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NBN Co must wait until mid-2015 for fast cable modems

DOCSIS 3.1 standard hoped to deliver NBN has been renamed 'Gigasphere'

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The word “Gigasphere” just entered the lexicon of those who watch progress of Australia's National Broadband Network, after Cable Labs, the US-based outfit that oversees development of data-over-TV-cable standards picked the word to describe the technology formerly known as DOCSIS 3.1.

No less an internet luminary than Simon Hackett, a board member of NBN Co and iiNet has opined that DOCSIS 3.1/Gigasphere has an important role to play in the NBN. Australia's communications minister Malcolm Turnbull is also keen on using the nation's existing hybrid fibre coax networks to deliver the NBN, as he feels doing so will enable cheaper, swifter rollouts than will be possible using other technologies.

But Turnbull's reliance on Gigasphere may just have hit a hurdle because Cable Labs has also signalled, in this update on Gigasphere, that “We are planning for our first round of equipment interoperability testing later this year, and we expect to see devices ready for certification by the middle of 2015.”

If those targets are met, there's every chance it will be late 2015 before NBN Co will be able to acquire the kit needed to start building its network over Australia's current HFC network.

Cable operators in the USA are very keen to get Gigasphere working, so there's every chance things will go to plan.

But the government has yet to even hint at progress in negotiation with Telstra and Optus about their HFC networks and the mid-2015 certification target means they have a fine incentive to let discussions stretch out for a while longer to get NBN Co – and Turnbull – good and desperate.

News that DOCSIS 3.1 kit won't be available until mid-2015 isn't necessarily a huge problem: Alcatel has pointed out to us that current DOCSIS 3.0 kit can hit 1.0 Gbps. But as Hackett's piece points out, Australia's HFC networks will likely need Gigasphere at their core to handle the increased traffic they'll be expected to carry when pressed into service by the NBN. ®

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