Light Reading

DOCSIS 3.1: What's Next?

Mari Silbey

DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen Strategies & Technologies -- It's been five months since CableLabs released the DOCSIS 3.1 specification, and a panel of speakers here, moderated by our own Alan Breznick, had a lot to say not only about the progress of development, but also about how the industry needs to think about the next DOCSIS spec in the context of the many technologies that will enable the next generation of cable infrastructure.

"We're at an inflection point," said David Keane-Mirajkar, distinguished consulting engineer at Casa Systems Inc. . DOCSIS 3.1 "is raw material." (See Docsis 3.1 Spec Out in Time for Halloween.)

DOCSIS 3.1 is competing with many other technology priorities, including the Cable Converged Access Platform (CCAP), Remote PHY, and explorations of software-defined networking (SDN), just to name a few. However, Dan Rice, senior vice president of network technology at CableLabs, said the entire purpose of the new DOCSIS spec is to help operators "stay ahead of organic demand" in a very practical way. DOCSIS 3.1 will get deployed only when, where, and how it makes economic sense, and it will be only one of many tools in the network toolkit. (See What’s Next for Cable Tech?)

From a practicality standpoint, DOCSIS 3.1 has the potential to deliver capacity of more than 10 Gbit/s in the downstream and 1 Gbit/s in the upstream, but that's not what will happen first. Jorge Salinger, vice president of access architecture at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), said cable operators will have to get rid of traditional video before the necessary spectrum is available for that type of magnitude shift. "Eventually, we'll have IP video as the only transport… but it will take a long while."

In the meantime, cable companies will be able to take advantage of DOCSIS 3.1 without making any initial changes to the cable plant. Then they'll be able to reclaim bandwidth gradually for further utilization as needed through strategies like the migration from analog to digital cable.

As far as the timeline is concerned, DOCSIS 3.1 silicon is being developed now, and initial 3.1 cable modems should be ready for trials at the end of this year and the beginning of next year. Headend equipment trials and early deployments will likely follow in 2016.

Gerry White, distinguished engineer at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), said one of the big questions for vendors to answer is "Where is the starting point we want to go for?" In other words, how much change should vendors try to accommodate in the first round of DOCSIS 3.1 products, and how much should be implemented in future phases? In general, he said, there has to be enough power, cooling, and interconnect bandwidth from day one, but many other elements in the hardware will simply be upgradeable as operators need additional capacity or features.

Ultimately, the actual rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 equipment will come down to operators' specific network needs. For cable modems, a big determining factor for adoption in the near future will be the price delta between DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 products. As Salinger said, because DOCSIS 3.1 modems will initially be deployed in DOCSIS 3.0 mode until new headend equipment is installed, it will be difficult to justify spending a lot more money. However, if the price difference is minimal, then the decision to upgrade will be much easier to make. (See Docsis 3.1 Stays on a Fast Track.)

Marty Davidson, vice president of engineering and network operations at Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) , said operators should start thinking today about new DOCSIS 3.1 training programs. Even though the technology is still under development, it makes sense to begin educating engineers and even technicians about what DOCSIS 3.1 will enable.

At this time next year, Salinger said, he believes that the industry should be ready to talk about DOCSIS 3.1 interop events. That may be an optimistic statement, but there's no doubt that industry technologists expect a lot to be accomplished with next-generation cable architectures in a very short period.

And DOCSIS 3.1 is only one piece of the puzzle.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

(8)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Beer
4/2/2014 | 11:28:43 PM
Re: Upstream
It weems to be more along the lines of 10:1 or 5:1 ratio. I have seen Cox standard offerings of 5:1, 25:5, and 50:10.   
User Rank: Light Beer
3/30/2014 | 12:27:09 PM
Re: Transition
Sounds about right. I still prefer the NO Cable route & use the streaming services!
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/30/2014 | 11:04:09 AM
Re: DOCSIS 3.1: What's Next?
This is not a tough one. It's either 3.2 or 4.0.

User Rank: Blogger
3/27/2014 | 8:54:46 PM
Re: Transition
I prefer cordless shaving. That way, I can do it while I'm in the bath tub.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/27/2014 | 6:34:08 PM
Re: Transition
"Cord-shaving." I love it. New one on me. I presume that's consumers cutting back on cable in favor of OTT video? In other words: "I won't cut off ALL my cable but I'll cut back to basic cable and go to Netflix/Hulu/whatever for the rest"?
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/27/2014 | 6:24:33 PM
Re: Transition

That's totally true and not just for cable but for telecom operators as well. At a rural telco event a few weeks back, the small telcos said they lose money on video and are using OTT video to attract consumers to higher tiered broadband, on which they make their money. 

Legacy voice business is dying, cord-cutting and cord-shaving are very real trends and broadband has become THE essential and profitable business.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/27/2014 | 5:44:11 PM
Reading over the coverage of this conference, I'm impressed by the extent to which Internet service is becoming mainstream business to cable companies. Video is becoming a legacy business. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2014 | 5:22:57 PM
Whatever happens, a lot of cable companies need to really start focusing on the upstream. Charter is making a lot of noise about their upcoming "Spectrum" rebranding offering the "fastest Internet speeds possible," yet the upstream on all of their packages is, IIRC, 4 Mbps. Pretty paltry and far-removed from being considered "next-gen."
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Steve Saunders provides an overview of white box networking and introduces a new "slim line" version of the OSI 7-layer model.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Service Gateway Virtual Edition

12|1|15   |   8.29   |   (1) comment

Allot's Jay Klein talks to Steve Saunders about its new Service Gateway Virtual Edition.
Wagner’s Ring
The Business Case for Open Source

11|30|15   |     |   (1) comment

Open source helps companies enhance infrastructure, undermine competitors' advantage and teach collaboration. But there are problems.
Between the CEOs
Centec on Ethernet Switching

11|26|15   |   09:58   |   (0) comments

Centec CEO James Sun talks to Steve Saunders about Ethernet switching and the white box revolution.
LRTV Custom TV
Delivering Service Agility in the Virtualization Era

11|25|15   |   5.41   |   (0) comments

Interview with Massimo Fatato, WW OSS Business Lead, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Wagner’s Ring
How Might Open Source Fail?

11|24|15   |     |   (10) comments

Open source, SDN, and NFV are looking inevitable – but performance, standards proliferation and regulatory capture could derail the movement.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Lifecycle Orchestration – a Fresh Vision for Telco

11|23|15   |   6.40   |   (0) comments

Simon Osborne, CTO Comptel, and Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell reveal the business impacts of new SDN and NFV, and what the term service orchestration actually means. Together they define Lifecycle Service Orchestration and how the virtualized future will look for telecoms operators.
Between the CEOs
Cisco's Virtual Role in Saudi

11|20|15   |   12:15   |   (2) comments

Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Leads With Kubernetes for Cloud PaaS

11|19|15   |   08:26   |   (0) comments

Huawei is looking to Kubernetes as a key tool for building robust open source technologies for customers and partners, said Ying Xiong, chief architect of cloud platform at Huawei, in an interview with Light Reading West Coast Bureau Chief Mitch Wagner at the recent Kubecon conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
WiC in London: The Highlight Reel

11|19|15   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

NetCracker's Mervat El Dabae headlines an inspiring morning in London with help from leading women from Vodafone, TalkTalk, Hyperoptics and Ciena.
LRTV Documentaries
Why Saudi's So Hot for New Tech

11|19|15   |   05:07   |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders reports from Saudi Arabia, a hyper-competitive market desperate to embrace the next generation of communications technologies and services.
LRTV Custom TV
Why Data Models Deliver More Value Than Information Models

11|19|15   |   5.08   |   (0) comments

Stefan Vallin argues that more automation is needed to manage end-to-end services and the hybrid networks they run on, and that data models are key to achieving this.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
SDN Management & Orchestration in the WAN

11|17|15   |   7.20   |   (0) comments

Carol Wilson and Packet Design CTO Cengiz Alaettinoglu discuss CSPs' SDN service delivery and assurance requirements. Learn about a modular approach to building automated control, orchestration and management functions for the WAN that are policy- and analytics-driven.
Hot Topics
Samsung: No Sale of Wireless Unit
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/25/2015
Facebook in Africa: Beauty or Beast?
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/27/2015
Cable Gives Thanks for Business Services
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 11/27/2015
Hong Kong Moments
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 11/26/2015
How Amazon TV Could Own Christmas
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 11/30/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
December 15, 2015
Virtualizing Cable Services
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Centec CEO James Sun talks to Steve Saunders about Ethernet switching and the white box revolution.
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders talks with Zayan Sadek, Regional Manager at Cisco Systems, about the competitive communications services market and advance of virtualization in Saudi Arabia.
Cats with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.