Article - 22 June 2016
Next generation broadband upgrades to DOCSIS 3.1 technology are elemental for cable operators to maintain competitive edge - but achieving full benefit out of the implementations is not simple. What is needed for a successful DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade is careful network design as well as deep understanding of HFC networks and how they behave with full DOCSIS 3.1 loading and higher frequencies. Hand-in-hand with our product manufacturing, Teleste has developed network design capabilities that are up for the challenge.
Careful design is needed for service delivery excellence
As ensuring service delivery excellence is a vital issue for cable broadband operators today, upgrading networks to DOCSIS 3.1 on the CMTS side gives them significant benefits. However, from the point of view of maximum capacity and performance, the full benefit of DOCSIS 3.1 comes from upgrading the entire HFC network from headend to home.
Deploying frequencies up to 1.2 GHz makes networks increasingly vulnerable to ingress issues causing service interruptions and slow broadband for end-customers. Careful network design and analysis is needed in order to build networks that work well with the higher frequencies and minimize the risks of service outages. This means taking into account many issues such as the impact of cabling, wall outlets, passives, amplifiers and optics to MER performance and isolation.
Roll-outs need to be faster than ever to maintain competitiveness
Upgrading to DOCSIS 3.1 networks is gradually launching a totally new rebuilding wave in the cable industry and we will see new large implementations of the technology in the next coming years. However, this is not a unique step to take in the HFC evolution path; such steps have previously been taken from 300 to 450, 606, 862, and 1006 MHz.
What makes it different this time, is the fact that network upgrades need to be implemented faster than before. Previously, it might have taken several years to carry out network upgrades from the early start to finish. Today, even large end-to-end implementations simply cannot take longer than a couple of years for operators to maintain a competitive edge and reap the benefits of their capex outlay.
‘One size’ does not fit all but intelligence helps in network upgrades
Another tricky issue in DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades is that there is no copy and paste model to apply. During the past decades, each region and local operator has had their own way of building cable networks. In order to create designs that fit optimally in each network environment and solves its bottlenecks, upgrading such legacy networks demands deep analysis on how they behave. The life cycle of DOCSIS 3.1 implementations will most likely reach over 10 years, for which time the products and the networks need to perform as they should.
Taking intelligence deeper into the network provides operators a way to tackle the challenge of adapting to case-by-case requirements during very fast roll-outs and while devices stay in operation. Combined with advanced network operating tools, intelligent amplifiers and nodes enable features like remote configuration, automatic adjustments and remote ingress switching. Intelligent products increase network uptime and cut down operational costs by allowing a proactive approach to network maintenance. In addition, updating intelligent devices is flexible, and does not require high expertise in the field.
Making DOCSIS 3.1 promises a reality
The industry has been working hard to enable DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades, and today, we at Teleste can say that pretty much our entire range of network products is 1.2 GHz capable in the forward path and 200 MHz in the return path. Hand-in-hand with our product manufacturing, we have researched the impact of full DOCSIS 3.1 network loading - not only for today but also in the next ten years when we will be talking about all-IP networks.
In 2017, new end-to-end implementations to DOCSIS 3.1 will take place, and in the next ten years, we will also see HFC networks migrating towards data networking oriented systems. The development will lead to the need to rethink the entire HFC architecture and its effect on millions and millions network devices in the field. To prepare for such a migration and to carry it out successfully, you really need to do careful network analysis, and know how to apply the results. The benefits of growing data transmission capacity are available, but new requirements and skills are needed on how networks are maintained and operated to seize the opportunity.
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