Comcast is to deploy a DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit Home Gateway. It will also be compatible with Comcast’s current hybrid fiber-coax network, and is backwards compatible with the current DOCSIS 3.0 infrastructure. The gateway will be capable of delivering gigabit bandwidth speeds over dual channel 802.11n/ac Wi-Fi, and will feature Reference Design Kit Broadband software. Comcast plans to deploy the equipment on a wide scale in 2016. ARRIS and Compal Networks will both contribute in manufacturing the device.
Comcast has been very frank about their intentions with regards to DOCSIS 3.1. In fact, they are one of the key driving factors behind the innovation in the industry, due to their commitment to advancing this access technology and tying it to the Reference Design Kit (RDK) with the RDK-B platform. The RDK, an open source software framework for set-top box software, has proven to be very successful for Comcast in the managed video space, where it has enabled the X1 platform. RDK-B is an attempt to replicate that success with cable broadband gateways and spread the RDK platform across both pieces of its in-home equipment. OEM RDK Licensees include ARRIS, Cisco, Humax, and Pace, all of whom operate in both the broadband CPE and set-top box space.
The primary reason for development of RDK-B is about more than the bandwidth provided: it is also about the ability to offer ISPs the potential for service differentiation. While in-home video distribution is a very important element to home networks, it is increasingly important for the CPE to handle more complex home networking functionality. This can take the form of network diagnostics, home automation, home security, and a whole host of other Smart Home and Internet of Things functionality.
Underlying this is a current industry trend towards more ISP involvement in the home network, which requires a more technologically advanced piece of CPE in the household. As a result, the ISP product is becoming more than simply providing internet access, but also providing home network management, through either home networking standards, or, more increasingly, Wi-Fi. This runs in parallel to equipment upgrades in Wi-Fi functionality, DOCSIS channel bonding and MoCA 2.0 as well. All these factors contribute to the increasing strategic importance of the broadband CPE as part of an overall long-term plan for ISPs to not only provide a connection to the internet, but to also help the consumer manage and diagnose problems with their in-home connectivity and devices. The importance of this final piece of managed equipment has shifted from simply a gateway to the internet to a truly managed piece of hardware and software capable of much more.
In the near term, some ISPs might be looking to DOCSIS 3.1 equipment deployments prior to upgrading their CMTS infrastructure for the specification. This would mirror some trends in the DSL market in which some ISPs have opted for VDSL CPE prior to deploying VDSL technology in their infrastructure, as a way to future proof their CPE. Alternately, some ISPs will choose to leverage their current DOCSIS 3.0 infrastructure by deploying more advanced 32x8 CPE in order to reach closer to gigabit speeds.
Comcast is in the vanguard of the movement to DOCSIS 3.1, and IHS broadband CPE forecasts reflect Comcast’s strategy for widespread deployment in 2016. Longer term forecasts for DOCSIS 3.1 include a more widespread adoption to the standard in 2018 throughout Europe and the US, after the first deployments have undergone the various trials of initial deployment testing and troubleshooting.