NBN cements DOCSIS 3.1 HFC commitment by joining CableLabs consortium

NBN has announced joining HFC technology standards group CableLabs in order to collaborate with global cable companies on bringing DOCSIS 3.1 and full duplex DOCSIS to market to enable gigabit speeds.

Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) company has reaffirmed its commitment to implementing gigabit speed-enabling upgrades on the cable portion of its network rollout, on Thursday announcing that it has joined international research and development organisation CableLabs.

Calling CableLabs "the driving force behind crucial technological advances in the global cable market", NBN said its membership of the non-profit organisation demonstrates its focus on hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) and the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 3.1 and full duplex DOCSIS upgrade paths.

NBN will collaborate on bringing DOCSIS 3.1 and full duplex DOCSIS to market with CableLabs members Comcast and Cox Communications from the United States; European and American giant Liberty Global; Japan's Jupiter Telecom; Canada's Shaw Communications and Rogers Communications; and Vodafone Germany.

In return, CableLabs president and CEO Phil McKinney said the organisation would support NBN's DOCSIS 3.1 deployment.

According to NBN CTO Dennis Steiger, the network company's acceptance into CableLabs is a "great reflection of the work the team is doing to deliver a world-class HFC network".

"Our story here at NBN is unique globally, and we are really excited about working alongside CableLabs to deliver the best HFC product in the market," Steiger said on Thursday morning.

"CableLabs has been driving some amazing innovations in our industry, with things like DOCSIS 3.1 and full duplex DOCSIS, and we really look forward to being part of this organisation in the coming years."

NBN is planning to launch DOCSIS 3.1 across its HFC network during the second half of 2017, and had hailed full duplex DOCSIS -- which NBN technology partner Nokia used to attain 10Gbps symmetrical speeds during a trial across HFC networks -- after CableLabs unveiled it in February last year.

In comparison to frequency-division duplex (FDD) and time-division duplex (TDD), full duplex DOCSIS sees both downstream and upstream traffic share the same spectrum. Symmetrical multi-gigabit broadband services are made possible through DOCSIS 3.1 technology when combined with full duplex DOCSIS.

"Although it is still very early days, the arrival of full duplex DOCSIS 3.1 is extremely exciting news for NBN, and a real game-changing moment in the ultra-fast broadband market," Steiger said at the time.

"We will be working closely with CableLabs to track the development of this technology, and are excited about the potential this offers for the 4 million premises that will receive their NBN services via our HFC network."

According to NBN's latest corporate plan, however, just 2.5 million to 3.2 million premises, or 21 to 27 percent of the population, will now be covered by HFC -- down from the 34 percent listed under the old plan.

This change had led to claims from Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland that the government and NBN were "abandoning" HFC in favour of slower-speed fibre to the node, which was followed by NBN moving around 400,000 premises in the HFC footprint over to new fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP) network technology.

NBN then announced in September that it had to replace the Optus HFC footprint with its FttDP network after a leaked NBN draft in November 2015 revealed that Optus' HFC network was "not fully fit for purpose".

The areas being moved from Optus HFC to FttDP include Botany, Burwood, Como, Cronulla, Dural, Edensor Park, Frenchs Forest, Guildford, Homebush, Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Kogarah, Miranda, Mona Vale, Orchard Hill, Peakhurst, Ramsgate, Revesby, Rockdale, Silverwater, Sydney, and Springwood in NSW; and Altona, Coburg, Chelsea, Dandenong, Epping, Fawkner, Frankston, Footscray, Heidelberg, Lilydale, Laverton, Mount Eliza, Montrose, North Essendon, Newport, Richmond, Seaford, and Thomastown in Victoria; in Queensland, they are Bundamba, Brassall, and Ipswich.

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