changed, complex engineering has to be done to prepare each node, and everyone on the node needs to a new modem.
After we bought the CMTS we started upgrading our customer’s modems. The older modem model, DOCSIS 2.0, was a big part of why customers were experiencing slower speeds. DOCSIS 2.0 only has one channel that everyone using it must access, and that channel quickly becomes clogged when it experiences high traffic. The new model, DOCSIS 3.0, has multiple channels so that multiple people can access the Internet without slowing down the connection. While DOCSIS 2.0 modems will work on the C4 Chassis, they are too out of date to benefit from any of the improvements the new CMTS has to offer.
In 2018 OTELCO moved 7 nodes over to the new CMTS and upgraded everyone on 22 of our 45 nodes to the DOCSIS 3.0. In 2019 we are going to focus on upgrading every cable Internet subscriber’s modem so that we can continue to move nodes over to the new C4 Chassis.
If you are an OTELCO cable Internet subscriber who hasn’t upgraded their modem, yet you can help us streamline this process by switching out your old DOCSIS 2.0 for the newer model. Either stop into our Oneonta office with your modem or give us a call at 833-OTELCO-1 (683-5261) and we can send a technician out to install the DOCSIS 3.0 Modem. The sooner we switch out all the modems, the sooner we can provide a better connection for all our cable Internet customers.
Getting Speeds Beyond 25 Mbps
DOCSIS 3.0 is allowing many cable companies to deliver bandwidths up to 100Mbps or more using the HFC Network. In order to accomplish this, it will be necessary to free up additional channels on the cable system. The best way to do that and ensure that you don’t miss out on your favorite cable channels or shows is to move everyone to digital cable, which means that every TV will require a set-top box. This will be the next step once we’ve moved everyone to the new CMTS and DOCSIS 3.o, and we expect customers to start seeing a vast improvement to their Internet speeds by the summer of 2020.
More to Come
While we work on the Cable System that serves the Oneonta Area, we haven’t forgotten our DSL customers. Over the last several weeks, we’ve been busy upgrading monitoring platforms and increasing the bandwidth feeding each of our DSL sites in preparation to give all of our DSL customers a “speed bump” this year! Stay tuned for more on that project in an upcoming post.
We also know DSL will never reach the speeds that the cable network can, and eventually, the cable system won’t be fast enough, so we continue to work diligently to build as much fiber-to-the-home as we can throughout our service areas.