With the continual demand for more internet as new devices are coming out all of the time, you would think that multi system operators (MSOs) would be ecstatic.

The truth is, however, that they are all a little bit underwater. The demand for better bandwidth at faster speeds is getting higher and outpacing the MSOs ability to keep up with demand.

For most households in North America, internet is another essential utility, no different than water or electricity. It is what makes living by our modern standards possible. But as the expectation from the consumers is going up, so too must internet providers adjust.

Why Consumers Like MSOs

Consumers are typically easily drawn to using MSOs. In Canada, Rogers Communications, Shaw Communication, and Videotron cable companies dominate the market while in the U.S. you will find Charter Communications, Comcast, and Cox Communications. 

All of these are widely available across each country. Since most houses and apartments are already equipped with cable jacks, hooking up a coaxial cable is simple to do. Many people also sign up for cable television, so adding in internet makes sense. But can cable keep up with the ever-increasing demands for speed?

Supply and Demand

The issue that MSOs and other forms of internet are running into is how to keep the supply up with the demand. Consumers are purchasing more and more devices that require an internet connection.

With every new device added to a network, the amount of pressure on bandwidth increases. The more devices that are connected and taking up the bandwidth, the slower that everything will seem online. Therefore, consumers can be tricked into thinking that their internet is slower when it isn’t.

In an effort to appease these customers, MSOs try to increase the speeds that they can provide. Once upon a time, Gigabit speeds were a dream. Now, they have become the norm. As MSOs push to get 2 Gbps, there are reports that 10 Gbps is expected.

There is no way to appease consumers and give them what they want when the demand is outpacing the companies’ abilities to create new speeds for cable internet. Going beyond these speeds means increase the spectrum that is available, a solution that is long and complicated.

Why MSOs Are Popular

MSOs are one of the most popular forms of internet that you can get. The companies themselves are well-known throughout their area. The service is accessed easily and they are known to be one of the fastest types of internet that you can get.

The disadvantage is using MSO internet in a neighbourhood, apartment building, or just a densely populated area, because the more users that are on the line at a time, the slower the service will wind up being. This is especially true if you have any neighbours who are downloading or uploading heavily since that is a big drain on bandwidth on any network type.

They also have a tendency to have heavy advertising and specials that make the company names memorable. As a result, consumers are more likely to sign up with the companies due to familiarity rather than the internet speeds that they can provide.

Risk Of Fiber

While cable is easier for the average internet consumer to obtain, it is being surpassed by the speeds that are being offered by fiber optic networks

Fiber internet is notably faster with fewer interruptions, but it requires a fiber cable to work. Most homes have already been fitted to accommodate coaxial cables, so the accessibility is already there.

To get fiber into homes that do not have it yet, fiber lines would need to be run, which is a headache.

But if MSOs cannot keep up with the speed demands of the average consumer, they will need to brace themselves for the loss of customers who move over to fiber internet. Fiber (Verizon FiOS or Frontier FiOS) can handle the speed demands easily where MSOs are struggling to keep up.

The Future

Even though the threat of fiber is sneaking up behind them, MSOs are not going anywhere right now. The companies are large as it is and account for such a large portion of internet across North America that it would be foolish to think that they will go down over night.

If fiber becomes easier to obtain, however, then the companies will really need to brace themselves for change and see what they can possibly do to save themselves as the demand continues to exceed what they can actually provide.

As of now, cable MSO companies have an active role with smart homes. Even though home automation is still in its infancy, it is still continually growing and becoming more popular. Cable currently can handle the demands, but the question remains: how long can it keep up?