Gigabit availability is arriving at US households at lightning speeds: in June 2018, 63% of housing units -- 74% of the cable broadband footprint -- have access to 1Gbp/s, up 7% in three months, according to a report published this month by CableLabs.
In March 2018, 56% of US housing units -- or 66% of the cable broadband footprint -- had gigabit service or faster from their local cable operator, CableLabs reported in September 2018. That's because providers are heavily investing in their infrastructures in order to empower consumers and businesses to tap into capabilities that gigabit service delivers, wrote Mark Walker, director of Technology Policy at CableLabs, in a blog on the organization's website.
"CableLabs and the cable industry are continuing to advance the capacity and performance in each segment of the cable broadband network to remain well-ahead of consumer demand," he wrote. "We are focused on developing innovative network technologies in the areas of coax (e.g., DOCSIS 3.1 and full duplex DOCSIS), fiber (e.g., coherent optics in the access network) and wireless (e.g., WiFi and 5G), as well as defining optimal network architectures to provide the necessary capacity and performance in each segment of the network for today's gigabit services and those anticipated in the future."
While DOCSIS traditionally has provided asymmetric service, users increasingly create content -- such as video and gaming -- that demands symmetrical streaming. The anticipated increase of uses including telemedicine and the arrival of 5G with its as-yet-unknown use cases is only expected to place more need for equal up- and down-stream speeds. That's where D3.1 is heading, according to CableLabs, which has completed the FDX DOCSIS specifications and predicts commercial availability of "conforming network equipment with the next calendar year," according to its Fall 2018 InformED Insights report.
In addition, CableLabs is focused on adapting coherent optical transmission, typically used in metro and long-haul fiber networks, for use in access networks. By using coherent optic technologies, service providers could increase the per-strand capacity in their access networks by orders of magnitude compared with today's optical access technologies, the industry group said. Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) -- which helps enable deployment of fiber deeper into cable networks -- and consumers' demand for ever-higher speeds are driving this need for more fiber capacity in the access network.
Likewise, mobile wireless back-haul, 5G and commercial services also spur on optical fiber's development. To address this, CableLabs released two specifications for point-to-point coherent optics earlier this year.
On the wireless front, CableLabs developed protocols for WiFi proactive network maintenance (WiFi PNM) and global standards for WiFi performance, data elements and residential WiFi mesh networks. Most CableLabs members also are mobile network operators, and CableLabs released an addition to the DOCSIS specification to enable HFC networks to more effectively provide mobile wireless backhaul services to support increased deployment of small cell architectures and, eventually, 5G, the group said.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.