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Nokia Demo Symmetric 10Gbps Broadband Tech for Cable Operators

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 (8:12 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 821)
full_duplex_docsis31

Nokia Bell Labs claims to have delivered a “world first” by demonstrating a prototype of their new XG-CABLE technology, which can achieve full duplex speeds of 10Gbps upstream and downstream simultaneously on Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) cable operators like Virgin Media in the United Kingdom.

At present the existing Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS3 / EuroDOCSIS) standard for cable networks can deliver download speeds of several hundred Megabits per second, although upload speeds are often significantly slower. For example, Virgin Media’s current top speed via the technology is 300Mbps and its uploads are only 15Mbps (a rise to 30Mbps may be coming).

CableLabs has also developed the new DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which in theory could deliver peak speeds of 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) by boosting the amount of radio spectrum available to it and making better use of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM). But this technology is still fundamentally asymmetric and thus upload speeds remain limited to around 1Gbps.

Since then a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes and in February 2016 CableLabs claimed to have achieved a breakthrough, which they said “proves the viability of full duplex communication” (here). Now Nokia’s new XG-CABLE proof of concept technology has taken this a big step further by demonstrating (lab test) a working symmetric 10Gbps network via a DOCSIS 3.1 compatible network.

Federico Guillén, Nokia’s President of Fixed Networks, said:

“The XG-CABLE proof of concept is a great example of our ongoing effort and commitment to provide the cable industry with the latest innovations and technology needed to effectively address the growing demand for gigabit services.

The [demo shows] that providing 10 Gbps symmetrical services over HFC networks is a real possibility for operators; it is an important achievement that will define the future capabilities and ultra-broadband services cable providers are able to deliver.”

The demo network itself made use of traditional copper coaxial cable, albeit via a point-to-point topology and using 1.2GHz of spectrum. However the key ingredient was Nokia’s new echo cancelling technologies, which helped to iron out much of the usual interference.

The Two XG-CABLE Test Scenarios

* Leveraging a point-to-point 100 metre coaxial drop cable, XG-CABLE was able to deliver 10 Gbps symmetric data speeds with 1.2 Ghz of spectrum.

* Using HFC network topologies that utilize a Fiber-to-the-Last-Amplifier (point-to-multipoint coax drop) approach, XG-CABLE was able to deliver 7.5 Gbps of symmetrical data speeds.

The downside is that such speeds were only achievable over the last 200 meters or less from an operator’s distribution point (e.g. local cabinet), which is the reality when using metal coax cable instead of a pure fibre optic line. Adopting reduced speeds might however be able to reach further into the network and cover more premises.

Mind you most European operators won’t be offering such speeds for a fair few years and will instead increase their DOCSIS 3.1 performance gradually. Likewise consumers won’t actually need Gigabit speeds for a little while, unless the ISP marketing departments decide otherwise and networks allow. Not forgetting that vanilla DOCSIS 3.1 with its 1Gbps upstream is hardly poor.

As it stands Liberty Global, which owns Virgin Media, intends to start rolling out DOCSIS 3.1 by the end of 2016 and it’s nice to know that full duplex upgrades like XG-CABLE are being prepared for when the day comes that a Gigabit of speed is finally the new normal.

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14 Responses
  1. Chris P

    Time for OfCom to mandate a separation of VM and its infrastructure so other ISP’s can benefit from their investments.

    • Rich H

      Why, as far as I know VM haven’t had any public investment, why should they be forced to open up their network? They’ve invested the money they have the right to do as they wish with their network.

    • New_Londoner

      I assume it was a tongue in cheek comment. Mind you, Ofcom is very inconsistent in its definition of significant market power so you never know!

      Ofcom really ought to do something about Sky given its market share of pay TV, especially when we pay the highest prices in Europe.

    • Steve Jones

      @Rich H

      The EU rules on this are about significant market power (SMP), not (primarily) public ownership. Insofar as EU state aid rules impact things, then it does mandate wholesaling. The vast majority of the BT network is privately owned (sold to shareholders following privatisation in 1984). However, LLU was (retrospectively) applied long before BDUK came along, by which time BT had been in private ownership for a couple of decades.

      So regulations can be applied by market regulators wherever there is deemed to be SMP. The mobile phone companies have some regulations applied even though they are all wholly privately owned. In addition, Sky have been required to wholesale some of their media rights where they’ve been deemed to have SMP.

      The reason VM has not been forced to provide wholesale access to their network to date has been because they are not deemed to have SMP and, possibly more importantly from Ofcom’s point of view, they do not want to damage the finances of the only large scale domestic network competitor to OR. Should VM make very considerable inroads into the OR market then this may have to change.

    • GNewton

      @SteveJones:

      “However, LLU was (retrospectively) applied long before BDUK came along, by which time BT had been in private ownership for a couple of decades.”

      Isn’t your reasoning a bit misleading here? Most of the BT last mile copper access network was paid by the taxpayers, before BT got privatised. And not only that, these same taxpayer’s have been paying line rentals, too. Then came the BDUK, again involving taxpayer’s money. Therefore there are good for BT to be regulated, especially also since it has a SMP.

    • MikeW

      You might like to think that BT, in its GPO days, was funded by the taxpayer. However, I thought it was the other way around … The GPO funded its investments and had to generate a surplus into the treasury.

      Nevertheless, no matter who funded it in the first place, the asset was owned by the government, and /sold/ to the shareholders of BT. It moved to private ownership in exchange for a lot of moolah.

      Ofcom currently apply their regulatory house to privately owned assets … so VM is no different.

    • Steve Jones

      @GNewton

      It is utterly and entirely irrelevant who funded the original building (and it was essentially the customers of the GPO and latterly Post Office telecommunications – mostly the government took a slice of money every year to the Treasury). The whole thing was sold to private sector for an amount of money (in real terms) fairly close to what BT is capitalised at now. It was not a gift to the shareholders who, in turn, bought an asset. It thus matters not one jot how it was built, but who owns it.

      Publicly subsidised infrastructure (like the BDUK BB subsidy) is one thing. The government can apply (and, indeed the EU compel them to apply) wholesaling terms. But the imposition of things like LLU and “equivalence” on BT is as a result of the regulators determination of SMP. It does the same thing (to some extent) with Sky and Mobile phone companies.

      I suggest you familiarise with competition law and regulatory regimes (along with a bit of realpolitik).

      If we follow your principle it would appear that any time the government sold an asset you believe there’s some form of state right to treat it differently from other private asset. Untrue, unless those conditions were part of the original terms in the sale.

    • FibreFred

      It’s a common troll. Doesn’t matter who paid for initially it was sold.

      I sold my car but I don’t have any right to still have a go in it whenever I choose just because I paid for it initially.

      Another well thought out argument

  2. DTMark

    I’d say Virgin could be well served by putting in enough fibre as they upgrade their network for it to last for years, and then pouring some concrete down the ductwork after they have finished, such is the environment that the UK presents.

  3. Darren

    Fibre to the DPs BT! Your gonna need it!

    P.S. I do find it unfair that BT has to wholesale and VM doesn’t.

  4. Interesting, but it should be made clear that VM’s network is not FTTLA / n+0. Depending on the architecture n+5 is quite possible, so deeper fibre would be needed to achieve this.

    Obviously it’s also really not required for the foreseeable future. Usage has actually gotten more asymmetrical more recently and until that trend reverses there’s no real business case to go beyond the existing DOCSIS 3.x, combi/MDU HFC architecture.

    This kind of tech might be useful when VM are at the stage where FTTLA is the only option to deliver the needed capacity, but I can’t see them skipping the normal bandwidth and node split upgrades to go straight to it.

    • MikeW

      Care to explain what the “n+0” and “n+5” nomenclature means in this context?

      I *think* I can guess, but I won’t be fully right…

    • Sorry this took me so long.

      n+0 – optical node + 0 subsequent amplifiers. Signal is converted from optical to electrical and all passive network from then on.

    • MikeW

      So the “+5” part means 5 amplifiers? I probably wouldn’t have quite guessed at that.

      With a few more codewords to google from, I found a Cisco diagram that suggested the access network can be quite a choice of branches, with amplifiers to regenerate signal lost by either distance or splits, and a recommendation of no more than 5 amplifiers between the optical node and an end user.

      If “n+0” means no amplifiers, then the “advance” described in this article only become practical if every amplifier gets converted into an optical node, which requires fibre distributed deeper into the network.

      I think…

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