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CableLabs: DOCSIS 3.1 specs good to go

Mon, 10/21/2013 - 1:56pm
Mike Robuck

Last year when CableLabs announced DOCSIS 3.1 it vowed to have the specifications published by the end of this year. Through a Herculean effort by vendors, cable operators and other interested partners, the 3.1 specifications will be published at the end of this month.

CableLabs’ Matt Schmitt, director, DOCSIS, made the announcement in front of more than 200 attendees Monday morning during the “DOCSIS 3.1 engineering pre-conference symposium” in Atlanta.

“We made a fairly bold assertion in October of last year that we would have them substantially complete and publically issued by the end of 2013,” Schmitt said. “This is quite a bit faster than we have ever pulled off before. It’s not a small project to do a new DOCSIS with a new physical layer underneath. It was an industry-wide effort and I tell you what, they’ve been busting their tails."

CableLabs and its host of vendors also met the four objectives that were laid out at last year’s Expo.  The first was making sure that DOCSIS 3.1 could scale to 10 Gbps on the downstream, and up to 1 Gbps on the upstream, while also supporting larger spectrum bands.

The second was lowering the cost per bit while also increasing network efficiency. Overall, DOCSIS 3.1 has 50 percent more data capacity over the same spectrum than its predecessor.

The third goal was making sure that 3.1 was backwards compatible with the previous versions of DOCSIS so that cable operators didn’t have to run two different systems or replace existing equipment.

Finally, the DOCSIS 3.1 specifications had to work on the existing HFC plant while supporting more capacity on the upstream and downstream. When there are market drivers, 3.1 can grow with the MSOs, Schmitt said.

“We believe we achieved each of our high-level objectives,” Schmitt said.

One of the reasons that the cable operator industry was able to pull off the fifth iteration of DOCSIS so quickly was the choice to use existing technologies from other fields.

DOCSIS 3.1 features a new modulation scheme, along with a more sophisticated forward error correction (FEC). DOCSIS 3.1 will rely on orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), used in DSL, LTE, Wi-Fi and MoCA, among other technologies. It will also replace the commonly used Reed-Solomon FEC with far more efficient low-density parity check (LDPC) codes.

Following Schmitt, Terry Cordova, Suddenlink’s CTO and senior vice president, moderated the “MSO plans and perspectives” panel. Now that the specs are almost in hand, Cordova asked the panel when cable operators planned on deploying 3.1.

Cox Communications’ Jeff Finkelstein, executive director of strategic architecture said the deployment schedule would be dictated by the silicon and system vendors.

“As soon as we can get to anything we can expedite it, whether its CPE or headend equipment, we would gladly give up the lab time,” Finkelstein said.

Comcast’s Jorge Salinger, vice president, access architecture, said 3.1 trials would start next year with the hope of having actual 3.1 products available 2015.

“This has been the fasted DOCSIS development ever,” Salinger said. “I think from the develop of the spec, or development of the idea in 2008, to the availability of the product will be about half as long as 2.0. The reason is we all want to develop this product quickly.”

Time Warner Cable’s Howard Pfeffer, senior vice president, broadband group technology, said 3.1 capabilities would emerge on the customer premise side first, but would be pushed along by converged cable access platform (CCAP) developments.

 

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