Comcast to offer 1Gbps on cable in 2015

Using DOCSIS 3.1, Comcast has announced plans to offer 1 gigabit per second download speeds over the hybrid fibre-coaxial network in 2015.

US cable company Comcast will upgrade its cable modems to DOCSIS 3.1 to allow customers to receive 1Gbps download speeds.

The announcement came at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Tuesday from Comcast supplier Broadcom of the company's new DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem BCM3390. It provides greater speeds over the legacy hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) cable networks through a more efficient use of the spectrum on the cable. Broadcom estimates that it is 25 percent more efficient than DOCSIS 3.0.

The company boasts that it will be able to provide data rates above 1Gbps, and has already signed up Comcast and Liberty Global to roll out the technology in 2015.

"DOCSIS 3.1 is a critical technology for Comcast to provide even faster, more reliable data speeds and features such as IP video to our subscribers' homes by harnessing more spectrum in the downstream," Comcast Executive Vice-President Tony Werner said in a statement.

"By more effectively using our cable plant to grow our total throughput, we expect to offer our customers more than 1 gigabit speeds in their homes in 2015 and beyond."

Comcast has yet to announce pricing or exact timing on the launch of the 1Gbps plans.

It comes as the Australian government-owned NBN Co in December signed off on amended agreements with Telstra and Optus to acquire the companies' legacy cable networks to connect up to 3.2 million Australian premises to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The two existing cable networks, located in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, have been upgraded to DOCSIS 3.0 by Optus and Telstra in recent years, and while NBN Co is promising to overhaul the cables prior to connecting customers to the NBN, there are no plans at this stage to upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1.

"In the foreseeable future, it is not a requirement to upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1. Because 250-megabit, 300-megabit, or 500-megabit for certain services are available on DOCSIS 3.0, there is not an immediate driver to upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 -- although gains from the spectral efficiency usually move an operator towards those investments," NBN Co's head of HFC Dennis Steiger told the parliamentary committee in December.

NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow indicated that NBN Co may upgrade some customers to DOCSIS 3.1 if the demand is there.

"If you think about 3.1, that new modem, it has been suggested that it will get around 10 gigabits per second. If that materialises, through the [retail service provider] we would like to be able to upsell to a home or business from 100 megabits per second up to 10 gigabits per second. If they are willing to pay for that from the modem and the line card that Mr Steiger is talking about, that could be a one off; it does not necessarily mean the entire HFC network has to undergo a major lift and a major capital expenditure," he said.

NBN Co has forecast that it will begin connecting customers to the legacy HFC networks in March 2016.

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