While the most obvious benefit of DOCSIS 3.0 is the ability to bond channels and deliver incredible bandwidth, there’s a sometimes-overlooked side benefit; it may be cable’s best way to efficiently add millions of IP sub-addresses using next-generation IPv6.
IPv6 is designed as an evolutionary – many would say revolutionary – upgrade to the IPv4 Internet protocol now in operation. It’s biggest selling point is that it delivers a quantum leap in the number of available IP addresses needed for a plethora of emerging applications across computers, of course, set-top boxes, mobile phones, Wi-Fi phones and microwave ovens. (OK, we made the last one up, but it’s not a huge stretch.)
With this many devices and with subscribers holding a minimum of 10 IP addresses, according to some estimates, it’s pretty easy to see the wall at the end of the road. The thing is, IPv6 requires bandwidth, and DOCSIS 3.0 delivers it.
"IPv6 adds address space for those who need it," said Michelle Kuska, vice president of broadband access at CableLabs. "The larger ones are looking at migrating to utilize IPv6, and we put a capability into 3.0 that allows the equipment to operate either in IPv4 mode or IPv6 mode."
Believe what you will about the claims of cable’s telco competitors, but fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks are bandwidth rich, so those guys have a leg up when it comes to the number of IP devices they can deliver and the number of devices they can enable.
"With our initial investment with fiber-to-the-home and IPTV, we’re not faced with some of those upgrades that perhaps a cable company is," said Bill DeMuth, CTO of competitive provider SureWest in Sacramento, CA. "We’re well-positioned for the competition. We’ll continue to enhance our products, but we’re not going to have to re-architect the whole network in order to do it."
Is it any wonder then, that one cable engineer, speaking on background, said DOCSIS 3.0 is probably the most important project going on at CableLabs today?
"DOCSIS 3.0 is something that the cable industry is very much behind, and all of us are pushing to get it as soon as possible," the engineer said. "We’ve been very clear to the vendors that it’s an extraordinarily important project that we value and we want done yesterday."