Cable Operators Widely Deploying DOCSIS 3.1

Carl Weinschenk

DOCSIS 3.1, the cable industry’s entry in the “can you top this” rivalry with the telephone and wireless/cellular industries, has moved into the field en masse.

The Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification is the industry’s long-term initiative aimed at incrementally increasing data carriage capabilities over its coaxial cables. Version 3.1’s core promise is to provide 10 Gigabit per second (Gbps) downstream and 1 Gbps upstream capacity. It’s been a big technical lift and has taken the industry several years to begin deploying it in earnest. Bulk launches began last year.

That drive continues with an important bit of news this week. Charter Communications has joined other MSOs on the DOCSIS 3.1 bandwagon. Light Reading says that President and CEO Tom Rutledge said at the Deutsche Bank 2017 Media & Telecom Conference that a request for proposals (RFP) has been released.

Details are sparse; Rutledge did not discuss the vendors or test timing. The story paints Charter as a slowpoke in the race. Other MSOs, including Shaw, Cox Communications, Rogers Communications and Liberty Global, are already testing, have tests on tap this year, or are in commercial deployment of DOCSIS 3.1.


Comcast has been very aggressive. The company recently announced rollouts to Huntsville, Alabama; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama later this year. The company has DOCSIS 3.1 plans for a number of cities, including San Francisco, Kansas City, Missouri; Salt Lake City and Denver. It already offers the standard in Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and Nashville. It will offer the modems in its entire 39-state footprint next year.

It is possible for subscribers to buy the DOCSIS 3.1 modems at retail. Multichannel News reports that Arris’ SB8200 is available from Amazon and through the vendor’s website. The product is approved by use in Comcast and Cox systems. Certification by Charter and other MSOs is pending. The initial modems support both DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1. That enables MSOs to begin building momentum by deploying them in existing networks.

The telecommunications industry has shown great resourcefulness in finding ways to use software and innovative transmission techniques to increase data capabilities of deployed infrastructure. This is true both of the telephone industry’s use of DSL technology to squeeze more life out of its copper cables and the cable industry’s DOCSIS program. Both industries will be challenged by 5G. Though 5G ultimately will be a huge step for mobility, its first iteration will be in fixed scenarios.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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