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14 November 2019

Operators dwell on DOCSIS 4.0, denouncing FTTH betrayals

“Everyone is searching for the killer app, but we have already found it – the speed test,” was a message from the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) that raised some eyebrows in the Cable Congress audience this week. With DOCSIS 3.1 and the path to 4.0 dominating much of the conversation in Berlin, MoCA Access Director of Business Development and Chair of the InCoax group, Helge Tiainen, was keen to remind attendees that the broadband technology is coexisting successfully with DOCSIS 3.1 in the US.

He was of course addressing the larger issue facing the cable industry of FTTH deployments, with Altice USA and Swisscom being used regularly as two prime examples on either side of the pond of operators back-tracking on early cable commitments.

Altice USA is aggressively overlaying DOCSIS 3.1 equipment from Arris with new FTTP rollouts for its Generation Gigaspeed initiative, while Swisscom had a big G.fast project in the works with Huawei which it recently dropped for FTTH. “Telcos are falling out of love with G.fast, but coax is waking up again with MoCA,” he claimed.

It’s worth noting that DOCSIS 3.1 is an exception to the trend of FTTH replacing MoCA Access and other broadband technologies, as DOCSIS 3.1 has been triggering 1 Gbps installation in the US and also now in Europe. Although DOCSIS is seen as too expensive outside the US and Western Europe, so the MDU situation for home broadband is still up for grabs, and multi-drop protocols like MoCA and G.hn offer a lot.

“A year ago, DOCSIS 3.1 was nearly non-existent. Today, it is everywhere,” said Vodafone Germany CTO Gerhard Mack, excited by his company’s newly acquired assets given his cable background. “Telcos without fixed line infrastructure run into problems and that’s how we can promise gigabit speeds for 25 million homes by 2022.”

“Our main competitor in Germany who I won’t name (Deutsche Telekom), is claiming that 120 Mbps is sufficient for a family of four but with the growth in demand we don’t agree,” mentioned Mack.

From a panel which included executives from Telnet, VodafoneZiggo, Vodafone Group and Teleste, the broadband discussion drew a consensus that operators in North America are leaning towards extended spectrum DOCSIS (ESD) – apparently thinking about the lower capex requirements than other options and the ability to make more spectrum work which reportedly achieves better latency than full duplex DOCSIS (otherwise known as DOCSIS 4.0).

The topic of spectrum encouraged the operator participants to talk about closing down FM radio to free up bandwidth for upstream as part of DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrades. Telenet switched off two channels last week, while VodafoneZiggo is making the switch and Denmark’s Stofa said it has had around 200 customer complaint calls about the FM signal shutdown, with subscribers mostly asking how they are supposed to listen to radio in the car. “Most people have no idea about FM radio in the coax network,” joked Stofa’s Head of Network Technology, Kjeld Balmer.

Given the heavy Vodafone presence at Cable Congress, rival operator TeleColumbus wasn’t mentioned, although we can tell you the cableco has just rolled out 1 Gbps broadband services on its Berlin cable network, upgraded using DOCSIS 3.1 technology, operating under the PŸUR brand. Meanwhile, CableLabs aims to have Low-Latency DOCSIS products going to market next year.

Faultline will be back next week with a more detailed broadband write-up on Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) discussions from Cable Congress 2019 – which triggered some rather heated debates.