Comcast demos 10Gb/sec full duplex with DOCSIS 4.0; TDS deploys symmetrical 8Gb/sec service
Comcast announced in a press release it successfully tested a symmetrical multi-gigabit DOCSIS 4.0 connection on its live network, taking a major step toward “offering 10G-enabled services” in the second half of 2023. In Philadelphia, where Comcast is headquartered, it connected service at an undisclosed business location using multiple cable modems and a DOCSIS 4.0-enabled 10G node. If you’re wondering what 10G means, the answer is — more than 5G. As we noted in 2019, the cable industry rolled out its marketing term just in time to have something that’s twice as many Gb/sec as 5G wireless has.
DOCSIS 4.0 technology should enable download speeds of up to 10Gbps with 6Gbps uploads, and Comcast said a lab test in January achieved more than 4Gbps speed in both directions.
Earlier this year, Comcast announced it was working on rolling out multi-gig Internet speeds to more than 50 million residences and businesses in the U.S. by the end of 2025. The company planned on deploying 2Gbps speeds to 34 cities by the end of this month and has also given a slight bump to download speed on internet service in many areas.
The advantage of 10G tech is that it should make multi-gig speeds available for both downloads and uploads (currently, Comcast’s gigabit plans include upload speeds of just 200Mbps), just as it is with fiber optic internet connections. However, for anyone considering upgrading, we should note that you will probably need another new cable modem.
Ideally, this will increase speeds for those in places where fiber isn’t available, especially non-metropolitan areas. And in places that have competition, it measures closer against rivals that deliver fiber services, such as Verizon, AT&T, Google, and Frontier Communications, which are already offering some customers symmetrical multi-gigabit connections.
“We started this year with the announcement of our world-first test of 10G modem technology capable of delivering multi-gig speeds to homes and, as of today, 10G is a reality with the potential to transform and evolve the Internet as we know it,” said Elad Nafshi, EVP and Chief Network Officer at Comcast Cable. “It’s been an incredible year of progress, and we look forward to continuing to refine and harden our 10G technology as we work to make this service—and all its incredible benefits—available to all customers in the years ahead.”
Separately, TDS Telecom [1.] said its new symmetrical 8Gb/sec (gig) service is already available in more than 75 of its fiber markets and runs $295 per month. While most U.S. operators [2.] are sticking with 2-gig as their top tier product for now, a handful of others have already pushed further into multi-gig territory. AT&T and Ziply Fiber, for instance, both offer residential plans providing up to 5 Gbps. And fewer still have gone beyond that. Lumen Technologies introduced an 8-gig tier for its Quantum Fiber service in August and Google Fiber has announced plans to trot out 5-gig and 8-gig plans in early 2023. Lumen’s service costs $300 per month.
Note 1. TDS Telecom offers internet service across 31 states with the greatest coverage in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Utah.
Note 2. TDS is competing directly against AT&T, Comcast, Consolidated Communications and Lumen in the territory it serves.
While TDS in a press release pitched the 8-gig product as suitable for power users such as gamers and content creators, an operator representative told Fierce Telecom it doesn’t initially expect significant uptake of the plan. Instead, such offerings are tools in a marketing war being waged across the broadband industry.
Wire 3 offers a 10-gig service to customers in Florida, and Tennessee’s EPB and also provides a 25-gig service. However, it is not likely that consumers need those kinds of speeds currently.
On TDS’s Q3 2022 earnings call, TDS CFO Michelle Brukwicki stated its 1-gig and 2-gig plans are “important tools that will allow us to defend and win new customers.” She added nearly a quarter of new customers are taking its 1-gig service where it is available and its faster, higher-APRU tiers helped it boost residential broadband revenue in the quarter. However, TDS expects to miss 2022 fiber build target.
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Jeff Baumgartner of Light Reading:
Comcast is using a virtualized cable modem termination (vCMTS) and a distributed access architecture (DAA) to underpin a wave of multi-gigabit downstream speeds and enhanced upstream speeds in dozens of markets before the end of 2022. That work will serve as a springboard for the deployment of a more advanced DOCSIS 4.0 network that will start to deliver symmetrical multi-gigabit services in late 2023.
In concert with Wednesday’s launch of 2-Gig downstream speeds and faster upstream speeds in Denver, Comcast showed off some of its handiwork with city leaders and some media here at a headend that houses some of the new technologies that are making its new network go.
Currently based on DOCSIS 3.1, the access network that is delivering those new capabilities features a vCMTS paired with a distributed access architecture (DAA) powered by fiber nodes outfitted with remote PHY devices (RPDs). That will place PHY layer functions of traditional CMTS at the edge of the network and boost capacity by digitizing the HFC network all the way to the node.
Comcast is also boosting the DOCSIS upstream with a “mid-split” upgrade that expands the amount of spectrum dedicated to the upstream – from a legacy range of 5MHz-42MHz to a wider range of 5MHz-85MHz.
This week’s launch in Denver tied into Comcast’s plans to launch 2-Gig downstream speeds along with 5x to 10x faster upstream speeds (up to 200 Mbit/s) to 34 cities and towns before the end of the year. Similar upgrades are underway in markets such as Colorado Springs; Baltimore; Philadelphia; Hartford, Connecticut; Augusta, Georgia; Panama City Beach, Florida; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Washington, D.C.
“Our network upgrade is in full swing,” Elad Nafshi, Comcast’s EVP and chief network officer, said here during a briefing.
Comcast initially is limiting access to the new, faster upload speeds to customers who take xFi Complete, a package that sells for an additional $25 per month that includes Comcast’s gateway, its advanced cyber security product, Wi-Fi controls and unlimited data.
DOCSIS 4.0 update
Those 2022 market upgrades are setting the stage for a move to DOCSIS 4.0 and the introduction of symmetrical multi-gigabit speeds. Comcast plans to introduce that capability in select markets in the second half of 2023 and to bring them to more than 50 million homes and businesses before the end of 2025.
Comcast announced earlier this week that it had completed its first “live” DOCSIS 4.0 trial in the Philadelphia area. It marked the first time Comcast delivered a DOCSIS 4.0-based service to a subscriber location, Nafshi said.
The trial connection, which delivered symmetrical speeds of 4 Gbit/s, ran off of Comcast’s vCMTS outfitted with DOCSIS 4.0 code in tandem with DOCSIS 4.0-based remote PHY devices and modems, he said.
The Philadelphia trial used a “node+0” architecture, whereby fiber is pulled deep enough so there are no amplifiers required between the premises and the node. Comcast is also developing an FDX Amplifier that will enable the operator to deploy DOCSIS 4.0 to the vast majority of its HFC network, including portions of the plant that have multiple amplifiers (up to six, and potentially more) present between the home and the node.
Nafshi said the FDX Amplifier is still in development, but “there’s lots more to come on that in 2023.” CommScope, a key vendor partner on that project, showed a prototype FDX Amplifier in October at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Philadelphia.
As Comcast looks ahead to D4.0/FDX deployments in 2023, Nafshi confirmed to Light Reading that the operator will base it on HFC networks built to 1GHz (the FDX specs support bandwidth up to 1.2GHz).
Nafshi said Comcast doesn’t feel the need to upgrade capacity to 1.2GHz at this point. “Everything can fit under the 1-Gig umbrella,” he said. However, he points out that taps being deployed today are capable of supporting 1.2GHz.
Comcast, he added, will be able to generate the speeds delivered at its D4.0 demo at CableLabs in April (8.5 Gbit/s downstream and 5 Gbit/s upstream) with the 1GHz configuration, and “roll this out broadly.”