Teeing Up Docsis 3.0

DENVER -- Docsis 3.0 Strategies -- MSOs of all sizes are planning to test or trial Docsis 3.0 as early as this year, but most aren't yet willing to say where they will take a whack at it first.

Among MSOs, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has been among the most aggressive, stating that it expects to wire up as much as 20 percent of its footprint for the speedier, higher-capacity Docsis 3.0 platform by year's end. Others, including Rogers Communications Inc. (NYSE: RG; Toronto: RCI), Cox Communications Inc. , and Buckeye CableSystem , shed some light on their plans Wednesday, here at the latest Light Reading Live event, Docsis 3.0 Strategies: From Product Development to Deployment.

How quickly MSOs move appears to be largely based on the level of competition they are facing. Rogers, the largest cable MSO in Canada, acknowledges it's not under the same speed pressure as some U.S. operators, because its primary competitor, BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), is still using DSL and has not announced any plans to pull fiber all the way to the home.

And rather than catering to high-end users with supersonic speeds, the MSO believes it's more important to ensure that all customers get a consistent experience now that cable modem services have reached a mature level and massive numbers of subscribers are accessing the network, according to Dermot O'Carroll, Rogers's SVP of network engineering and operations and the event's midday keynoter.

"The reality is there are very few customers who need a 100 Mbit/s service. But if a competitor is delivering it, you have to as well," he said, noting that some telcos are almost forced to do just that in order to justify the investments they've made with fiber-to-the-home.

Rogers believes it can continue using Docsis 2.0 to deliver downstream speeds of 15 Mbit/s to 20 Mbit/s consistently and economically. The economics "drop off" when speed tiers increase above that range using the Docsis system that's currently deployed, O'Carroll said.

Although Rogers doesn’t have a telco breathing down its neck with a 50 Mbit/s service, the operator does have some plans to take advantage of the cost and performance benefits of Docsis 3.0, particularly for the delivery of symmetrical services to businesses.

Rogers, O'Carroll said, expects to start a downstream channel-bonding "network trial" later this year. The MSO hopes to expand that to upstream tests in 2009, with service rollouts coming in 2009 and 2010. "We think that time line is consistent with what our customers are requiring."

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alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:45:17 PM
re: Teeing Up Docsis 3.0 Of course Comcast is going to push for DOCSIS 3.0 CMTS upgrades. A big chunk of their network is still at DOCSIS 1.1 and they still have a ton of fairly old Cisco gear deployed that needs to be forklifted. They've had enough success with residential voice that they really need the enhanced modulation DOCSIS 2.0 added. They run their whole network on publicly routable IP addresses and they're out of IPv4 address space so they want the software load for all the CMTSs, Cable Modems, and MTAs that supports IPv6. Whether you call that DOCSIS 2.0B or DOCSIS 3.0 Bronze. It only requires the old DOCSIS 2.0 silicon.

You probably don't want to run voice using upstream channel bonding and that's the dominant upstream QoS-enable traffic. There may be some small amount of commercial business that needs a bigger upstream pipe where they can't drag a fiber to the CPE so there might be a little true DOCSIS 3.0 on the commercial side. On the downstream, Comcast is in a lot of FIOS markets so they're probably sensitive to market pressures. 2.0B and Bronze give you downstream channel bonding on older silicon without the added expense of a true 3.0 cable modem. I think 95% of the field will stay with 2.0 silicon until Moore's Law happens with the true 3.0 chips and the 2.0 stuff gets end of lifed.

When the cost drops, there are statistical multiplexing advantages to using channel bonding in both directions. 10 years from now, I think it will be ubiquitous. Until the CPE all gets swapped out and all the core and back office is stable running IPv6, I'm not sure how many of the DOCSIS 3.0 features we'll actually see in the field.
Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 3:45:16 PM
re: Teeing Up Docsis 3.0 And speaking of Comcast's plans for 3.0 this year, I received a few comments about that during the event. Seems another big question is whether there will actually be enough equipment available for the MSO to wire up 20 percent of it's footprint. Guess that's partly why they've said they'll do "up to" 20% this year, so that gives them some wiggle room I suppose. Jeff
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