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Comcast reveals prototype 10G modem for home broadband use

Comcast's push into 10G technology for the home reached a milestone with a successful test of a DOCSIS 4.0 modem that can already achieve symmetrical transfer speeds of 4Gbps in a lab.

Comcast revealed that it has successfully tested a new prototype DOCSIS 4.0 modem that is designed to bring 10G technology into customers' homes for the first time.

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According to the broadband provider, the new unit has achieved symmetrical download and upload speeds in excess of 4 gigabits per second (Gbps) thanks to its "Full Duplex DOCSIS 4.0 system-on-chip (SoC)." While these figures were collected in a laboratory environment, Comcast claims the new model is capable of even faster data transmission rates in the future, as the company continues to chase the eponymous 10Gbps potential transfer rates promised by 10G networks. 

The cable company's product reveal is just the latest stop on the long road it has been on to make 10G technology viable for consumer broadband. Previous milestones have included testing 10G connections over a virtualized cable modem termination system (vCMTS) using the same DOCSIS 4.0 technology found in the new modem and an earlier test of a 10G SoC, which used Network Function Virtualization (NFV) technology and Comcast's live residential network to reach a more modest 1.25Gbps. 

The use of its existing nationwide network is a major goal for Comcast, which touted the fact that DOCSIS 4.0 can allow 10G transmissions via its existing cable infrastructure, with only the modem at endpoints in user homes likely needing to be replaced in most markets. 

Comcast clearly sees 10G technology as the future of its home broadband offerings, noting that even 4Gbps can be exceeded "as developers refine technology at every level of the 10G architecture."

For comparison, the company's residential broadband plans currently top out in most areas with its Gigabit tier, which offers 1Gbps to 1.2Gbps download speeds, with some select regions gaining access to its Gigabit Pro service, which rises to 2Gbps. However, these speedy plans currently only support much, much slower upload rates of just 35Mbps. Comcast was previously called out for hiding this fact by Ars Technica, which noted how difficult it is to find an actual upload rate across the company's various sign-up pages. 

While download rates tend to be far more important for the average consumer than upload rates, Comcast's relatively slow upload speeds are something fiber broadband companies have kept as an advantage over it. Many fiber-based plans from companies like Verizon and Google already offer symmetrical rates that reach or come close to 1Gbps both up and down. In addition to the faster download speeds, the symmetrical transfer rates promised by this new modem may be just as important for customers that Comcast has never previously been able to capture with its existing, slower uploads. 

The company did not provide any timeframe for this technology to reach the general public.

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