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A Great DOCSIS 3.1 Achievement: Certification!

January 13, 2016

By Matt Schmitt, Vice President of Lab Services, CableLabs -
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For months, many people have been asking me: “When will DOCSIS 3.1 devices get certified?”

My response has generally been something along the lines of: “When they successfully demonstrate they’re ready based on the test results. The team at CableLabs will do everything we can to facilitate this process, as our goal is to see DOCSIS 3.1 devices in the field as soon as possible.”

As of today, I can now say with a very big smile that CableLabs has officially certified the very first group of DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems, specifically five cable modems from Askey, Castlenet, Netgear, Technicolor and Ubee Interactive. Thanks to the efforts of the entire industry, we have quickly attained this achievement. See our press release.

Why is DOCSIS 3.1 Certification important?

DOCSIS 3.1 technology is critical to the evolution of cable networks by enabling a cost effective means of supporting ever faster speeds and improved performance, leading to new services. It does this through the incorporation of several new technologies that allow the existing cable network to operate more efficiently, and that can scale to use more of the spectrum available on a cable network. And it does this while maintaining backward compatibility with previous DOCSIS devices, which enables cable operators to conduct a smooth migration.

To assist with the rapid development of DOCSIS 3.1 devices, as has been noted in some past blog postings -- DOCSIS 3.1® Update: Get Your Engines Running…. The Engines ARE Running!, DOCSIS® 3.1 Products Are Getting Real!, DOCSIS 3.1 Technology: Spec to Product in One Year -- CableLabs has been holding a series of Interoperability and Dry Run testing events which allow manufacturers to get together on neutral ground and ensure that their devices work with one another. CableLabs has offered more of these events than with any previous specification effort, with the result that there have been near continuous testing opportunities for manufacturers of cable modems, head-end, and test equipment – a total of 27 of them – over the past number of months. The unified goal has been getting products ready for the field as rapidly as possible.

Certification of DOCSIS 3.1 devices is the next major achievement in the process of getting DOCSIS 3.1 devices ready for the field – a process that is happening rapidly as evidenced by Comcast’s recent blog post – and provides a formal indication that they are ready for deployment.

What is CableLabs Certification?

CableLabs Certification is a formal testing process for verifying devices comply with one or more of our specifications. This provides a level of assurance that once deployed in the field, these devices will interoperate with one another and behave as expected.

In the specific case of DOCSIS 3.1 Certification testing, this means that cable modems comply with the DOCSIS 3.1 versions of the MAC and Upper Layers Protocol Interface (MULPI) specification, the Physical Layer Interface (PHY) specification, the Security (SEC) specification, and the Cable Modem Operations Support System Interface (CM-OSSI) specification. The full suite of DOCSIS 3.1 specifications is made publicly available on the CableLabs Website.

By achieving Certified status, these devices have demonstrated in a formal testing environment that they comply with those specifications and should be ready for use in the field. That saves our members effort in validating specification compliance, allows manufacturers to conduct testing in just one place, and therefore speeds time to market of DOCSIS 3.1 devices. It also enables a robust marketplace with healthy competition for DOCSIS 3.1 devices.

This is one of the unique things about CableLabs: we don’t just develop technology and specifications, we also assist in the development and deployment of those technologies, helping to ensure that they come to market as rapidly as possible.

How did we get here so quickly?

Just as other aspects of the DOCSIS 3.1 development effort have happened faster than ever before, so too have we achieved DOCSIS 3.1 Certification faster than ever.

First and foremost, CableLabs had a commitment from the entire cable industry to make DOCSIS 3.1 technology a success. Engineers and executives from cable operators, manufacturers, and CableLabs joined forces to move things along rapidly. I cannot overstate the level of cooperation and effort that many, many people have invested in making the rapid development of DOCSIS 3.1 devices a reality.

In addition, just as with the development of the specifications, when considering our Certification program and how we could get devices into the field as quickly as possible, we asked ourselves, “What can we do better?”

In addition to the extensive Interops and the addition of Dry Run testing events, one of the resulting changes was the adoption of a “rolling wave,” whereby manufacturers were able to rapidly update their devices as issues were discovered until they were able to successfully pass Certification. That cut out a lot of overhead and repetition, with the result that first generation devices were able to reach the point of being compliant with the DOCSIS 3.1 specifications unusually rapidly.

All of this was part of a deliberate approach of partnering closely with manufacturers to help to get DOCSIS 3.1 devices to cable operators as quickly as possible.

And last but not least, I want to highlight the extreme dedication and effort put forth by the entire Lab Services team and others here at CableLabs too numerous to name; without their knowledge, efforts, and a lot of late nights, none of this would have been possible.

What comes next?

While these are the first five devices to be certified for DOCSIS 3.1 compliance, they certainly will not be the last: watch for more devices to be certified over the course of the coming year. In addition, CableLabs remains committed to assisting manufacturers in preparing for DOCSIS 3.1 certification testing through continued Interops and Dry Runs over the coming months.

It’s been a fast paced ride, and it’s not over yet. Stay tuned!

Matt Schmitt is the Vice President of Lab Services at CableLabs, where he’s worked since 2003.

Read the full press release.