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DOCSIS 3.0: Lessons Learned

I’m not out at the ANGA Cable Show in Germany, but I am getting reports back. Yesterday I had a chance to talk with Motorola’s David Whitehead, a director of engineering for the Home and Networks Mobility business. He has been running DOCSIS 3.0 clinics on the show floor and reported some of what he’s heard from European cable operators.

The big focus for a lot of cable operators is how to migrate from a DOCSIS 2.0 environment to DOCSIS 3.0 now that the technology is available. (See Cable Digital News write-up on Dell’Oro Group report about increases in network equipment sales in the wake of DOCSIS 3.0 developments) There are a few options. Some CMTS units allow software upgrades to add DOCSIS 3.0 capabilities. Where that’s not a possibility, operators either have to rip and replace hardware or create an overlay. An overlay means keeping an original DOCSIS 2.0 set-up in place and then adding some customers to a new DOCSIS 3.0 platform. Which option operators choose can depend a great deal on rack space. As in, is there enough rack space available to fit a second platform in for an overlay?

Meanwhile, as anxious as European operators are for more downstream capacity provided by DOCSIS 3.0 equipment today, there’s still very little concern for upstream capacity. From a marketing perspective, these operators need to be able to advertise 30-Mbps or 50-Mbps broadband tiers, but on the upstream side they’re still comfortable with one or two Mbps.

And there was one other extremely interesting thing I learned from David Whitehead, which is how important lessons from real field deployments are. For example, people forget about the capabilities of subscriber PCs when they deploy DOCSIS 3.0 technology and promise 30-Mbps service. It turns out that a default configuration of Windows limits subscribers to around 23 or 24 Mbps. There were a lot of complaints in early deployments that were eventually solved when someone figured out that a quick reconfiguration of Windows would get rid of that limitation. Voila! The promised 30-Mbps service arrived. Happy consumers. Happy operators.

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