DOCSIS 3.1 Makes Debut

As promised at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo last week, CableLabs has now released its DOCSIS 3.1 specification, just in time for Halloween.

The new D3.1 spec, crafted by CableLabs to be the roadmap for "a new generation of Docsis technology," raced from early concept to completed reality in barely a year, breaking all sorts of standards speed records. While Matt Schmitt, director of DOCSIS specifications for CableLabs, describes the specification as a "living document," the release means that silicon and equipment vendors can begin preparing prototype products for testing in early 2014. (See Docsis 3.1 Spec Out in Time for Halloween.)

DOCSIS 3.1 is focused on delivering several very specific benefits to cable operators. First and most notably, it enables greater capacity and speed, with support for up to 50 percent more data throughput over the same spectrum. Cable providers will be able to deliver up to 10 Gbit/s speeds in the downstream and 1 to 2 Gbit/s in the upstream.

Further, the new broadband spec decreases the cost per bit for data delivery by improving the efficiency of spectrum use. It uses Active Queue Management to decrease latency in the network. Plus, it increases energy efficiency in cable modems.

Finally, CableLabs has drafted DOCSIS 3.1 so that new cable hardware will be compatible with earlier DOCSIS technology. That should make it relatively easy for cable operators to migrate to the new specification.

CableLabs is emphasizing the fact that DOCSIS 3.1 will bring benefits to MSOs, even if they don't make any upgrades to the cable plant. For example, Schmitt told Light Reading last week that cable companies should "reasonably get an average of 25 percent or more upstream capacity out of existing plant," simply because DOCSIS 3.1 uses spectrum more efficiently.

On the other hand, if cable operators do invest in plant upgrades, then there is an immediate return on investment. If an MSO does a mid-split, for example, any D3.1 modems already deployed will be able to take immediate advantage of spectrum above the 42MHz line for upstream data transport, Schmitt said.

Of course, there are challenges ahead for DOCSIS 3.1 deployments, including the fact that it will be difficult to test new D3.1 modems without new cable modem termination system (CMTS) devices in place. However, many leading cable operators are eager to bring DOCSIS 3.1 to market, which means they will likely do their best to help smooth the transition. “MSOs like to get out in the field as soon as they can,” Schmitt noted.

Speaking at last week's DOCSIS 3.1 Engineering Symposium in Atlanta, Jeff Finkelstein, executive director of strategic architecture for Cox Communications Inc. , said his company is willing to do "anything we can do to help." Jorge Salinger, vice president of access architecture for Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), said MSOs should plan now to put Docsis 3.1 hardware in the budget for 2015.

CableLabs has made the full DOCSIS 3.1 specification available for download on its website. The R&D group says that "As soon as prototypes are available, CableLabs will facilitate interoperability testing of products at its labs to help equipment manufacturers prepare for certification and qualification."

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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albreznick 11/6/2013 | 11:25:54 PM
Re: Seriously.... laying up for 2014 Yup, Mark, I think it is mostly about bragging rights right now. But I agree it's time for different metrics, particularly performance-related ones, as long as they're easy to measure, compare and understand (like speed rates). And I'll all for Streaming Holodeck. Beam me up, Scotty.   
MarkC73 11/5/2013 | 4:10:01 AM
Re: Seriously.... laying up for 2014 Not to mention vectoring has caveats to it as well.  Telcos need to go fiber to compete on speed, period.  But at what point is it really not going to matter besides bragging rights.  Would you see a difference if I gave you 500Mbps vs. 100Mbps to your home?  Probably not for most people, as most content is ready for this type of digestion.  Yes, over time, the bandwidth per user will go up, however, maybe it's time for new metrics as well, like performance to Netflix or Facebook or Google Maps or YouTube.  Less latency and lost packets for bigger TCP window sizes means better performance not just raw pipe size.  Or maybe it's time for the applications that we run to get an upgrade as well.  Streaming Holodeck anyone?
albreznick 11/4/2013 | 9:06:22 PM
Re: Seriously.... laying up for 2014 Good point again, Ping. And even if VDSL2 is not distance-sensiitive, it sounds like the cable guys will still have the advantage on speed once they deploy DOCSIS 3.1. So i think it's still Advantage Cable. Now I want to see what the fiber folks have in store. 10 Gig EPON?   
sam masud 11/4/2013 | 1:00:12 PM
Re: Seriously.... laying up for 2014 But won't the speed of VDSL2 be distance sensitive? I would think that might continue to give the cable guys an advantage.
albreznick 10/31/2013 | 8:34:34 PM
Re: DOCSIS 3.1 I think Mr. Powell is laying low on the subject now. But, as was suggested at the SCTE last week, he probably wouldn't mind it being named after him. Not that he has an ego or anything.  
albreznick 10/31/2013 | 8:32:55 PM
Re: Seriously.... laying up for 2014 As well they should. DOCSIS 3.0 has made a world of difference for cable operators. It'll be interesting to see if D3.1 does the same in a year or two. One big question is how much will the cable cos charge for the blazing speeds they'll be able to deliver. Will they make it affordable or just use it as a marketing tease to lure  folks in?  
[email protected] 10/31/2013 | 6:00:02 PM
Re: Seriously.... laying up for 2014 Up to 100Mbit/s over existing copper connections, which is enough currently to meet most needs.... I know it is 'up to' but we are talking a significant hike over non-vectored lines.

It'll be interesting to see where vectored lines are commercially deployed first - I imagine it will be in markets where cable is particularly strong. I think the telcos felt the heat of Docsis 3.0...
albreznick 10/31/2013 | 4:04:08 PM
Re: Seriously.... laying up for 2014 Interesting, Ray. What kinds of speeds will bring DSL vectoring bring to telcos? As fast as D3.1?
[email protected] 10/31/2013 | 3:55:12 PM
Seriously.... laying up for 2014 Joshing aside.... this lays up a very interesting broadband battle for 2014 -- Docsis evolution vs DSL evolution, because VDSL2 vectoring is about to hit the high street and it will be cable's turn to react.
[email protected] 10/31/2013 | 3:51:12 PM
Re: DOCSIS 3.1 Let's call it Brian.
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