Gigabit web streaming in 2016? Live tests say yes

Comcast already running DOCSIS 3.1 with employees

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Gigabit network speeds over your existing internet connection are looking good for early 2016, apparently.

That's according to Comcast, whose VP of access architecture addressed the Cable Next-Gen conference in Denver on Tuesday.

Jorge Salinger told attendees that the cable giant was already testing the technology in the field, with employees given next generation modems at their homes. Those modems are running DOCSIS 3.1 - which is 10 times faster than the current 3.0 standard.

"The target for us is to be in the field establishing network readiness in 2015," Salinger said according to Light Reading, which put on the event. "Our overall goal is to be able to deploy DOCSIS 3.1 and gigabit-per-second in a broad scale starting in 2016."

That prediction gels with what Comcast announced back in January. Then, the company said it was moving forward with a new D3.1 compliant modem from Broadcom - the BCM93390 - and put an early 2016 timeline on rollout.

But expectations and real-world events often go their separate ways, making Salinger's announcement that the company is making D3.1 work in residential homes all the more exciting for gamers, those looking for 4K streaming video, and general lovers of data.

There may still be speed bumps on the way, however.

There is no certified D3.1 hardware at the moment - certification is expected to start mid-2015 - so Comcast is currently using specially modified modems.

However things do look promising, with director of network technologies at CableLabs, Belal Hamzeh, telling attendees that their certification process is "progressing well".

Since D3.1 diverges from 3.0 in that it doesn't used fixed modulation, there are significant technical and training obstacles to be overcome before a major rollout can be put in place. Salinger said that while it has started training around 1,000 of its staff, it needs to expand that to between 20,000 and 40,000 before it can push out its service.

And even though one of the big selling point of DOCSIS 3.1 is that it doesn't need a network-wide upgrade to happen, cable companies recognize that it makes good sense to do exactly that before dealing with what is expected to be heavy demand for the super high-speed service.

Despite that, Comcast is still confident of an early 2016 launch - which is impressive given that, in Australia for example, the company building Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), NBN Co, was proud to announce its plans to offer Gigabit service a full 12 months later than Comcast - by 2017. ®

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