NBN DOCSIS 3.1 lab trial hits 1Gbps speeds

NBN has conducted the first DOCSIS 3.1 lab test in Melbourne, ahead of further tests in August, a field trial in December, and 'potential' deployment commercially in 2018.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Broadband Network (NBN) company has said it attained gigabit speeds during a lab trial of DOCSIS 3.1 over its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network, ahead of further lab tests in August and field trials in December.

NBN said this will be followed by a "potential commercial launch" during 2018.

ZDNet understands that NBN is also speaking with vendors to conduct a trial of Full Duplex DOCSIS capable of 10Gbps symmetrical speeds once standards are finalised.

NBN's first DOCSIS -- Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification -- 3.1 trial, conducted in Melbourne, saw download speeds of 1Gbps and upload speeds of 100Mbps.

Calling the outcome "very exciting", NBN CEO Bill Morrow said it allows the company to provide 1Gbps services in a less disruptive way than a fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) rollout.

"The best news is that we will be able to bring gigabit broadband to these premises far more quickly, cost effectively, and with less disruption to end users than alternate technologies in these busy urban areas," Morrow said on Tuesday morning, despite previously saying that consumers don't need and wouldn't use 1Gbps broadband.

FttP is currently the only network technology able to offer 1Gbps speeds until DOCSIS 3.1 is switched on for HFC customers mid next year, after being delayed from launching in the second half of 2017.

Morrow last month told Senate Estimates that NBN is currently deploying DOCSIS 3.1-capable modems for its HFC network.

NBN in April joined the international research and development organisation CableLabs, saying its membership demonstrates its focus on HFC and the DOCSIS 3.1 and Full Duplex DOCSIS upgrade paths.

NBN had previously 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.

As a member of the non-profit organisation, NBN will collaborate on bringing DOCSIS 3.1 and Full Duplex DOCSIS to market with fellow 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's latest corporate plan, just 2.5 million to 3.2 million premises, or 21 to 27 percent of the population, will be covered by HFC -- down from the 34 percent listed under the old plan.

Subsequent to publishing this number, however, NBN moved around 400,000 premises in the HFC footprint over to new fibre-to-the-distribution-point (FttDP) network technology due to having to replace the Optus HFC footprint with its FttDP network. 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 Hills, 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, Essendon North, Newport, Richmond, Seaford, and Thomastown in Victoria; in Queensland, they are Bundamba, Brassall, and Ipswich.

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