“We saw an immediate difference the next day, and our customers are obviously much happier. It’s great having a partner like ZCorum and experts like Buddy to consult with. The fact that he was able to come out and take care of this for us got us out of a real bind.”
Spillway Communications is a family owned Cable TV and high-speed Internet provider located in Maringouin, Louisiana. The company was started in 1981 to address a need for better TV service in the area. As their video service became more popular and word spread locally, Spillway Cable started serving other nearby towns who also wanted access to cable TV. The company added Internet service in 2000, and today Spillway provides video and broadband services to four different parishes in Southeastern, Louisiana.
Problem: Bandwidth Congestion During Prime-Time Hours in the Maringouin Headend
Like many Internet providers, Spillway Cable was experiencing some growing pains related to the popularity of their own service. They were signing up more customers, which is always a good problem to have. In addition, the average subscriber was transferring more and more data across Spillway’s network. In the earlier days of cable modem service most users didn’t do much more when connected than some basic Web surfing and email. There were a few heavy users, primarily due to peer-to-peer file sharing applications, but the average subscriber didn’t make that much of an impact on available bandwidth. Today, the average user is spending much more time on-line because of social sites like Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube, and consuming a huge number of pictures and videos on those sites. Plus, the growing popularity of over-the-top streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and others is putting a greater strain on a provider’s bandwidth than ever before.
At Spillway Cable, all subscribers in the area were sharing a 40 Mbps channel, which wasn’t enough to satisfy the growing demand for bandwidth. Because of this, subscribers started experiencing slow Internet speeds during peak traffic times. To try and address the bandwidth shortfall the company added a second channel, which doubled the bandwidth available to all subscribers to 80 Mbps. However, because the actual demand at peak times was so high, that additional bandwidth was quickly consumed. It didn’t take long before customers were once again experiencing slow service for a number of hours during the day.
Solution: ZCorum Multiplies Available Bandwidth by Dividing the Cable Plant
Cliff Greene, Technical Manager at Spillway, knew that he could call on ZCorum for help. The problem was sized up by Buddy Bertram, ZCorum’s Director of Technology, and he made a trip out to Spillway to implement the solution. Buddy determined he could split the cable plant into quarters, which would let him use the same channel to feed each of the four segments, providing a full 40 Mbps per segment. In effect, this doubled the bandwidth available to subscribers in each of the four areas, while recovering the second channel that Spillway had added earlier.
Evaluation: Splitting the Plant Eases Congestion for Customers
Splitting the plant had an immediate impact for subscribers. You can see from the traffic graph below exactly when the change was made. Just prior to splitting the plant there were extended hours during the day when requests for bandwidth far exceeded what was available. After the change was made, plenty of bandwidth was available using one 40 Mbps channel. Cliff Greene was certainly pleased with the result. “We saw an immediate difference the next day, and our customers are obviously much happier. It’s great having a partner like ZCorum and experts like Buddy to consult with. The fact that he was able to come out and take care of this for us got us out of a real bind.”
To stay ahead of the bandwidth issue, Cliff said they’ve decided to buy two additional cards for their CMTS from ZCorum. This way he will be able to add back the second channel, doubling a second time the bandwidth available to subscribers to a total of 80 Mbps for each segment. He also decided to increase their backbone connection to 160 Mbps to handle the additional bandwidth that will be available on their cable plant.
Spillway Communications is now able to focus on growing their customer base, knowing they have enough bandwidth to keep their new customers happy. Cliff said his next step when more bandwidth is needed will likely be an upgrade of their system to DOCSIS 3.0, and he’s thankful to know that ZCorum will be standing by to help when he’s ready. In the meantime, he’s also considering implementing ZCorum’s Bandwidth Commander to help introduce and manage bandwidth quotas to prevent a small percentage of users from impacting the quality of service for all subscribers.