CableLabs publishes DOCSIS 4.0 spec

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CableLabs, the innovation and R&D lab for the cable industry, has released a new specification which it says is set to improve data delivery speeds and is a stepping stone on the path to the industry’s 10G initiative, with the higher speeds available with DOCSIS 4.0 technology serving as a catalyst for the next wave of innovations.

In a blog post, How DOCSIS 4.0 development changes the industry, Doug Jones, Principal Architect writes: “Today we are pleased to announce the release of the DOCSIS 4.0 specification, which incorporates both full duplex and extended spectrum capabilities. A part of the suite of technologies that support the 10G platform, DOCSIS 4.0 technology achieves a downstream speed of up to 10 Gbps (doubling the maximum download speed available with DOCSIS 3.1 technology) and an upstream speed of up to 6 Gbps – quadrupling what DOCSIS 3.1 technology could do.”

According to Jones, these speed increases build on the ample capacity deployed by cable operators today–with gigabit services nearly saturating the US cable footprint–and will enable cable broadband to deliver symmetric multigigabit services, with significantly enhanced upstream capabilities. “As cable operators respond to the evolving connectivity needs of customers in our current public health crisis, remote work, learning, and health services stand to benefit from upstream broadband enhancements as DOCSIS 4.0 technology is deployed,” he suggests.

Specification development started in August 2016. The full duplex capabilities were described in an October 2017 blog post, and now the extended spectrum capabilities have been completed as described in a September 2019 blog post.

“With these speed increases, we intend to change the consumer broadband industry by ushering in a new era of application development,” declares Jones. “Although speed numbers are important, broadband is about so much more than speed: it’s about changing the way we collaborate to make the world a better place. We have more devices, and our experiences increasingly rely on connectivity. Streaming video continues to explode. We’re video-chatting instead of making calls, we’re playing music off the web instead of our own media, and we’re playing games with people around the world. As technology continues to advance, we don’t know what the next trend will be, but we do know that the Internet will be central to whatever it is,” he suggests.

According to Jones, a key piece of this story is the DOCSIS 4.0 multigigabit upstream capability, which greatly increases how fast information can be uploaded from your computer. Traditionally, businesses have required faster upload speeds to move large files around or to perform in-house web hosting. Now consumers are expecting more upstream speed as they work and learn from home. In addition, upstream speed is important to do things such as following:

  • Hard drive backups
  • Uploading videos and pictures
  • Cloud applications
  • Video conferencing
  • Smart homes and IoT devices
  • Home security cameras
  • Distance learning and visual classrooms

“These applications are just the beginning,” says Jones. “The higher speeds available with DOCSIS 4.0 technology will serve as a catalyst for the next wave of innovations.”

Delivery of the specification is the first step of a three-part DOCSIS lifecycle. The second step includes interoperability events and the final step is certification, which will be discussed in future blog posts. These three steps—specification, interoperability and certification—have been part of the DOCSIS process for over 20 years and constitute a time-proven method to deliver high-speed, low-cost, interoperable cable modems to consumers.


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