The next gen of ultrafast cable broadband technology, which is expected to be trialled by Virgin Media in the not too distant future, looks to have moved closer after CableLabs issued its first certifications to five DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem vendors (Askey, Castlenet, Netgear, Technicolor and Ubee Interactive).
At present the existing DOCSIS / EuroDOCSIS 3.0 (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standard still has some mileage left and indeed Virgin Media has already launched top speeds of 200Mbps for homes, with businesses set to benefit from 300Mbps over the same network (here). A 300Mbps package for home users may follow, provided they can find enough capacity to feed it (here).
Meanwhile CableLabs has been busy preparing hardware for the new Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which could deliver peak speeds of 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) by quadrupling the amount of radio spectrum up to 200MHz and making better use of technologies like Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM).
The first hardware has now passed official certification, with more set to follow during early 2016, which means that operators like Virgin Media (Liberty Global) can now start to think seriously about conducting proper customer trials.
Phil McKinney, President and CEO of CableLabs, said:
“Today’s news marks a key milestone for CableLabs in technical leadership and time to market. The DOCSIS 3.1 specifications assure the cable industry’s leadership in the delivery of broadband services. This represents the most rapid development and implementation cycle for a broadband technology development program ever delivered by CableLabs. Development of the initial DOCSIS 3.1 specifications to product certification has occurred in half the time of previous DOCSIS specifications.”
Over the past 14 months, CableLabs claims to have held 14 DOCSIS 3.1 interoperability and dry run testing events that provided manufacturers the opportunity to work together on interoperability, development and specification compliance, which supports some of the recently announced field trials and commercial deployments at other operators.
Meanwhile cable giant Liberty Global, which owns Virgin Media and many other cable providers, has made no secret of their desire to start a commercial roll-out of DOCSIS 3.1 by the end of 2016. But for now we are still waiting to see a concrete implementation plan from Virgin Media.
Cable operators are likely to continue progressively ramping up their speeds over the next few years, which means that 400-600Mbps packages could be on the way to the United Kingdom over the next couple of years and possibly rising to 1Gbps further down the line, which should keep BT’s 300-500Mbps G.fast technology on its toes.
Mind you the big advantage of cable networks is that they can often implement such upgrades to their existing customers in a significantly shorter space of time than the decade or so that BT will require in order to reach “most” UK homes with G.fast.