It wasn’t long ago that cable companies promoted their “triple play” option – combining video, landline phone and internet in one package. In just a few short years, while “bundling” of services is still a popular and money-saving option for cable customers, cable offers way more than these three options. Has the phrase “triple play” become obsolete? Headlines seen in May spotlight how technological advances have cable companies headed in new and innovative directions to meet subscribers’ needs.
First, let’s take a closer look at the conventional “triple play” and how the services it provides have changed:
For years, video was the foundation of the cable bundle. Consumers haven’t stopped watching television – but today not all video content is viewed in the home or on the TV set. TV Everywhere, which allows pay TV subscribers to watch television on any device and from anywhere, is growing in popularity across age groups. For those watching on a television, images are sharper than ever as cable companies switch to all-digital networks. Other improvements have been rolled out to channel guides, remote controls (some voice operated), On Demand offerings and DVR capacity, to name just a few ways the viewing experience has been enhanced.
High-speed broadband now takes center stage in the cable industry. In the past few years, maximum speeds have quadrupledand the cost per megabit per second has dropped significantly. The appetite for broadband is growing as well – connected devices are predicted to outnumber humans three to oneby 2021.
Pushing the technology to meet growing consumer demand for ever-faster upload and download internet speeds is one of the priorities of CableLabs,a non-profit innovation and research and development lab created in 1988 by cable operators from around the world. CableLabs is responsible for developing DOCSIS, a technology used to transfer data over coaxial cable that is used to provide not only internet, but also voice and video services. The latest version, Full Duplex DOCSIS 3.1, lets subscribers download 4K video and ultra-high definition movies faster than ever; enhances gaming with increased responsiveness and higher resolution graphics; and meet future usage needs required by technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.
Do you still have a landline phone? In many homes, it’s gone the way of the dinosaur. In late 2016, 50.8 percent of American households said they had no landline phone, relying only on a wireless phone, according to a government poll found. That number was 15 percent a decade ago. Cable is embracing the move to wireless, as we explain below.
How is cable moving beyond the traditional “triple play”?
As this decade began, home security was seen as the “next frontier” for cable companies looking for new ways to leverage their broadband infrastructure. Comcast, for example, began offering home security services in 2012 and now has more than 1 million customers. But, more recently, home security offerings have become part of the more encompassing category of home automation, thanks to the explosion of Wi-Fi enabled gadgets through the Internet of Things. Cable subscribers – while at home or remotely – can lock their home’s doors, adjust the thermostat, turn on the lights, raise the window blinds or perform a number of other functions around their house. Expect this area to grow – the global home automation system market was valued at $39.93 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $79.57 billion by 2022, according to a research report.
As mentioned earlier, cable recognizes that consumers are moving away from traditional landline telephones. Three Texas Cable Association members – Altice USA (which offers Suddenlink services), Charter Spectrum and Comcast all offer or are preparing to launch mobile phone services that connect using their Wi-Fi services where available or by tapping into existing cellular networks, such as those operated by Verizon or Sprint.
Last month, Charter and Comcast announcedthey joining forces develop and design backend systems to support both Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile and the soon-to-launch Charter’s Spectrum Mobile.
As an offshoot of the growth in the smart home market, Comcast is set to become the first cable company to get into the home insurance business. In May, it announced a pilot program offering smart home insurancein partnership with Hippo in Houston.
“By bringing together smart home devices like monitored smoke and water leak detectors with home insurance, we’re able to help customers lower their annual home insurance cost and, at the same time, help to provide protection and peace of mind for our customers’ most important assets – their home and family,” said Jon Kaplowitz, Comcast’s managing director and general manager of new businesses, in the announcement.
What will the future bring? Expect the cable industry to continue to be a leader in developing and deploying cutting-edge technology to give consumers expanded choices.