Why DOCSIS May Never Die

Whether it's the new DOCSIS 3.1 spec or the forthcoming Full Duplex DOCSIS spec, cablecos are still mainly counting on DOCSIS to rule the broadband space.

Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

March 15, 2017

5 Min Read
Why DOCSIS May Never Die

If you're looking for cable operators to ditch their current hybrid-fiber coax (HFC) networks in favor of FTTH networks en masse, then you'd better prepare yourself for an awfully long wait.

Despite bold, high-profile moves by such major MSOs as Altice to go all-fiber in the US over the next few years, most large US and European cable operators are now lining up in support of the new DOCSIS 3.1 spec to deliver gigabit services. In recent weeks, for instance, both Charter Communications Inc. and Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) have signaled their intentions to go ahead with DOCSIS 3.1 rollouts, with Charter issuing an RFP to vendors for D3.1 modems and Liberty Global announcing plans to start D3.1 field trials in the second half of the year. (See Charter Issues RFP for D3.1 Modems and Altice USA Sticks to High-Fiber Diet.)

Beyond that, leading cable operators are also lining up behind the more futuristic Full Duplex DOCSIS spec, which is still bring crafted by CableLabs . Even though that proposed next-gen spec can't possibly be available for field use for at least two more years, such large MSOs as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Charter and Cox Communications Inc. are all counting on it to enable multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s over their HFC networks in the near future.

And even beyond that, cable technologists are now studying how to use coherent optics technology to boost the capacity of their HFC networks much, much further. At their Winter Conference in Orlando last month, CableLabs officials said coherent optics could help cablecos make much more efficient use of the fiber part and optical spectrum of their plant, potentially increasing the total capacity of their HFC networks by more than 1,000 times. (See New CableLabs Optical Tech Promises Big Bandwidth Boost.)

So, exactly two decades after the original DOCSIS 1.0 spec was released by CableLabs, cable's workhorse broadband protocol is still going quite strong today and can look forward to a seemingly limitless future. Happy Birthday, DOCSIS. Welcome to your 20s.

To mark the occasion, we'll be looking closely at the future of DOCSIS when we convene Light Reading's tenth annual Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference in Denver next week. The conference, which started out in March 2007 to chart the progress of the then-new DOCSIS 3.0 spec, has now become the premier independent cable tech event in North America. Due to popular demand and a sellout crowd last spring, the event is expanding to two days (Tuesday March 21 and Wednesday March 22) and a larger facility (Curtis Hotel) this time around.

But, unlike that initial conference, we won't be confining our discussions just to DOCSIS' promising prospects. Over the course of the two days, a dozen panels will delve into such meaty topics as cable's pursuit of Distributed Access Architecture, the virtualization of key network functions for both residential and commercial services, and the pros and cons of coherent optics. In addition, we'll tackle cable's deep fiber builds, budding wireless ambitions, IP/cloud video efforts, OTT video maneuvers and 4K/UHD video challenges, along with Full Duplex DOCSIS, DOCSIS 3.1 and other subjects.

Want to learn more about cable's next-gen plans? Sign up now for Light Reading's Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies event on March 21-22, at the Curtis Hotel in
downtown Denver.

Besides all the panel discussions and debates, Cable Next-Gen will also serve up a potpourri of keynote presentations and fireside chats featuring ten tech leaders from the cable, OTT and online video worlds.

Our first-day highlights will include up-close sessions with: Jeff Finkelstein, executive director of advanced access architectures for Cox; Robert Howald, VP of network architecture for Comcast; Dennis Stevens, SVP of product development and strategic programs for Shaw Communications Inc. ; and Balan Nair, CTO of Liberty Global.

And our second-day highlights will include presentations by or one-on-one chats with: Ben Watkins, an executive producer at Amazon Prime Video; Joe Inzerillo, EVP and CTO of MLBAM ; Andrew Ferrone, VP of Pay TV at Roku Inc. ; Jason Thibeault, executive director of the Streaming Video Alliance ; Mike LaJoie, former CTO of Time Warner Cable; and Michael Willner, president and CEO of Penthera Partners Inc. .

Cable Next-Gen will also offer specially targeted breakfast workshops each day. Besides the usual breakfast spreads in the hallways outside the conference rooms, we will have a panel on UHD video's prospects (for service providers only) sponsored by Verimatrix Inc. on Tuesday and a session on why mentoring matters hosted by our Women in Comms group on Wednesday. Both breakfasts require separate registration. (See Mentoring in the Mountains: Join WiC in Denver!.)

As well, the conference will offer lots of schmoozing opportunities for service providers and vendors alike. Besides all the usual breakfasts, lunches and coffee breaks scheduled over the two days, there will be a cocktail reception at the end of the first day, followed by a two-hour party/kickoff event at the nearby Rock Bottom Brewery.

Finally, the weather promises to cooperate with sunny skies and temps in the low-to-mid 60s in Denver next week. So how can you go wrong? Sign up now for Light Reading's Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies event on March 21-22, at the Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver. We'll be expecting you.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

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