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Cisco Make Progress on 10Gbps Uploads for Cable Broadband Networks

Thursday, August 11th, 2016 (10:08 am) - Score 1,375
Cable DOCSIS 3 from Virgin Media

The dream of Full Duplex DOCSIS 3.1 technology, which could in the next few years’ enable Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) cable networks (e.g. Virgin Media) to deliver symmetrical broadband speeds of 10Gbps (Gigabits per second), has moved a step closer thanks to Cisco’s new silicon reference design.

At present the existing Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS 3.0 / EuroDOCSIS) standard for HFC cable networks can deliver download speeds of several hundred Megabits per second to residential consumers, although upload speeds are often significantly slower (e.g. Virgin’s current top consumer speed is 300Mbps and its uploads are only 20Mbps).

The forthcoming upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 technology, which is expected to surface over the next year or two, could in theory deliver peak network speeds of 10Gbps download and 1Gbps upload. However the holy grail of HFC is to achieve a Full Duplex symmetrical transmission of 10Gbps (i.e. the same performance for both uploads and downloads).

So far the progress has been good. Earlier this year CableLabs proposed a “viable” model for delivering such performance (here) and a few months later Nokia claimed a “world first” by demonstrating a prototype of their new XG-CABLE technology that could produce 10Gbps in both directions (here). Mind you the proposed point-to-point network and limited distance (i.e. the demo worked at under 200 metres from a distribution point) could be issues, at least in terms of making the upgrade more expensive.

This week saw Cisco add to the fun by unveiling a new silicon reference design for Full Duplex DOCSIS technology, which they say would enable cable operators to “prioritize their capital investments to deliver new services such as faster Internet [and without needing to replace] the existing HFC plant with Fibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP).”

John Chapman, Cisco’s CTO of Cable Access Business, said:

“By making this royalty-free design available to the industry, we can help our cable customers evolve to more rapidly deploy virtualized, fiber-deep, and all-IP infrastructures. We hope to accelerate the transformation of the cable industry to deliver multi-gigabit speeds and new high bandwidth services and products, and in the near future, customers can begin to enjoy the benefits of Full Duplex DOCSIS technology.”

Apparently the new design has been under development for two years by a team of more than 20 Cisco engineers. During that time the team were able to develop a validated reference design for a digital echo canceller that maximizes the use of HFC capacity (i.e. they defined a multi-slice scalable echo canceller (EC) for the Full Duplex DOCSIS specification that seamlessly integrates with the Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) architecture). Nokia did something similar in their demo.

The technology is scalable for a return path from 200MHz (1.7 Gbps) to 1.2GHz (10 Gbps) and is being demonstrated at the CableLabs Summer Conference in Keystone, Colorado (USA). Further enhancements, such as Fast data – Input/Output (FD.io) and OpenRPD, are due to follow. However a recent roadmap from Arris, which makes a lot of DOCSIS hardware and routers, suggests that the first commercial kit probably won’t be ready until 2018/19.

cable_broadband_technology_roadmap_arris

Of course all this talk about Full Duplex performance is good, but we’ve yet to even see a clear timetable for the introduction of DOCSIS 3.1 into the UK network. Liberty Global (Virgin Media’s parent) initially mooted a 2016/17 introduction for its European operators, but so far there’s been no sign of any customer trials and nobody seems willing to talk about their plans.

Virgin Media are currently laser focused on committing their resources to the Project Lightning network expansion, which is due to complete in 2019 and by then it should have boosted their coverage to 60-65% of the UK (up from around 50% now). A lot of that roll-out also includes DOCSIS 3.1 supporting infrastructure, as well as around 1 million FTTP premises.

On top of that Virgin still have some capacity problems with delivering the full speed to those on their fastest packages at peak times, as demonstrated by their own speedtest data for July 2016. Mind you it’s not uncommon for ISPs to suffer slower speeds during busy peak periods, but they might wish to improve this before offering something even faster.

virgin_media_july_2016_speeds

In any case we probably won’t be talking about Full Duplex performance on Virgin Media’s network for a very long time and what homes need Gigabit uploads today? Ordinary DOCSIS 3.1 should be fine for a long time to come.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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20 Responses
  1. Avatar Chris P

    Yet another case for not delivering Fibre.
    Fibre IS NOT always the answer for delivering faster broadband services.
    Copper is cheaper and much easier to adapt to new technologies as its termination presentation is much simpler to adapt. Fibre requires much more specialist kit to terminate and repair. A home owner can change the presentation end of a copper termination, not so with fibre.

    • Avatar wirelesspacman

      Copper is cheaper? Only really if it is already in the ground, otherwise fibre will most likely be cheaper to deploy.

      Why would you wish to “adapt” the termination presentation of fibre?

      Also, a home owner really should be playing around with the termination of an incoming BT (or whoever) phone line.

    • Avatar Ken

      Sorry Chris P but COPPER IS NOT “CHEAPER TO DEPLY”, Far more expensive! About 9times that over 5 years. Modern 2 and 4 pair drop wires Opereaxh supply has a maximum life expectancy of 5-10 years due to degradation.a drop wire costs a bit of money to replace because you need 2-3engieers.you times that by 22 on the pole DP side for other customers and barn your nearly 6k in debt. £3k for material….
      Copper once is in the ground cannot be messed with due to expansion issues. Fibre optics on another hand can be sleeved around drop wires, UGW’S and others one fibre node and splitter cab supply over 200 connections! And it’s 1/6 times smaller with fibre optics you have to be trained to tamper with the sealed units so no tom dick or Harry can mess around with bundles of wiring. Copper terminations last 5years…. fibre terminations are well sonic heat welded meaning it’s basically the same core un penetrative toward dirt etc. BT makes it seem hard to deploy fibre but if you was having 10s of hundreds of billions of pounds for doing multiple roll outs instead of a 10bn pure fibre light circuit which would you choose?

  2. Avatar Matt

    Coax cable is different then Copper cables though they do both use copper but to say simply copper is better is wrong. Even BT realise that eventually they will have go to FTTP. Where as Virgin have a quite clear upgrade path using coax.

    • Avatar karl

      “Where as Virgin have a quite clear upgrade path using coax.”

      Yep the only real future for copper and a tech which can deliver GBps rather than MBps for the near future at least. Will make G-farse and having to build your house next to some cabinet pod look daft.

    • Avatar Chris P

      @ Matt, I never said copper is better, i wrote Fibre is not always the answer.
      it is much easier to move a signal along a public copper network than fibre as less transceivers are needed to convert from electric to light and back. Every now and then connection presentations change requiring converters. Copper is easy to change, fibre requires specialist kit. case in point is BT’s updated master socket.
      DSL is currently undergoing a transition where ADSL connections are now becoming a burden impeding VDSL evolutions like LR. A similar thing will happen with fibre in the future where the fibre transceiver in the network will be impeded by the old outdated transceiver in some homes where some owners are unwilling to update and the ISP can’t risk cutting some customers off to upgrade others.
      Cable operators have an advantage in that they own all the kit, can move their customers around at will & don’t have other ISP’s constantly pulling them in different directions.

    • Avatar Ken

      Matt copper is copper in the UK now there are BSA UK Buidling and electrical laws that make every company displaying the use of copper in a product to be 99.9%copper only know this because it says it on most copper rolls lol. Openreach drop wire predate system “adsl’ used copper ally Clady terrible stuff” due to the shortage of copper in the 1990-2005….. bt wire is around 0.2mm now the laws have changed its a minimum of 0.5mm PACW

    • Avatar karl

      “Matt copper is copper in the UK now there are BSA UK Buidling and electrical laws that make every company displaying the use of copper in a product to be 99.9%copper only know this because it says it on most copper rolls lol.”

      Huh what so is it 99.9% copper per roll, 99.9% copper per house wiring or 99.9% something else? I do not even see how you can shove that on any cabling considering the plastic coating on it will be more than 0.1% of its make up. let alone any other things inside it such as the plastic spine in cat6+ cabling and earthing straps on external electricals. Did you make this up?

      If you are talking about just the metal (IE the copper) than i doubt any of the for just some basic wires is 99.9% pure, Oxygen free copper cables are typically 99.9+% pure (Stuff like high end audio cables) and they cost a fortune. 24K gold is 99.9% pure and that like any metal including copper requires massive amounts of processing to get to that stage. Copper would be costing a bomb if this were true. Rolls of it would not be only a few quid for hundreds of metres.

  3. Avatar TTT

    Virgin limits upload speeds by choice – DOCSIS 3.0 is quite capable of delivering 200Mbit/s down with 100Mbit/s.
    Trouble with proper fibre is that you cannot send power over it. So while fibre is both cheaper and more long-lived than copper, there is an additional cost associated to supply power to remote nodes.
    As is the case with BT as well, large initial investments with the prospect of a cheap future is not investor-friendly, since many small investments provide more tangible profits, even if it’s more expensive long-term.
    This is why we’re still developing VDSL, whereas Verizon and AT&T seem to have recognised that this is a waste of money…

    • Avatar Ken

      You can send more power over fibre than you can down a 0.5core coax that virgin media uses you clearly have never been in a data center or near fibre optics that light themselves over reflux

    • Avatar karl

      “You can send more power over fibre than you can down a 0.5core coax”

      LOL good luck with that. Higher the voltage the higher the heat, guess which melts first?

    • Avatar Sgt AMYNTAS / ken

      Karl Stop being a Troll. You clearly dont understand fibre optics or Copper. so tell me… what ill just explain…. Light as you know is the Globes Biggest energy source then its water and then air. so you understand you can use a POF receiver and a standard fibre sender together this is what they call a tail free end or no need for a power source at end site. if the sender sends light information in channels they can set Channel for a POF Mhz Freq if you increase the resistor channel freq to 20 watt the tail end can light 6 circuits and still be left with a PTE of 35-50% in theory one POF can light can power 4x its initial power 🙂

    • Avatar karl

      I do however clearly realise you dunno what you are on about.

      “Light as you know is the Globes Biggest energy source”

      Really and how is this used?

      “then its water and then air.”

      Any old air is it, rather than components in its make up?

      “so you understand you can use a POF receiver and a standard fibre sender together this is what they call a tail free end or no need for a power source at end site.”

      Whats the power source at the originating site? A POF typically uses an LED how is that LED powered?

      The rest of your post in no way addresses how you can send more “POWER” (your words not mine) over fibre than you can copper.

      Powering something creates heat, glass will melt before metals, copper is a metal. I can only assume this is a prime example of Science lessons today and not letting kids even near a bunson burner let alone understanding science.

  4. Avatar TTT

    Virgin limits upload speeds by choice – DOCSIS 3.0 is quite capable of delivering 200Mbit/s down with 100Mbit/s.
    Trouble with proper fibre is that you cannot send power over it. So while fibre is both cheaper and more long-lived than copper, there is an additional cost associated to supply power to remote nodes.
    As is the case with BT as well, large initial investments with the prospect of a cheap future is not investor-friendly, since many small investments provide more tangible profits, even if it’s more expensive long-term.
    This is why we’re still developing VDSL, whereas Verizon and AT&T seem to have recognised that this is a waste of money…

    • Avatar Ignition

      Fibre, PON, doesn’t need powered remote nodes…

    • Avatar Ignition

      You may also want to relate to AT&T that such things, higher bandwidth copper, are a waste of money given their ongoing VDSL deployment.

      They have deployed FTTP to a selective, competitive footprint. Where they have no such concerns they have deployed either uVerse VDSL or nothing, leaving people on ADSL 2+.

    • Avatar Chris P

      Fibre is not cheaper than copper. You can use less fibre to transmit more data in a core of a network but to reach millions of end points, its much cheaper using copper for the reasons i’ve already stated, namely terminating in a houshold is cheaper.

  5. Avatar ian

    158 mbits during peak???

    more like 15mbits from 1800 to 2300

    on a 200mb line

    vm are a joke

    • Avatar Ignition

      Sucks to be you but evidently your experience is not typical given the averages.

      Regardless this article discusses the technology and the capacity and investment Virgin Media may put in isn’t really relevant. Symmetrical DOCSIS seems to be a thing now, which is very good, even if it’s not going to happen on Virgin Media or any other cable company’s network any time soon.

  6. Avatar karl

    “Sucks to be you but evidently your experience is not typical given the averages.”

    He changes his name on every virgin story and his ISP every month if you look at his post history and can guess from that who he is. Certainly not MAX(imum) brain power 😉

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