Comcast starts DOCSIS 3.1 field trials

Comcast has begun what is believed to be the first live-traffic field trials of DOCSIS 3.1, the technology cable operators expect will enable them to leverage their existing hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks to support downstream rates of 1 Gbps and beyond.

Comcast has begun what is believed to be the first live-traffic field trials of DOCSIS 3.1, the technology cable operators expect will enable them to leverage their existing hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks to support downstream rates of 1 Gbps and beyond.

As described in a blog written by Comcast Executive Vice President and CTO Tony Werner, the operator deployed the first DOCSIS 3.1 modem of the trial in a home in the Philadelphia area in late November. Werner writes that the test used standard cable connections to demonstrate the ability to deploy DOCSIS 3.1 as simply as deploying a new modem and a software upgrade to the device that serves the test customer's neighborhood.

Comcast plans to continue testing "over the coming months," with an eye toward offering DOCSIS 3.1 enabled gigabit broadband services by the end of this year "in several parts of the country." These trials have already begun in other parts of Pennsylvania, as well as in Northern California and Atlanta.

While some operators have offered gigabit services on HFC via bonded DOCSIS 3.0 channels (see, for example, "Suddenlink offer 1-Gbps broadband via DOCSIS 3.0"), DOCSIS 3.1 is expected to be the main vehicle through which cable operators avoid wholesale adoption of fiber to the home (FTTH) to keep up with the growing demand for gigabit services. In its initial configuration, the technology promises aggregate downstream rates of 10 Gbps and upstream capacity of around 1 Gbps. However, technology suppliers have already begun to experiment with variants that would support greater capacities in both directions.

Comcast launched an FTTH-based 2-Gbps broadband service, called Gigabit Pro, last year (see "Comcast markets 2-Gbps Gigabit Pro in seven states"). Comcast Vice President of Access Architectures Jorge Salinger has said the company plans to offer the service via both FTTH and DOCSIS 3.1 in the future.

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