ATX’s 2024 Technology Predictions: Doubling Down on 2023

By Joe McGarvey, Marketing Director |
looking glass studying technology

‘Tis the season for prognostication. About this time every year, technology companies and pundits offer up their best estimates of how the trends and business dynamics shaping the industry will play out in the coming year.

Almost always missing from this annual ritual is accountability. Like meteorologists who miss a once-in-a decade deluge or Wall Street wizards who scream buy when they should be mouthing sell — or at the least hold — technology players and pundits rarely revisit previous predictions or issue even the meagerest of mea culpas.

ATX is breaking that pattern of unaccountability by balancing our predictions of where the industry is headed in 2024 with a look back at what ATX saw coming in 2023 — and assigning a rating to how close we came to giving Nostradamus a run for his money.

What follows are a few predictions issued roughly a year ago by ATX executives, accompanied by a grade and an analysis of the relevance they carry into the new year.

2023 Prediction: Multigigabit services will become standard for MSOs and FTTH providers, but, while speed is impressive, broadband demand is still not ready to catch up to broadband supply. ATX Networks predicts other attributes such as security, reliability, and latency will outrank speed as a criterion for broadband service packages in 2023.

Grade: A Not only do we give ourselves a pat on the back for this one, but we’re also doubling down on the same sentiment in 2024. The speed wars between MSOs and FTTH providers, driven by the fact that DOCSIS 4.0 enables cable operators to match the symmetrical multigigabit services of all-fiber providers, are essentially a draw. That means MSOs, as this recent blog chronicles, will focus their attention in 2024 on differentiating from FTTH competitors by delivering a more reliable and easier-to-troubleshoot network, as well as upping the in-home experience through seamless convergence and automation.

2023 Prediction: The economic advantages of DOCSIS 4.0 upgrades compared to fiber overbuilds to meet customer demand will grow even more compelling to MSOs in 2023.

Grade: A Estimates vary, but most industry experts calculate the cost of building out new fiber networks to be about 10X the cost of upgrading existing HFC networks, on a per-home-passed scale. And that figure doesn’t even factor in the time-to-market advantages of HFC upgrades. MSOs essentially started migrating toward all-fiber infrastructures the day the HFC network was born, more than 30 years ago. The case for accelerating that migration by actively replacing coaxial plant with fiber becomes even less compelling in 2024, as MSOs begin to reap the cost-efficiency and go-to-market benefits of topping off their networks to 1.8GHz largely through drop-in upgrades of existing outside plant equipment.

2023 Prediction: MSOs will optimize their DOCSIS 3.1 networks using 1.8GHz high-split amplifiers with 1.2GHz/1.8GHz dual-mode operation capabilities.

Grade: B We fell a little short with this prediction, but only by a couple of months. For a variety of reasons, several MSOs have pushed back scheduled HFC upgrades planned for the end of 2023. The case for opting for 1.8GHz-capable equipment, even for MSOs that may not be ready to throw the switch on DOCSIS 4.0 for another year or longer, remains as strong in 2024 as it was the previous year. In addition to handling additional spectrum, the new breed of HFC amps eliminates the need for plug-ins such as pads and equalizers, relying instead on software that streamlines installation and tuning exercises.

2023 Prediction: Energy storage technology advancements will motivate MSOs to pursue alternatives to battery-based standby power solutions to meet sustainability goals and drastically reduce costs.

Grade A Interest in alternative energy mediums to lead-acid batteries has never been higher. The two leading contenders are lithium-based batteries and hybrid supercapacitors, a new breed of storage technology that uses an electrostatic, rather than an electrochemical, process to release stored energy, eliminating most, if not all, of the safety concerns attached to lithium batteries. What will be new in 2024 is that MSOs and other telecom providers will begin to explore ways to utilize energy stored in hybrid supercapacitors beyond standby power operations to either shave energy costs or drive new revenue by selling back idle energy to utilities.

2023 Prediction: Labor shortages persist, but relief is on the horizon for cable operators. Initiatives by industry organizations and technology suppliers to augment the labor pool with vocational training programs will make a significant dent in replenishing the cable workforce beginning next year.

Grade B We’ll take the hit on this one, not because we underestimated the industry need for skilled technical labor, but because we didn’t fully capture the scale of the challenge. The reality is that while labor shortages are currently acute, they are about to get a whole lot more dire in 2024, when states seriously begin allocating money from the $42.5 billion BEAD fund. What we’re looking at will be a feeding frenzy of sorts for the woefully deficient workforce that will be needed to carry out a once-in-a-generation technology transformation of the HFC network. Get a detailed look at what ATX will be doing in 2024 to help replenish the current supply of trained technicians by watching the recent ATX webinar on the company’s Field Personnel Replenishment Program (FPRP).

The Year Ahead

In addition to the above, ATX is expecting the cable industry to reach several other technology milestones sometime in 2024, not the least of which will be the debut of the first 1.8GHz-capable nodes. Visit this recent blog for the lowdown on what ATX is doing to usher in the next generation of the GS7000 node, the venerable Cisco HFC technology that ATX licensed at the end of 2022.  

In terms of industry benchmarks, the world will be watching how MSOs and other broadband providers progress in closing the Digital Divide in 2024. Read this recent blog to discover why ATX CEO Dan Whalen argues that ending digital disparity will require much more than technology and why he is counting on MSOs to up their outreach to specific demographic groups, such as the elderly and those with disabilities, to make sure everyone has equal access to the broadband-powered future.