Docsis 3.0 gets the green light

Expected to be finalized Wednesday, the cable service standard touts faster Internet access speeds of at least 160Mbps and IPv6 support.

SINGAPORE--A new version of the Docsis cable standard, when finalized this week, will provide cable subscribers with higher broadband speeds.

According to Richard Green, chairman of the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Study Group 9, Docsis (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications) 3.0 is expected to be finalized Wednesday. Members of the ITU grouping include Japanese telco KDDI and CableLabs, a non-profit research and development consortium that developed the first Docsis standard in 1997.

ITU Study Group 9 is holding meetings on the sidelines of CommunicAsia 2007 here this week to finalize the Docsis 3.0 standard.

Green said it should be approved by members without barriers. "Everyone has agreed and we just have to put on the finishing touches tomorrow," he said.

After the standard is finalized, Green said, hardware certification will be conducted and expected to be completed by year-end. Docsis 3.0-compliant equipment should be available in 2008.

A key aspect of Docsis 3.0 is channel bonding, which combines four bandwidth channels to boost broadband download speeds to at least 160Mbps. Internet users can also expect upstream speeds of no less than 120Mbps. Cable operators may also combine more channels to provide broadband speeds beyond 1Gbps if they wish, Green noted.

In addition, Docsis 3.0 also touts IPv6 support for the first time. "Besides providing IPv6 addressing, the standard also allows switching and routing--this is useful for home networking," Green said. IPv6 is the next version Internet Protocol that supports more IP addresses, as current IP version 4 addresses become more scarce.

Even before Docsis 3.0 is finalized, about a dozen cable service providers including Singapore's StarHub and Japan's J-Com, are already offering cable broadband services based on pre-Docsis 3.0 network equipment and modems made by Cisco Systems, Motorola and Arris, Green noted.

Christopher Lammers, chief operating officer of CableLabs, said that initial Docsis 3.0 deployments have provided insight into the varying technicalities of cable service deployments. Compared to the early Docsis 1.0 standard, which was developed primarily with North American cable systems in mind, Docsis 3.0 now includes input from Asian and European operators.

"It reflects the worldwide implementation requirements, so manufacturers can have a single blueprint irrespective of where the cable modems are going to be produced," Lammers added.

Green revealed that there are plans for future Docsis standards to emerge, though the areas of technical development are still unknown for now.

The first step will be to learn from the deployment of Docsis 3.0. "We haven't begun looking at it in a serious way," Green said. "When Docsis 3.0 is deployed, we'll learn a lot about how customers use it…we'll need a little feedback before we do 4.0."