Charter Communications laid out its vision for network expansion and upgrade during an investor meeting broadcasted December 13. The cable MSO said that it plans to spend approximately $5.5 billion by the end 2025 to bring support of at least 5 Gbps in the downstream to 85% of its footprint. Approximately 35% of its footprint will have 10-Gbps DOCSIS 4.0 capabilities at the end of the initiative as well.
Charter will manage the network-wide upgrade in three steps, according to Rich DiGeronimo, president, product and technology, at the company:
- Step 1: Deploy 1.2-GHz modules and high-split spectrum capabilities across 15% of its footprint. The upgrades will enable symmetrical gigabit broadband services, with 2 Gbps downstream supported as well. DiGeronimo said this work began this year in what he described as four mid-sized communities. He did not identify them.
- Step 2: In early 2024, Charter will begin deployment of Remote PHY based Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) with a virtual CMTS alongside 1.2-GHz upgrades to another 50% of its footprint. The deployment, paired with DOCSIS 4.0 modems that DiGeronimo predicted will be available at that time, will enable 5 Gbps in the downstream and 1 Gbps upstream.
- Step 3: Later that year, Charter will launch a roll out of 10G capabilities across the remaining 35% of its network. This will include 1.8-GHz technology and a different Remote PHY device (RPD) than the Step 2 deployment. In addition to the 1.8-GHz support, the RPD also will feature 25 Gigabit Ethernet capabilities, up from the 10 Gigabit Ethernet used in Step 2. The chart DiGeronimo showed to illustrate this upgrade indicated support of 10-Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream. The company displayed such capabilities at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo earlier this year (see "1.8 GHz end-to-end DOCSIS 4.0 network demo anchors Charter's '10G Showcase'").
The RPDs in Steps 1 and 2 also will house remote optical line terminals (OLTs) that will support what DiGeronimo described as “fiber on demand.” He indicated that such OLTs will enable 25G PON in the future, with an upgrade path to 50G and 100G.
DiGeronimo said that Charter does not have a major initiative planned to roll out 10G capabilities to the 65% of its footprint covered in Steps 1 and 2. He did say that 1.8-GHz and related RPD technologies could find their way into these markets as part of normal technology replacement activities.
DiGeronimo and President and CEO Christopher Winfrey estimated the cost of such upgrades will be $100 per premises passed. Given Charter currently passes 55 million premises, a total footprint upgrade will cost approximately $5.5 billion.
DiGeronimo noted the remote OLT technology is currently being used as part of Charter’s RDOF activities. Winfrey said Charter is spending approximately $5 billion on rural expansion, offset by more than $1 billion in subsidies from RDOF and other federal and state programs, to add approximately 1 million rural passings to its footprint. He anticipated further expansion as more government funding sources come online. Whitley also said that Charter has additional expansion opportunities within its current footprint.