The Golden Gigabit Internet Age
Over the past year, a quiet revolution in broadband services has been happening, thanks to investments cable operators are making around the globe: gigabit services are available to tens of millions households for the first time ever. Already, over half of households in North America can buy a 1 Gbps service from their cable operator, and the percentage is growing rapidly. This shift is driven by a new technology making it economically feasible for operators to provide gigabit services in most areas. And the technology is not limited to a single gigabit – it is capable of much higher speeds over time.
The technology? DOCSIS® 3.1. This innovation is now being quickly deployed by operators.
While the broad availability of gigabit services may have escaped notice, there is even less awareness of the potential for DOCSIS technology to provide higher speeds. With existing DOCSIS specifications and comforming vendor gear, operators could use DOCSIS to:
- Provide shared, downstream capacity of over 15 Gbps
- True downstream speed tiers of 10 Gbps or more for individual households
How can DOCSIS provide that much speed?
The technology is actually already in the DOCSIS 3.1 specifications. However, getting to these speeds will require an evolution of DOCSIS silicon, along with some outside plant improvements. Here is the roadmap:
As you can see, the first generation of DOCSIS 3.1 silicon has been available for deployment for over a year, and it enables downstream speed tiers of roughly 1-2 Gbps. As demand materializes for higher speed tiers, operators may ask silicon providers for a second and third generation of DOCSIS 3.1 silicon. Each new silicon generation supports broader frequency ranges for DOCSIS, possibly up to the full DOCSIS 3.1 limit of about 1.8 GHz. At the 1.8 GHz range limit, over 1.5 GHz of spectrum can be used for downstream DOCSIS 3.1 channels. At 10 bits per Hertz that is more than 15 Gbps of total capacity.
Most operators are using 1 GHz of spectrum (or less) in their networks today. If an operator wanted to use spectrum as high as 1.8 GHz in a high-demand neighborhood it can push fiber to within 800 feet of many homes, and install taps that can pass the full 1.8 GHz of spectrum.
Thanks to the work of our CableLabs members, homes in the tens of millions are gaining access to 1 gigabit services for the first time ever. With more homes enjoying gigabit and even higher speeds, there will be a growing market for application developers and artists to develop immersive entertainment and interactive network services such as those in our Near Future video series. Radiologists working from home will be able to move massive files back and forth from medical centers. Grandparents will join their grandchildren in virtual family rooms for a game of virtual Uno. Immersive holographic movies will stream to a new generation of entertainment devices. And this is only the beginning.
If you have been yearning for a gigabit service at your home, check with your local cable operator – gigabit services may already be available to you. And, if you want to learn more about the DOCSIS roadmap to 10 Gigabit services, please subscribe to our blog.