January 6, 2020
At CES 2019, the cable industry stole some of some of the hype surrounding 5G with "10G," a next-gen network initiative that aims for symmetrical speeds of 10 Gbit/s with low latency and advanced security.
Cable operators are now preparing to launch 10G field trials later this year, Mariam Sorond, CableLabs's newly appointed chief research and development officer, said ahead of this week's CES 2020 tech-fest in Las Vegas.
However, details are still light with respect to precisely when 10G pilots will take shape and how they will be implemented. As envisioned, the industry's 10G initiative isn't solely tied to cable's widely deployed hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks, but will also employ other types of access network technologies, including fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) and even wireless networks.
On the HFC side of the ledger, emerging DOCSIS 4.0 specifications are designed to fit the bill.
Sorond, the former chief wireless architect and VP of technology development at Dish Network, said CableLabs expects to complete the initial DOCSIS 4.0 specs in "early 2020."
CableLabs started that work last year. In addition to weaving in low-latency capabilities (of between 1 to 2 milliseconds) with higher levels of security, DOCSIS 4.0 will also support both Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX) and Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD). FDX, a technique largely favored by Comcast, will enable upstream and downstream capacity to occupy the same block of spectrum. ESD, meanwhile, will continue to keep downstream and upstream traffic separate while also raising the bandwidth ceiling beyond 1.8GHz.
The convergence of FDX and ESD "gives a lot of flexibility and optionality and economies of scale," Sorond said. Plus, both will be supported on the same silicon and a common platform, she added.
Though 10G is pursuing symmetrical 10-Gig speeds, DOCSIS has reached an interim step in the form of new D3.1-certified modems that can support speeds to the home up to 5 Gbit/s thanks in part to integrated 2.5-Gig ports.
CableLabs is also touting the recent release of a new 200Gbit/s point-to-point coherent optics spec for a new generation of chipsets and network equipment expected to show up later this year. In addition to doubling the capacity of the cable access network, those specs will also support the aggregation requirements of emerging distributed access architectures (DAA), Sorond said.
"DAA is going to be an important cornerstone of all of this," she said.
Putting 2020 into focus
Sorond, who joined CableLabs about four months ago, said the industry's 10G initiative and how that fits in with 5G opportunities for cable operators is one of her big priorities.
"Cable operators can definitely be disruptors in the future of connectivity," she said.
While 5G gets heaps of attention, she argues that current mobile network operators "do no have the architecture that supports this," a situation that has opened the door to new entrants such as Rakuten, Dish as well as cable operators.
"There's an opportunity for competition [in mobile], because you no longer have to go and build all of these massive macro networks covering the whole country," she said. "You can surgically enter the network and leverage MVNO relationships [for the national macro network]. There's a new opportunity for the cable operators to come in and ... compete in this space."
She also believes that this will likewise create partnership opportunities as some companies look beyond the traditional mobile service operators to work with cable operators on the development and deployment of private 5G networks.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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