Last mile 10 Gigabit Internet is coming

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When I first started using the Internet, I was glad I had a 300 baud modem. A serious business connection was a T-1, which could reach an incredible 1.54 megabits per second (Mbps). Things have changed. Now I have a 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Internet link to my home office – and one day soon, CableLabs, the cable industry’s research and development lab, promises we’ll have 10 Gbps (10G) for homes and offices.

The first steps have already been taken. In 2021, Comcast and Broadcom demonstrated that with DOCSIS 4 full-duplex (FDX) system-on-chip (SoC) devices, partners could achieve 4 Gbps. This was done using DOCSIS 4 echo cancellation and spectrum overlap techniques. Comcast also performed a successful test of a full 10G connection using a virtualized cable modem termination system. (vCMTS) based on DOCSIS 4.

DOCSIS 4, the next generation of cable Internet, combines existing high-speed cable and fiber over hybrid fiber coaxial (HFC) cable. This new technology supports speeds of up to 10 Gbps downstream and up to 6 Gbps upstream.

We are already achieving this speed in the labs. Charter Communications, aka Spectrum, recently demonstrated over 8.5 Gbps downstream and 6 Gbps upstream over a hybrid HFC. This was done without laying any cable or fiber, but using pre-existing HFC infrastructure.

CableLabs member Armstrong went one step further. The company launched a 10 gigabit fiber optic network in Medina, Ohio for customers. This provided 10G access to over 3,000 area businesses and residences.

CableLabs President and CEO Phil McKinney said, “With faster symmetric speeds, lower latency, increased reliability and improved security, the emerging 10G network will truly fuel the next generation of innovation. Here’s how:

Improved capacity

It sounds simplistic but we can achieve 10G by simply increasing the number of bits per second delivered to subscribers. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

To help carriers better meet this demand, CableLabs has released specifications for a new device, called the Coherent Termination Device. It works by making more efficient use of the ISP’s existing fiber assets by combining coherent optics technologies and wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) into the optical access network. This allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to integrate more bits into their existing fiber network. The technologies are already known to work. Coherent optics is already used for long-distance Internet, metro and submarine backbone networks.

Advancing 10G Innovation

To continue the innovation momentum, CableLabs launched the 10G Challenge to accelerate the work of innovators, startups, students and entrepreneurs in developing 10G applications. With total prizes over $300,000, the 10G Challenge is designed to inspire innovators to take advantage of the emerging 10G network. Six winners will be chosen, and the grand prize winner and category winners will have the opportunity to showcase their technologies at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2022.

McKinney concluded, “While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know that the internet will play a vital role in shaping it.” And the 10G platform and its applications are “creating a better future for mankind.”

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