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Cable/Video

DOCSIS 3.1 Takes Hold in Europe

What a difference a year makes. Last fall, Europe's major cable operators were still sizing up their plans to deploy DOCSIS 3.1 in a big way. This year, those plans have morphed into major deployments as cable operators gear up for 1-Gig broadband and begin to move ahead with other next-gen network projects.

"DOCSIS 3.1 was still on the horizon in 2018, at least among the bigger operators in Europe," said Alan Breznick, Light Reading's Cable/Video Practice Leader. Today, with Liberty Global and Vodafone rolling it out in bulk, "DOCSIS 3.1 has become a reality in Europe."

Cable's gigabit moves in the region alongside plans to migrate to distributed access architectures, virtualize key functions of the access network and shore up their smart home strategies will be among the big topics at Light Reading's second annual Cable Next-Gen Europe conference, set for tomorrow in Berlin, Germany. That conference is part of Cable Congress 2019, the two-day, Informa-run event that gets under way this morning.

Offering a prime example of how DOCSIS 3.1 is taking hold in Europe will be event keynoter Gerhard Mack, CTO of Vodafone Germany. After launching D3.1 in several Bavarian cities last year, Mack will discuss the company's ambitious plan to bring the technology to 13 million homes throughout Germany by the end of 2020 and offer some important early lessons from the field.

While the need to stave off telco competition and to stay ahead of the bandwidth curve are factoring into the early deployments of DOCSIS 3.1 in Europe, it's also becoming a central component to new IP-delivered video and pay-TV services, Breznick said.

This year's event will also put an emphasis on a new distributed access architecture (DAA) that pushes key electronics and functions toward the edge of the access network and helps pave the way toward future network virtualization efforts.

"Europe, in some ways, is ahead of North America with DAA," Breznick said, referencing initiatives underway at Eltrona (Luxembourg), Altibox, Stofa and TDC (Denmark), Ono (Spain), Com Hem (Sweden) and Telia (Finland).

In addition, Cable Next-Gen Europe will take a closer look at the competitive and complementary effects of 5G, which has begun to make its way into parts of the UK, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. While 5G could present a potential home broadband rival to cable, it also represents an opportunity for the industry as mobile operators seek out cable's help for 5G network backhaul.

And any discussion about 5G tends to lend itself to cable's "10G" initiative, which envisions a day when MSOs will upgrade their networks to deliver symmetrical 10Gbit/s services and new low-latency capabilities.

With respect to the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network, 10G also has links to DOCSIS 4.0, a new set of specifications underway at CableLabs. Although the specs are still being written, the plan is to have D4.0 support two future-facing approaches -- Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX), which enables both upstream and downstream traffic to run on the same block of spectrum; and Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD), which aims to raise the spectrum ceiling to 1.8GHz (with an eye toward 3GHz) and continue to keep the upstream and downstream spectrum separate.

While Comcast is considered a big champion of FDX, most other MSOs, including several in Europe, appear to be leaning toward ESD as their next-future step, Breznick points out. But the ongoing debate over the pros and cons of each approach will be on full display here this week.

Other topics to be explored at Cable Next-Gen Europe include the evolving role of the cable operator in the smart home, how cable's technology needs and requirements differ on each side of the pond, and how -- as explained by Ben King, a top exec at DAZN -- operators can play a more important part in the OTT delivery of live sporting events.

Light Reading will have coverage from Cable Congress and Cable Next-Gen Europe throughout the week.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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