It's been signaled for months, but CableLabs confirmed earlier this week that the Colorado-based R&D organization is moving ahead with DOCSIS 4.0, the next iteration of specs that has underpinned the cable industry's IP platform for widely deployed HFC networks.
Recent D3.1 annexes such as low-latency DOCSIS and Full Duplex DOCSIS will be organized under the 4.0 banner, as well as developing Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD) techniques that will push capacity to 1.8GHz and super-charge the HFC network while also delaying the need to pull fiber all the way to the home. Future 3GHz ESD capabilities could put off full-scale FTTP upgrades for years to come.
The updated setup, "sets up a clear delineation on where DOCSIS 3.1 ends," Jeff Heynen, research director of broadband access and home networking at Dell'Oro, said. "It's smart to bundle these different, complementary technologies."
It also sets the path for Broadcom, Intel and other RF front end manufacturers to develop chips that build in these options for the development of this next-gen PHY layer and, ultimately, the updated MAC layer.
Heynen also views DOCSIS 4.0 is a representative step toward deep fiber, distributed access architectures and, for some MSOs, a move to node+0 architectures that eliminate the amplifiers between the home and the node.
Heynen notes that DOCSIS 4.0 (the specs could be done by mid-2019) doesn't change his forecasts looking out to 2023, as the updated specs should not alter the broader trends for more bandwidth, deeper fiber, and the move toward smaller and smaller service groups. "That's not going to change," he said.
What is going to change, or will need to change, is the management components that will be built into next-gen MACs. MSOs, he said, will need a lot more visibility and a deeper reach on managing their networks as they keep tabs on more software-driven devices at the edges that will be servicing these smaller and increased number of service groups.
That's a glimpse at what's ahead for cable's access network. Here's a snapshot of the road that got the industry to DOCSIS 4.0:
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading