Bridging the DOCSIS 3.1 Gap

Is DOCSIS 3.1 really the answer to the cable industry's prayers?

Maybe not, based on what some smaller and independent cable operators have been saying lately. Speaking at two separate industry conferences over the past few weeks, several independent operators voiced concerns that the new, multi-gigabit-enabling spec from CableLabs won't make economic or technical sense for them to deploy. Instead of making potentially costly network and equipment upgrades for D3.1, they are looking at squeezing more juice out of the older DOCSIS 3.0 standard, putting down more fiber overlays for passive optical network (PON) service or both. (See Why D3.1 Isn't on Every Cableco Agenda and Smaller MSOs Prep for DOCSIS 3.1 & PON .)

Further, even CableLabs seems to have concluded that DOCSIS 3.1 may not be hearty enough to fend off the fiber barbarians at the gate for long. So the cable R&D group has already begun exploring a fully symmetrical, multi-gigabit version of the new spec. Dubbed "Full Duplex DOCSIS 3.1," this possible new broadband standard would enable cable operators to deliver both downstream and upstream speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s over cable's 1GHz hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) networks, with the potential for even higher speeds if the RF spectrum above 1GHz is utilized. That would amount to a huge upstream speed boost over DOCSIS 3.1, which can support downstream speeds as high as 10 Gbit/s but upstream data rates only as high as 2 Gbit/s. (See CableLabs Makes Symmetrical Multi-Gig Push .)

Nevertheless, a number of large, midsized and even smaller MSOs have already embraced DOCSIS 3.1 and are moving forward with field trials and deployments of the new spec. As we recently reported, for instance, Comcast is now rolling out the spec to support its Gigabit Pro service in two US markets, with plans to expand D3.1 to at least three more cities later this year. So clearly there are plenty of cable folks who view D3.1 as the industry's salvation. (See Comcast Reveals First D3.1 Gigabit Cities.)

This dichotomy of views will be one of the many critical issues tackled in Denver this Thursday when we convene our ninth annual Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference. The one-day conference, which has become the largest independent cable tech event in North America, will delve into the prospects for DOCSIS 3.1, Full Duplex DOCSIS, Distributed Access Architecture, virtualization, home networking, cloud-based video services, PON and other key cable next-gen initiatives in a series of provocative panel discussions and debates at the Cable Center.

Want to learn more about DOCSIS 3.1, PON and other new cable technologies? Then sign up now for Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies, taking place at the Cable Center in Denver on Thursday, March 10.

Besides all the panel discussions and debates, one of the expected show highlights will be a keynote address by Chris Bastian, the new SVP & CTO of Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) . In his morning keynote, Bastian will run through the biggest trends he's seeing in the communications space right now and then take on questions.

Another show highlight should be the early afternoon keynote by Jeff Finkelstein, executive director of network strategy for Cox Communications Inc. , and another leading cable technologist. In his talk, Finkelstein will spell out the access network options for cable operators as they look beyond DOCSIS 3.1 and even the futuresque Full Duplex DOCSIS.

But that's still far from all. The packed Thursday agenda will also include a fireside chat about the home networking bottleneck with Charles Cerino, the new president of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) , and another keynote talk by Gary Sockrider, principal security technologist for the Arbor Networks, Security Division of NetScout Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: NTCT), the conference's super platinum sponsor.

There will even be several choices for breakfast. Besides the usual breakfast spread for schmoozing in the Cable Center atrium, the conference will offer two special breakfast sessions -- a panel on "building your brand" hosted by our new Women in Comms non-profit group in the main auditorium and a workshop on new tech tools for business services sponsored by Accedian up stairs from the main hall.

Plus, the weather promises to cooperate with sunny skies and temps in the mid-to-high 60s in Denver on Thursday. So how you can resist this Rocky Mountain high? Sign up now for Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies on March 10. We'll look for you there.

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

KBode 3/8/2016 | 8:00:05 PM
Re: Answer to the cable industry's prayers? I remember a Comcast exex stating that DOCSIS 3.0 could be deployed "on couch change." Very curious to see the costs of DOC 3.1.
GlobalPu34221 3/8/2016 | 4:51:25 PM
Answer to the cable industry's prayers? I don't think it's fair to hold any technology up to being the answer to an entire industry's prayers. DOCSIS 3.1, like any leading-edge technology, is today a better cost-benefit fit for larger operators; over time it will gain economies that will make it more accessible to smaller players; and over that same time other technologies will emerge to provide players more options, including FD D3.1.
KBode 3/7/2016 | 4:13:00 PM
Telcos... You almost feel bad for some of these second-tier telcos that lack the resources or willpower to go full fiber when their DSL offerings are already notably behind cable in the speed race. Not sure how many of them hope to seriously compete with 50% of their network struggling to devlier 6 Mbps in 2016,
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