Clock Starts on DOCSIS 3.1

DOCSIS 3.1 jumped from concept to full-blown specification in record time in fall 2013, but in many ways, the race for D3.1 has only just begun.

With the announcement this week that CableLabs is now accepting submissions for D3.1 product certification, the cable industry is poised for rapid acceleration toward DOCSIS 3.1 deployment. Heading into 2016, commercial-ready products will start to displace demonstrations of pre-certification gear, and field tests from DOCSIS 3.1 frontrunner Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) will move into early commercial rollouts.

The vendor contenders are well known. Among them, both Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM) have announced their first D3.1 chip platforms, and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) showed off a pre-production D3.1 chipset at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo last fall. (See STMicro Debuts D3.1 Chip for Multi-Gig Speeds and Arris Preps First Live DOCSIS 3.1 Demo.)

Broadcom has also introduced a D3.1 set-top reference design, and both Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Compal Electronics Inc. are cited as vendor partners for Comcast's upcoming gigabit gateway device. (See Broadcom Claims First D3.1 Set-Top Design.)

Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH) is another player in the D3.1 field. The company, which is in in the process of acquiring Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) 's customer premises equipment business, has already participated in at least one interop event with its first DOCSIS 3.1 modem, the MediaAccess TC4400.

On the headend side, Arris has demonstrated how its existing E6000 converged router can support DOCSIS 3.1 in the downstream with only a software update, and Cisco launched its long-awaited cBR-8 Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) with support for DOCSIS 3.1 in May. Other CCAP vendors working the DOCSIS 3.1 front include Casa Systems Inc. , Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (See Cisco Rolls Out New CCAP Chassis.)

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Past history suggests new CPE will hit the market before headend devices are upgraded for D3.1. However, simultaneous development and testing of both modems and CCAP products leads to the conclusion that the gap between deployments of the two different equipment types will be much smaller than in the past.

Comcast, meanwhile, has been testing DOCSIS 3.1 live in the field since last March, with plans to go into mass deployment next year. Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) and Videotron Ltd. are on a similar track, and Cox Communications Inc. has said it will likely go into full commercial rollout in 2017. (See Comcast Puts DOCSIS 3.1 Live in the Field and Liberty Global Preps for DOCSIS 3.1.)

The migration to DOCSIS 3.1 is critical because it will allow cable companies to increase Internet speeds and better compete in the gigabit marketing wars. However, it's equally important because of the increased efficiency and improved quality of experience it will enable. Now that certified D3.1 products are on their way, the race to deployment can begin.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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