Although some engineering resources have been reshuffled to handle near-term priorities brought on by the pandemic, Comcast says it remains "fully committed" to advancing its Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX) initiatives.
"Our engineering teams have been laser focused on ensuring that our network continues to deliver exemplary performance to our customers even under the unprecedented demand we're seeing as a result of COVID-19," a Comcast spokesperson said in response to questions about the operator's near-term plans for FDX. "Still, we remain fully committed to advancing Full-Duplex DOCSIS, as we continue to work with a broad global ecosystem of technology partners on the development of next generation 10g technology."
Comcast confirmed its commitment to FDX even as it was forced to temporarily reassess its engineering priorities amid a surge in data traffic on its residential cable network in recent months as millions of consumers worked and schooled from home amid lockdown orders. Peak demand on hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks in the US started to spike in early March, but has leveled off in recent weeks, according to the NCTA's COVID-19 Dashboard, which tracks and tabulates data supplied by a handful of cable operators, including Comcast.
But the initial burden that was placed on Comcast's cable networks in early March caused a temporary "tapping of the brakes" on FDX, an industry source familiar with the situation said. "They can't do everything at once."
Thus far, Comcast appears to be the primary champion of FDX, a technique that enables downstream and upstream traffic to occupy the same block of spectrum while also pushing fiber deeper into the network and eliminating the need to place amplifiers between the node and the home. Most other operators appear far more interested in Extended Spectrum DOCSIS, an approach that will continue to keep upstream and downstream data traffic separate while also raising the spectrum ceiling to 1.2GHz or as high as 1.8GHz.
FDX and ESD are both supported in the DOCSIS 4.0 specs (FDX is also an annex to DOCSIS 3.1), but engineers in favor of ESD view it as the less expensive and less complicated option. It's also not clear yet whether Comcast's commitment to FDX ultimately will encompass its entire cable network or be relegated to a portion of it.
It faces an uphill climb, but Viasat is exploring a plan to build 300 low-earth orbit satellites that could deliver low-latency broadband service and qualify for the US Rural Digital Opportunities Fund.
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