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If you live in a network lab, you'll get gigabit NBN over HFC soon

Cable networks' upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1 inches a step closer

By Richard Chirgwin, 5 Jun 2017

If you build a hybrid-fibre coax network in a lab, nbn™ says it can support 1 Gbps down / 100 Mbps up performance.

Never mind that the actual HFC networks nbn™ will use have spent years hanging off poles and have to deal with real-world problems like contention, nbn™ wants us to know it's made HFC go very fast so it can show us an upgrade path to DOCSIS 3.1 and therefore show the federal government's multi-technology mix (MTM) strategy won't leave Australia reliant on old-school slow broadband.

The company says it will run further DOCSIS 3.1 tests in the lab in August, with field trials starting in December of this year. That will be followed by a soft launch of the technology during 2018.

The Register understands that nbn™'s cable modems (Arris won the supply contract in February 2015) are already DOCSIS 3.1-capable but are currently configured to DOCSIS 3.0.

If all goes to plan, that means the upgrade won't need customer visits: once the exchange kit is ready, the modem can be reconfigured remotely, and retailers will notify customers that higher-speed plans are available (which is when the world will learn what real-world speeds the upgrade supports, since the ACCC would take a dim view of “gigabit plan” offers if the users only get 500 Mbps).

The Register also understands the upgrade will be rolled out on a service-area-by-service-area basis, rather than a national big bang rebuild.

Back in 2015, nbn™ said it would start DOCSIS 3.1 deployment this year, so it's almost hit the timetable.

Next on the list will be trials of DOCSIS 3.1 full-duplex technology, which the company has been looking at since 2016.

CableLabs, the organisation that develops data-over-HFC standards, touts full duplex as capable of 10 Gbps in both directions. However it is yet to finalise its roadmap for the technnology. ®

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