CableLabs issues DOCSIS 3.0 specs, to test pre-3.0 gear

Thu, 08/31/2006 - 8:00pm

CableLabs has issued the long-awaited specifications for DOCSIS 3.0, the basis of a new platform that calls for the bonding of a minimum of four channels and shared data rates of 160 Mbps downstream and 120 Mbps upstream.

Potential speeds can surge much higher if operators opt to bond even more channels. Generally speaking, each 6 MHz channel set aside for data can support an additional 40 Mbps down and 30 Mbps up.

The new specs will also support a test plan for "partial feature compliance" to DOCSIS 3.0. That option, initially given the internal designation of DOCSIS 2.0b, will be available for DOCSIS 1.1 or 2.0 cable modem equipment and cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) that support downstream channel bonding. This test option also is designed to ensure that the equipment is compatible with forthcoming DOCSIS 3.0 equipment.

By not assigning an "official" name to these tests, it should also suppress fears that vendors would focus their energy on pre-3.0 implementations and, therefore, possibly slow down the DOCSIS 3.0 effort.

Some cable operators, particularly those in Asia, are deploying pre-DOCSIS 3.0 technologies on a limited basis to compete on speeds offered by telcos that are leveraging fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) or advanced DSL systems. In the U.S., cable operators are also facing pockets of FTTP competition, but there remains some debate as to whether DOCSIS 2.0 is enough for now, or if they should enlist downstream channel bonding techniques before DOCSIS 3.0 becomes commercially available.

In addition to describing upstream and downstream channel bonding, DOCSIS 3.0 also incorporates IPv6, a next-gen addressing system that will become a requirement as the number of available IPv4 addresses continues to dwindle and the number of IP-based devices hanging off of broadband networks continues to proliferate.

CableLabs will begin to conduct interops, certifications and qualification testing against DOCSIS 3.0 products "whenever suppliers are ready, as is our normal position," said CableLabs VP of Broadband Access Michelle Kuska, in a statement.

CableLabs has already made some headway with the first item on that list: interoperability.

The Louisville, Colo.-based R&D house noted that it conducted a DOCSIS 3.0 interop event the week of July 17 with CMTSs, test equipment, and modems and other consumer premises equipment from vendors such as ARRIS, BigBand Networks, Broadcom Corp., Casa Systems, Conexant Systems, Filtronic Signal Solutions, NETGEAR Inc., and Cisco Systems and two of its divisions–Scientific Atlanta and Linksys.

The event successfully demonstrated downstream channel bonding, and included some "limited" IPv6 testing, CableLabs said.



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