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Xfinity's 10G is Deceptive Marketing

The cable industry's 10G brand means nothing.

Super Bowl LVII had a 60 second commercial that tried to dupe the American public. Xfinity marketing their new 10G service along with the achievement of getting a man on the moon was a pairing that wouldn’t be missed by anyone. Somehow we had skipped from 5G past 6G, 7G, 8G, and even 9G! What an engineering feat to be praised along with the moon landing.

“The next generation 10G network. Only from Xfinity. One giant leap for mankind.”

Yet the reality of Xfinity’s 10G service is a lot more depressingly complicated. The G after the 10 might lead you to believe it is twice as good as your phone’s 5G but it isn’t even related to cellular connectivity. Also, it isn’t another common networking term used to denote gigabit connections. This begs the question, what on earth is 10G even supposed to mean? Did the cable industry just pull a term out of thin air? Well, yes.

Per Xfinity, “The Xfinity 10G Network is the new brand for our next-generation network”. Additionally, the R&D lab of the cable industry, CableLabs, simply calls it a “combination of technologies”. The most exciting admission of absolute vagueness is when Xfinity describes that, “all our internet plans are powered by the Xfinity 10G Network”. So you could have a 1G home internet plan packaged with a 5G phone all on Xfinity’s 10G network. Yet each of these three G’s refer to different things. Their marketing team couldn’t have chosen a more confusing term to dub their new next-generation network.

Telecommunication companies have long played fast and loose by blending marketing terms with technical specifications. It is to be expected in order to derive quick and snappy terms that the consumer can readily understand, if even abstractly. What sounds better? An excerpt from the Detailed specifications of the terrestrial radio interfaces of International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 (IMT-2020) or using phrases like “Mobile gaming at a new level,” or “Get a movie in minutes or a song in seconds”? Other examples might include marketing the new 5G cellular network when 4G was commonplace. A normal consumer doesn’t need to know exactly how much faster 5G is compared to 4G but at the very least they know it is better.

Nothing is awry with this practice. It helps translate in real terms what a consumer can expect after paying for a service without requiring a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. The average person does not need or care to know the technical specifications of how modern telecommunication infrastructure works. Just like with many other aspects of our modern lives we rely on others having specialized knowledge to keep everything working. Most don’t know the engineering behind their local electrical systems or natural gas distribution. The architecture of providing internet access is no different. These things just work and only exist as an abstraction in the periphery of most people’s modern life.

The problem with Xfinity’s usage of the term 10G is a deceptive abuse of the public’s collective association with the term. For cellular data connectivity, a number and a G on your phone antenna icon has been around since 3G, which kicked off in 1998. This association could have only been further reinforced into the public psyche with the rise of mobile phone usage and the adoption of 4G in 2008 and 5G in 2019. Anyone using a phone over the past decade would have seen this multiple times per day on their phone’s status bar.

However, the G in this context is mostly grounded in reality. Well, maybe more like low earth orbit reality. It refers to a generation of technology for cellular connectivity as it evolves over time. But it also shares a bit of ambiguity. There are services like 5G E, which is actually 4G and 5G TF, which only shares aspects of true 5G. Despite these nuances there is still a level of technological direction with the term. Consumers can follow the approximate logic that subsequent cellular generations will provide better service.

This is the reality where Xfinity and the rest of the cable industry brought their idiotic marketing term into the world. Dragging the confused public while riding the coattails of the cellular industry is incredibly deceptive and misleading. Tech news publication The Verge succinctly described the marketing term being rolled out, “to have something that’s twice as many Gs as 5G wireless.

Yet the marketing ambiguity doesn’t stop with the cellular industry. Another commonly used term in networking is 10G. This refers to a 10 gigabit per second network connection. That would be 10,000 megabits per second. Specifically, Xfinity is developing an actual 10G program that uses DOCSIS 4.0 to achieve download speeds of 10 gigabits per second and an upload speed of 6 gigabits per second. Such capacity would significantly alter the way consumers interact with services on the internet.

While Xfinity has made progress with full duplex amplification it is still vetting full duplex amplifier prototypes. Rollout to the general public might be a ways off but I wonder how their marketing terms will play out during that campaign. Coalescing under the 10G umbrella is most likely, given the marketing foundation they are currently building. They could then quietly remove references to 10G as a simple brand term and deliver a product with actual 10G speeds.

Who am I kidding. That all sounds too easy and unreflective of their current marketing team. If a 6G cellular service is prevalent at this future date maybe Xfinity will rebrand everything to 12G.