Comcast widens DOCSIS 3.0 footprint

Thu, 02/05/2009 - 7:25am
Mike Robuck

TORONTO – After meeting its stated goal of having DOCSIS 3.0 enabled in 20 percent of its footprint by the end of last year, Comcast now has the technology in 35 percent of its cable modem termination systems (CMTSs).

Comcast’s Chris Bastian, senior director of network architecture, provided the update during yesterday’s SCTE Canadian Summit in Toronto. Bastian, speaking during the final day of the conference in the “DOCSIS 3.0: Cable’s Competitive Edge” session, said that, on average, Comcast is adding 100 DOCSIS 3.0-enabled CMTSs per month, although he didn’t say if there were any additional markets added to the previous deployments in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Seattle and other cities in Washington, Portland, Ore., Chicago, Atlanta, Fort Wayne, Ind. and Baltimore.

Comcast’s top download speed is currently 50 Mbps, with the upstream at 10 Mbps, but Bastian said faster speeds are on the way.

“We’re studying how customers use these higher speeds,” he said. “That’s the crystal ball right now. Continuing through this year and into next year, we’re going to be offering greater speeds and continue to work closely with our business unit to see what’s next after 50/10. Part of that will be customer demand, and the other part will be keeping pace, or outpacing, our competition.”

Comcast is gearing up for other DOCSIS 3.0 deployments by upgrading to 64 QAM on the upstream while it waits for its CMTS vendors to reach CableLabs’ “silver” level of certification that supports upstream channel bonding. Rogers Cable Communication’s Wayne Allison, director of IP services technology, said his company also wants upstream channel bonding as soon as possible.

Other DOCSIS 3.0 features on Bastian’s list included: multicast, which Comcast currently has on its backbone and regional area networks but wants to test at the CMTS level; AES encryption for enhanced security, which he said business customers want as part of their service-level agreements (SLAs); and T-1 backhaul.

“Those are the big four of the next wave of DOCSIS features,” Bastian said.

Allison said that Rogers is currently conducting field trials with DOCSIS 3.0 and expects to have it deployed sometime this year. Aside from the increased speeds and better efficiencies, Allison said Rogers also likes the Layer 2 and Layer 2 VPNs that DOCSIS 3.0 affords, and the addition of IPv6 addresses.

Allison said some of the major challenges of rolling out DOCSIS 3.0 included wiring the headends, whether the CMTSs are modular or integrated, and upgrading the CMTSs.

Like most cable operators that are using DOCSIS 3.0, Allison said Rogers would first deploy it in areas where it faces stiff competition. He also said DOCSIS 3.0 channel bonding allows cable operators to offer business services without building out fiber, as well as the multicast feature for businesses.

With both Texas Instruments and Broadcom announcing the development of eight downstream, four upstream chipsets, Hans Plug, senior director of product line management for Arris, said speeds will reach 300 Mbps by 2016.

“We’re looking to get our hands on those devices as soon as possible,” Bastian said in reply to a question about when the new silicon chipsets would be available. “I think we’ll have beta devices in the second or third quarter, possibly.”

Craig Chamberlain, CableLabs’ vice president of systems evaluation, said CableLabs has eight certification waves this year for DOCSIS 3.0 and other technologies. After speaking to the CMTS vendors, Chamberlain said that “no one is scaling back for certification of devices” this year, which means Bastian and Allison may get their wish for silver certification by vendors other than Casa Systems, which received full certification last year.

More Broadband Direct 02/05/09:
•  Comcast widens DOCSIS 3.0 footprint
•  Four months to get DTV transition right
•  Time Warner Cable to expand trial of Internet caps
•  McSlarrow, Scott: Infrastructure grants should go to unserved areas
•  Qwest launches storage backup service
•  Broadband Briefs for 02/05/09




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