Welcome to Gigabites, DOCSIS 3.1 edition. Today, early adopters share some early lessons from D3.1-powered gigabit deployments, US Ignite adds four new cities to its Gigabit Communities roster, Altice USA continues rolling out gigabit broadband in Suddenlink's footprint and more.
DOCSIS 3.1 isn't exactly spreading like wildfire yet, but it is officially in commercial deployment now, and additional field trials have proven that the technology works in a variety of plant environments for serving up gigabit speeds.
Jorge Salinger, vice president of access architecture for Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), shed some light on his company's early D3.1 rollouts in a paper presented at this week's SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia. According to Salinger, Comcast has "hundreds of customers" using D3.1-powered gigabit services in Nashville, Atlanta and Chicago so far. Salinger emphasized the importance of spectrum allocation, equipment configuration testing and technician training for any operator considering a DOCSIS 3.1 future.
For Comcast's part, Salinger pointed out that the company is using spectrum for D3.1 that it reclaimed from its migration to digital video from analog years ago. He added that Comcast is in the process of moving all of its HD video delivery to MPEG-4, which will free up further capacity for the rollout of D3.1-enabled gigabit services.
So far, Comcast is only deploying DOCSIS 3.1 in its downstream channels. But the modems it's putting in customer homes support D3.1 in the upstream as well, giving Comcast the ability to switch on that functionality for higher upstream speeds when ready.
One pleasant surprise Comcast discovered in its early work with DOCSIS 3.1 is that existing D3.0 modems can be used to monitor D3.1 signals. The legacy modems certainly weren't built with that function in mind, but they're nonetheless able to show how D3.1 signals are propagating through the network even if they can't interpret what those signals mean. This is useful for helping operators figure out how to configure their D3.1 networks for optimal performance.
Speaking alongside Salinger, Jason Miller, technical marketing engineer at Midcontinent Communications (Midco) , was also able to tout successes in D3.1 testing. Midco has run several D3.1 field trials, beginning with a test in Fargo, North Dakota where the company was already operating on a 1GHz plant. In a technical paper submitted to the SCTE, Miller goes into further detail on how different QAM modulation profiles impact network performance, and where operators should be aware of differences in error reporting with DOCSIS 3.1 equipment compared to traditional DOCSIS 3.0 modems.
Miller also cautioned at the Cable-Tec Expo event that the availability of D3.1 modems for field trials is still extremely limited. All told, he estimated that Midco had fewer than 20 of the next-generation modems in lab tests and field trials across Fargo and Sioux Falls, S.D. (See Gigabites: Google's Back on the Pole.)
Outside of DOCSIS 3.1 land, US Ignite had big news early in the week when it announced the addition of four new cities to its Smart Gigabit Communities Program. Albuquerque, New Mexico, Salisbury, North Carolina and Washington, DC are joining US Ignite's initial list of 15 Gigabit Communities, and, in an international first, the city of Adelaide is also connecting with the program from across the world in Australia. All of the US Ignite Communities are tasked with developing two gigabit-powered applications. These applications will be tested and shared across the US Ignite test bed of participating cities.
Altice USA is making good on its commitment to continue deploying gigabit services in the US after the French operator acquired Suddenlink last year. This week, the company announced that it's now delivering a gigabit speed tier at no extra charge in DeRidder, La. DeRidder joins several other Altice/Suddenlink-powered gigabit cities in the area, including nearby Lake Charles, Sulphur and Bossier City. Altice is relying on DOCSIS 3.0 technology for its gigabit services. (See US Ignite Sets Stage for Smart Cities.)
Re: Terrible for telcos Agreed. And the big cablecos are aggressively pushing fiber deeper into their networks to support these higher speeds. The fiber push isn't always visible because it doesn't come with a service launch (unlike with AT&T where every fiber pull leads to a GigaPower press release), but that doesn't mean it's not happening.
Terrible for telcos Telcos are already on their heels with cable adding 99% of net subscriber additions each quarter. Most of these users fled because telcos aren't providing next-gen speeds, and this is only going to widen that gap.