Cable Next Gen Europe, a conference on cable-related technology, took place as a “digital symposium” this week, and among topics discussed was the next standard for cable data transfer, DOCSIS 4.0. A panel was held at the digital conference called DOCSIS: Hitting the Outer Limits, which included representatives of Cable Labs, VodafoneZiggo, and Cox Communications, among others.
DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. According to a story published by Light Reading, “operators are already thinking about how they can prepare the network” for DOCSIS 4.0.
The specs for DOCSIS 4.0 were released in March; DOCSIS 3.1 was introduced in 2013, but has been updated multiple times since. Per Multichannel News, the current infrastructure in the U.S. has suffered some strain during the coronavirus pandemic.
“DOCSIS 4.0 technology supports up to 10 Gbps speeds downstream capacity and up to 6 Gbps upstream capacity, easily allowing for multi-gigabit symmetric services over HFC networks,” according to the Cable Labs website. “As future applications are developed that benefit from higher upstream speeds, such as interactive video conferencing, remote learning and health care applications, IoT and virtual reality, the ability to offer symmetric speeds is significant.”
Those numbers are faster than those currently offered by Verizon Fios, although it seems clear that full deployment of the new standard is quite a ways away.
Cox Communications, per the report, will finish the first tests on new 1.8GHz passives “fairly soon,” while it expects to deploy DOCSIS 4.0-compatible active devices in the summer or fall of next year. It’s not known where other U.S. cable companies stand on their specific deployment plans, although Comcast recently wrote a letter to customers, per Stop the Cap, in which it stated “Comcast is currently preparing its network for full duplex DOCSIS 4.0 service.”
There is also a split over different technologies for DOCSIS 4.0: Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX)—which is favored by Comcast—and Extended Spectrum DOCSIS. FDX, per Multichannel News, would “combine downstream and upstream signals on a single frequency,” while Extended Spectrum keeps them separate. Smaller cable companies aren’t equipped to handle Full Duplex.
“We do have a good runway with DOCSIS 3.1, but this stuff takes time to deploy,” Jeff Finkelstein, executive director, advanced technologies, said on the panel, per Light Reading. “The sooner we can stage those [devices] and get them into our planning cycle and into our supply chain, the easier it becomes on the backend.”
Hanno Narjus, also on the panel, predicted that there will be more momentum and sense of urgency about the upgrade in the U.S. than in Europe.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.