Cable Industry Moves One Step Closer to DOCSIS 4.0

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3Q 2021 | IN-6245

The development of DOCSIS 4.0 is setting it up to offer many advantages over its predecessor.

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CableLabs Prepares for DOCSIS 4.0 Interoperability Events


CableLabs, as it works to enable the cable industry to provide multi-gigabit symmetric services, announced that it is planning to host DOCSIS 4.0 interoperability events starting from the last quarter of 2021. Kyrio, network equipment testing and software service provider, will be hosting the DOCSIS 4.0 interoperability events on behalf of CableLabs. Although the release date for DOCSIS 4.0 was back in 2020, it's taken a while for products to actually use the standard. In 2022, several brands will incorporate DOSCIS 4.0 into their modems and gateway devices, but the technology will still be niche for a few years. It won't be until the mid 2020's that DOCSIS 4.0 really takes off.

DOCSIS 4.0 Advantages Over DOCSIS 3.1


CableLabs’ plan for interoperability events is the next step towards the deployments of DOCSIS 4.0 infrastructure since it released the DOCSIS 4.0 specification in March 2020. DOCSIS 4.0 supports up to 10 Gbps downlink speed and 6 Gbps uplink while DOCSIS 3.1 supports up to 1.5 Gbps upstream speed. DOCSIS 4.0 is also designed to support availability of symmetric multi-gigabit speed, using full-duplex and extended spectrum technologies in order to fit the bandwidth demand for future use cases.

DOCSIS 4.0 specification introduces a new version of the authentication framework to support stronger security compared to DOCSIS 3.1 technology. DOCSIS 4.0 also features enhanced Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM) techniques which find and fix problems within the network to prevent negative impact on user experience. These additional features of DOCSIS 4.0 will help operators to provide better network capacity, reliability, and security to their broadband services supporting a wide range of high bandwidth, low latency applications. Cable network operators compete with xDSL, FTTH, and fixed wireless access (FWA) in residential broadband space. Since 5G networks are now being rolled out, consumers now have additional option to access fiber-link broadband access; especially when using mmWave, industry players such as Qualcomm, Ericsson and Verizon have demonstrated being able to achieve 5 Gbps speed. Features supported by DOCSIS 4.0 will keep cable operators stay competitive among superfast broadband options.

What Service Providers and Vendors Need to Prepare for DOCSIS 4.0


Broadband operators have always invested to improve performance in terms of speed, latency, security, and reliability. Telecoms which own copper-based networks continue to upgrade their networks to fiber-optic based networks. Cable network operators continue to invest in upgrading their networks to higher cable standards. In North America, almost all of the cable infrastructure is already migrated to DOCSIS 3.1 technology to provide Gigabit speed broadband to end users. In Europe, cable operators are in the process of migrating their networks to DOCSIS 3.1.

Considering the capacity and efficiency cable operators can achieve using DOCSIS 3.1 technology, cable operators are unlikely to migrate to DOCSIS 4.0 any time soon. However, broadband industry has witnessed significant increase in uplink traffic during COVID-19 due to higher use of interactive video and entertainment applications. Increased adoption of applications such as two-way videoconferencing, interactive gaming, and the potential of AR/VR applications for education and healthcare use cases will only strengthen the need of the uplink traffic in future. According to ABI research’s market data, revenue generated from consumers’ VR gaming and video services and software, including cloud VR, is expected to increase at CAGR 75% to surpass US$6.7 billion in 2026. This indicates that there is a future need for cable operators to move to higher capacity networks depending on the characteristics of different markets.

Although DOCSIS 4.0 developments are still in early stage, Comcast completed the lab test of DOCSIS 4.0 full duplex system on chip (SOC) in April 2021. When to migrate DOCSIS 4.0 will mostly depend on the market needs and operator’s strategies. Broadband operators need to explore demand and select optimal network migration tools and strategy. Operators should also explore monetization opportunities to decide when and how to roll out the next generation cable platform. Immersive video platforms using AR/VR for senior care, healthcare, and education purposes are potential services to take advantage of high capacity and low latency supported by DOCSIS 4.0 technology. Higher uplink bandwidth supported by DOCSIS 4.0 networks will also facilitate online gaming programs involving massive number of players. Since broadband service providers have strong relationship with millions of home broadband users, they are well positioned for maintaining services delivered through home networks and connected devices within broadband homes. Partnerships with connected device providers and healthcare, education, and communication service providers enable broadband operators to efficiently monetize their network investments. Collaboration of regulators from telecommunication and relevant service sectors is also critical to promote investment in infrastructure and development of future services. Especially services like home-based healthcare will require clear and efficient regulations to assure quality and positive impact on the users. DOCSIS 4.0 deployments will also create opportunity for next generation Wi-Fi to take maximum advantage of the 10 GB speed broadband capacity. Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E technologies provides full benefit of the home broadband networks at present. Developments of Wi-Fi 7 CPE, which supports wider channel size and more spatial streams compared to currently available Wi-Fi standards, will maximize the benefits of DOCSIS 4.0 connectivity.



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