May 6, 2009
U.K. MSO Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) is snagging some bragging rights after booting up a Docsis 3.0 field trial that will produce downstream bursts of up to 200 Mbit/s. (See Virgin Vets 200 Mbit/s.)
Virgin, which introduced a 50-Mbit/s (downstream) wideband tier late last year, is allowing 100 "lead adopters" (a.k.a. "lucky duckies") in Ashford, Kent, to put the 200-Mbit/s service through its paces for at least six months. The MSO is using modems and cable modem termination system (CMTS) gear from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).
To hit 200 Mbit/s, Virgin is bonding four 8 MHz channels, each outputting roughly 50 Mbit/s, using EuroDocsis. The North American Docsis specs use channels that are 6 MHz wide, with each channel pumping out roughly 40 Mbit/s.
The commercial introduction of such an offering is likely "years away," an MSO spokesman acknowledges. Virgin is using the field test to "push the boundary and see what it [EuroDocsis 3.0] can do."
As it stands, Virgin expects to have its 50-Mbit/s wideband service available across the board by this June. (See Virgin Media Readies 50 Mbit/s Service .)
Although Virgin's is a pilot effort, the purported downstream speeds it will produce will outpace recent Docsis 3.0 deployments around the globe, including the Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM) 160-Mbit/s service in Japan, and the new 101-Mbit/s offering from Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) in systems serving portions of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. (See Cablevision Debuts 101-Mbit/s Wideband Service, J:COM Does Docsis 3.0 All Over, and Wideband: Priced to Move .)
On the technology side, Virgin wants to assess the limitations of in-home gear, pointing out that the wireless routers in use today will become choke points; they can't handle speeds of 200 Mbit/s even if the access network allows such bursts. Most PCs can't handle such rates either, Virgin says.
Virgin's test drive has a market research angle, too. In addition to seeing how consumers use 200-Mbit/s connections, the MSO will be testing applications that can take advantage of those speeds, including hi-def video streaming, 3D video, and video conferencing.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News
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