Comcast to roll out DOCSIS 4.0 and Multi-Gig speeds in 2023; Fiber (not FWA) is the real competitor

Comcast is on a path to deliver 10Gbps connectivity.  Speaking at a Bank of America investor conference on September 8th, Comcast EVP and Deputy CFO and Treasurer Jason Armstrong said the cable network operator will be in the market with DOCSIS 4.0 and offering symmetrical multi-gig broadband in the second half of 2023.  Currently, upload speeds top out at 200 Mbps.

Armstrong said:  “Comcast fiber connectivity has gone from 0% to 40% sort of across our footprint in a fairly linear fashion. And in that time frame, we’ve become America’s number one broadband provider, 32 million subs. I would tell you in the last couple of years through the pandemic, we added three million subscribers in an environment where fiber was actually picking up in terms of the presence in the markets that served against us….Fixed wireless access (FWA) is newer, but longer term, fiber is the real long-term competitor. And it always has been. Our view hasn’t changed. It’s a very viable competitor.”

“And longer term, if you think about it, any secular trend out there, whether it’s AR, VR, Metaverse, low latency gaming, the move from linear to streaming, every one of those is — those are bandwidth talks. That’s going to continue to move up usage profiles across the network. Those are all trends that work in our favor.”

Comcast said rollouts of its 2-gig offering are underway in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Augusta, Georgia; and Panama City Beach, Florida. It added the service will be available in a total of 34 markets by the end of 2022 and to more than 50 million locations across the country by the end of 2025.  Comcast already offers speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps across its entire cable network using DOCSIS 3.1 technology and has been rolling out mid-split upgrades over the past several months in preparation for an update to DOCSIS 4.0. Speeds of up to 6 Gbps are already available to certain Xfinity fiber customers.

Elad Nafshi, EVP and Chief Network Officer at Comcast Cable, told Fierce Telecom the faster speeds will be available on any DOCSIS 3.1 modem, meaning no upgrades will be required. Elad noted the company’s recent launch of a Wi-Fi 6E router which will deliver the best user experience.  According to Nafshi, the mid-split upgrades are just one small piece of the work it has put into enabling the new speed tier. He pointed to its deployment of a virtual cable modem termination system (vCMTS) as well as digital nodes and digital optics as critical pieces of the puzzle which also lay the groundwork for its future DOCSIS 4.0 rollout.

“The way we’re delivering the increased upstream speeds is by, for the very first time, launching DOCSIS 3.1 in the upstream. It’s by relying on the Octave platform that enables us to truly optimize the delivery of those greater upstream speeds by leveraging those new upstream frequencies in order to deliver on this product. Extending additional DOCSIS 3.1 channels, which enable us to deliver the 2-gig speeds as well. There’s a lot of firsts coming to market here,” he explained.

References:

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4539823-comcast-corporation-cmcsa-management-presents-bank-of-america-media-communications-and

https://www.fiercetelecom.com/broadband/comcast-debuts-2-gig-internet-service-plots-symmetrical-multi-gig-rollout-2023

https://www.xfinity.com/support/articles/requirements-to-run-xfinity-internet-speeds-over-1-gbps

 

Comcast Deploys Advanced Hollowcore Fiber With Faster Speed, Lower Latency

Comcast today announced what is believed to be the first-ever end-to-end deployment of advanced “hollowcore” fiber optics in the world by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Hollowcore fibers deliver significantly lower latency than traditional fibers and over time will provide critical performance attributes. These fibers will help power Comcast’s network and support the delivery of multigigabit speeds through 10G b/sec.

Unlike traditional fibers, in which laser light travels over a solid glass core, “hollowcore” fibers are empty inside with air-filled channels. Since light travels nearly 50 percent faster through air than glass, data travels about 150 percent faster with up to 33 percent lower latency through “hollowcore” fiber compared to traditional fiber. The faster speed of light can be used to double the reach for latency critical applications or can speed up the transaction rates by around 47 percent.

For the deployment announced today, Comcast worked with hollowcore fiber cable solutions provider, Lumenisity.

“Hollowcore fiber is a leap forward in how we deliver ultra-fast, ultra-low latency and ultra-reliable services to customers,” said Elad Nafshi, EVP & Chief Network Officer at Comcast Cable. “As we continue to develop and deploy technology to deliver 10G, multigigabit performance to tens of millions of homes, hollowcore fiber will help to ensure that the network powering those experiences is among the most advanced and highest performing in the world.”

“The reality is that light travelling through air is about 50% faster than travelling through glass. The data throughput and the latency is greatly improved when you have a hollowcore fiber … The advantage is you can extend your reach at equal performance,” Nafshi said.  Hollowcore fiber, like traditional fiber, can be used in the access, metro or core network, and is compatible with legacy fiber.

Comcast connected two locations in Philadelphia, which enables network engineers to continue to test and observe the performance and physical compatibility of hollowcore fiber in a real-world deployment. This 40-kilometer hybrid deployment of hollowcore and traditional fiber is believed to be the longest in the world by an Internet provider. Comcast successfully tested bidirectional transmission (upstream and downstream traffic traveling on a single fiber), used coherent and direct-detect systems (allowing for forward and backward technology compatibility), and produced traffic rates ranging from 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) to 400 Gbps all simultaneously on a single strand of hollowcore fiber.

“We are proud to be working with Comcast on the next generation hollowcore fiber, which we believe unlocks exciting new potential for connectivity around the world,” said David Parker, Executive Chairman of Lumenisity.

Hollowcore fiber will help to power the next generation of ultra-low latency technologies to support network virtualization, telemedicine, augmented and virtual reality, and other emerging services. Moving forward, Comcast is exploring opportunities to strategically deploy hollowcore fiber in select core- and access-network deployments. From 2017 to 2021, Comcast added more than 50,000 new route miles of fiber to its network and is actively building more fiber into cities and towns across the United States.

Comcast’s ongoing work to expand and evolve its fiber deployments – including this groundbreaking step forward with hollowcore fiber – helps to power Comcast’s ongoing 10G evolution, which will deliver reliable multigigabit upload and download speeds over the connections already installed in tens of millions of homes and businesses.

An illustration of the air-filled channels utilized in hollowcore fiber.
Source: Comcast

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Comcast deployed more than 50,000 new route miles of fiber to its network from 2017 to 2021. The operator isn’t revealing how or when it might commercialize its use of hollowcore fiber, but the operator sees it playing a role for certain apps and use cases, such as telemedicine, AR/VR and network virtualization.

The operator might also use the technology to target new customer segments that are seeking greater throughputs and lower latencies.

From a broader standpoint, hollowfiber could provide a conduit for “10G,” an industry initiative focused on delivering symmetrical 10Gbit/s speeds, low latencies and enhanced security over fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP), hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) and wireless networks.

Citing its 40km connection in Philadelphia, Comcast is billing this as the world’s longest ISP deployment of hollowcore fiber so far.

But Comcast isn’t the only major operator working closely with Lumenisity. Last year, the startup announced BT was trialing its new optical fiber technology at its labs in Adastral Park, Ipswich. That trial involved a 10km-long hollowcore fiber from Lumenisity.

Lumenisity was spun out of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton in 2017, with an aim to commercialize the development of hollowcore fiber.

In 2020, the startup closed a £7.5 million ($9.77 million) funding round from a group of investors that included BGF and Parkwalk Advisors and existing industrial strategic investors. Lumenisity has raised £12.5 million (US$16.28 million), according to Crunchbase.

Some key application areas Lumenisity has identified for its technology include financial, data center connectivity and connectivity for the separation of remote radio units and baseband units in 5G networks.

About Comcast Corporation:
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company that connects people to moments that matter. We are principally focused on broadband, aggregation, and streaming with 57 million customer relationships across the United States and Europe. We deliver broadband, wireless, and video through our Xfinity, Comcast Business, and Sky brands; create, distribute, and stream leading entertainment, sports, and news through Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Universal Studio Group, Sky Studios, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, multiple cable networks, Peacock, NBCUniversal News Group, NBC Sports, Sky News, and Sky Sports; and provide memorable experiences at Universal Parks and Resorts in the United States and Asia. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.

Media Contact:
David McGuire 215-422-2732
[email protected]

About Luminosity:

Lumenisity® Limited was formed in early 2017 as a spin-out from the world-renowned Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton (UK) to commercialize breakthroughs in the development of hollowcore optical fibre. We have built a team of industry leaders and experts to realise our goal to be the world’s premier high-performance Hollowcore fibre optic cable solutions provider, offering customers reliable, deployable, low latency and high bandwidth connections that unlock new capabilities in communication networks.

Lumenisity is well funded by a consortium of industrial and private investors. We recently relocated our headquarters to Romsey, UK after a substantial investment was made in developing a state of the art manufacturing and testing facility. Our vision is to be the world’s premier high-performance hollowcore fibre optic cable solutions provider offering our customers reliable, deployable, low latency and high bandwidth connections that unlock new capabilities in communication networks.

References:

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220420005068/en/Comcast-Becomes-First-ISP-in-the-United-States-to-Deploy-Advanced-Hollowcore-Fiber-With-Faster-Speed-Lower-Latency

https://www.lightreading.com/cable-tech/comcast-touts-blistering-speeds-low-latencies-with-hollowcore-fiber-/d/d-id/776891?

https://lumenisity.com/about/

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Cox Communications commits to symmetrical 10-Gig; many upgrade paths are possible

Cox Communications is the latest U.S. cable operator to formally announce a commitment to “10G,” the cable industry’s initiative focused on delivering symmetrical 10-Gig speeds over multiple types of access networks, including hybrid fiber/coax (HFC), fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) and fixed wireless.  Comcast is definitely on board that train, an executive told this author. Both Comcast and Charter Communications have announced lab tests of DOCSIS 4.0, and CableOne formed a partnership to pursue FTTP deployments and is preparing for DOCSIS 4.0 upgrades as it begins to boost the capacity of its HFC networks to 1.8GHz.

Cox estimates it has invested more than $19 billion in network and product upgrades over the past decade.   The company promises to deliver on their 10G plan through a mix of upgrades to DOCSIS 4.0 on HFC and deployments of FTTP. The company has previously made some FTTP headway under a “Gigablast” initiative focused on extending 1-Gig capabilities across the bulk of its footprint.  The privately held network operator said it will make a “multibillion-dollar annual infrastructure investment over the next several years to build a 10-Gigabit-capable, fiber-based network.”

“Connectivity is at the heart of everything we do. With new applications of technology from virtual reality classrooms to autonomous vehicles to the metaverse, people will require increased bandwidth to power their digital futures,” said Mark Greatrex, president of Cox Communications. “Included in this investment is our commitment to bring robust and reliable services to underserved communities and to be the internet provider customers count on to make those valuable connections a reality,” he added.

In addition to faster speeds, Cox also continues to provide secure and reliable WiFi connections covering the whole home. Cox’s Panoramic WiFi offers the latest gateway technology to deliver the most advanced experience with reliable speed, coverage, control and security that can be easily updated as technology changes. Customers also have personal control and security through the Panoramic WiFi app with Advanced Security, protecting every device connected to their network.

“Our intent is to remind the market that we are going to continue to aggressively invest in the communities we serve to maintain and build highly competitive networks,” a Cox spokesman wrote in an email to Telecompetitor.

Multiple Upgrade Paths are Possible:

A typical upgrade involves deploying XGS-PON equipment on the same infrastructure that supports widely deployed GPON technology.  A key question for cable companies is whether to invest in DOCSIS 4.0 and in augmenting HFC infrastructure to obtain speeds that might reach 6 Gbps symmetrically, or whether it would be more prudent to deploy XGS-PON. All the major cable companies – including Cox – seem to be wrestling with that issue.  XGS-PON can support speeds approaching 10 Gbps in both directions.

 

Supporting multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds is challenging for cable companies’ traditional hybrid fiber coax (HFC) infrastructure. Although the cable industry’s DOCSIS 3.1 and DOCSIS 4.0 specifications call for speeds up to 10 Gbps downstream, upstream bandwidth is more limited.  DOCSIS 3.1 and DOCSIS 4.0 are just part of the CableLabs 10G initiative which  aims to enable cable companies to support multi-gigabit speeds. Maximizing symmetrical speeds – and the number of customers who can obtain those speeds – will require other network upgrades, such as taking fiber closer to the customer and/or splitting nodes and moving to a DAA approach to reduce the number of customers served from each node.

It appears that not all cable operators will pursue DOCSIS 4.0 aggressively. Altice USA, as one example, announced this week it will accelerate its deployment of FTTP upgrades in both its Optimum and more rural-facing Suddenlink footprints. In Europe, Liberty Global will take multiple upgrade paths using both FTTP and HFC/DOCSIS 4.0, but building fiber overlays is the primary focus at Virgin O2 in the UK, Virgin Media (Ireland) and Telenet (Belgium).

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As a private company, Cox Communications does not publicize financial data, but the company has in the neighborhood of 6 million residential broadband customers, and nearly 7 million when business customers are included. A company official told Light Reading that Cox continues to grow total customers, with nearly all new customers taking broadband.

The Cox multi-gigabit press release references a “fiber-based network to more than 100,000 homes and businesses in communities near [the company’s] existing footprint.”  In doing this, Cox said it expects to leverage federal funding opportunities – a potential reference to the BEAD program created in the infrastructure act adopted late last year, although the spokesman declined to confirm that.

Cox declined to say what percentage of its network will head down the road of D4.0 or all-fiber, but did note that its current investment commitment includes bringing broadband to underserved communities. Cox came away with a small piece of the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction – about $6.63 million for 8,212 locations in nine states. The company said it hopes to partner with local cities and towns in pursuing these funding opportunities, but here, too, the spokesman declined to provide specifics.

This won’t be the first time Cox has pursued rural broadband opportunities. The company won funding in the 2020 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to cover some of the costs of deploying fiber broadband in unserved rural areas, and the company received final authorization of that win in December.

About Cox Communications:

Cox Communications is committed to creating meaningful moments of human connection through technology. The largest private broadband company in America, we proudly serve nearly seven million homes and businesses across 18 states. We’re dedicated to empowering others to build a better future and celebrate diverse products, people, suppliers, communities and the characteristics that make each one unique. Cox Communications is the largest division of Cox Enterprises, a family-owned business founded in 1898 by Governor James M. Cox.

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References:

https://newsroom.cox.com/2022-02-17-Cox-Network-Transformation-to-Power-Next-Generation-of-Internet-Users

https://www.lightreading.com/cable-tech/cox-sets-path-to-10g-/d/d-id/775402?

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