Docsis 3.1 to Be Smarter, Faster & Cheaper

ORLANDO -- CTAM Summit -- The next version of cable's Docsis broadband platform will be backwards-compatible with prior versions and will look to support "multi-gigabit speeds," Phil McKinney, the new president and CEO of CableLabs , said here at a session dedicated to cable technologies.

Several of cable's top engineers will take the wraps off Docsis 3.1 Thursday during a special session at the Cable-Tec Expo , but Tuesday morning's session at the annual Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) conference provided a bit of a sneak peek. (See Docsis 3.1 to Be Revealed at Cable-Tec Expo.)

McKinney said CableLabs and its members and vendor partners started to work on Docsis 3.1 in earnest about 60 days ago. He didn't go into all of the technical details, but said the aim is to help get Docsis to achieve speeds well above 1 Gbit/s. Vendors have openly discussed the idea of getting the next generation of Docsis to pursue capacities of 10 Gbit/s in the downstream and 2 Gbit/s in the upstream. Several cable operators are using Docsis 3.0 today to offer broadband services that max out at about 100Mbit/s in the downstream.

Establishing backwards-compatibility is important, McKinney said, because it'll ensure that MSOs won't be faced with forklift upgrades as they move to Docsis 3.1.

But Docsis 3.1 won't be all about speed. The specs will also focus on the quality of cable's pipe, reduced latency and other smarts designed to help enable a new set of broadband-based services. Cable's interest in offering 4K HD services, which offer four times the resolution of today's HD, was an example that was brought up several times during the session. (See Photos: Comcast/NBCU Ultra-HD Demo .)

The cable industry also hopes to shorten the process of creating the specs and having them turn into deployable products. An average generation of Docsis has typically taken three to four years. "We can no longer do that," McKinney said, but didn't offer a guess on the anticipated cycle for 3.1. "We have to deliver higher and higher performance."

While it could happen faster than, say, the transition from Docsis 2.0 to 3.0, it also won't happen overnight. Docsis 3.1 will require new silicon, noted John Schanz, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s EVP of national engineering and tech ops, and chief network officer.

And 3.1 is also about the almighty dollar as broadband usage continues to climb. Getting costs down "is a key part of Docsis 3.1," said Cox Communications Inc. EVP and CTO Kevin Hart.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:19:03 PM
re: Docsis 3.1 to Be Smarter, Faster & Cheaper

Smarter, faster, cheaper... would they bother doing it otherwise?  :)

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:19:01 PM
re: Docsis 3.1 to Be Smarter, Faster & Cheaper

Right: dumber, slower and pricier would not fly ;)

But interesting that you ask... more on this in a story coming up, but Broadcom did share a view that it would be prohibitively expensive to make a D3.1 modem that does more than 1gbit/s, at least early on. One idea they brought up is having a first-generation modem support one of the new super-wide 200MHz channels being considered for 3.1, and then develop new models that could bond multiple 200MHz channels as processing and costs improve... and consumers actually need access to multi-gigabit capacities. So seems like the smarter, faster points are among the near-term targets, but cheaper is a bit further out on the horizon.

And I'm getting some deja vu out of this...it's almost a replay of Docsis 1.0 to Docsis 3.0 in a sense.   1.0 and 2.0 utilize single 6MHz channels, while Docsis 3.0 bonds together multiple 6MHz channels.  JB

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