Mourad Veeneman is vice president for design and architecture at UPC Broadband, a Liberty Global company headquartered in the Netherlands.
You first ran a channel bonding trial several years ago. Could you share any lessons learned?
UPC has performed two pre-DOCSIS 3.0 field trials. The first was in Vienna in 2005, and this gave us our first peek into downstream and upstream channel bonding. Interestingly, reclaiming sufficient spectrum was not a problem. Of course, we had to make allowances for legacy services, but in the end everything was fairly painless.
The challenge for us here was finding applications and content that participants could utilize to take advantage of the dramatic data rates. We ended up with some high-definition video content obtained from our sister company Chellomedia and used it to stream to the trial users. The trial continues today. In the final stage of this field trial, we will migrate to a full Euro-DOCSIS 3.0 based solution.
What about your more recent trial?
In September 2007, we started our second trial in Amsterdam. The objectives shifted from looking solely at the user experience to building a network that exercises the very first versions of DOCSIS 3.0 equipment. The biggest lesson learned so far is that it is very tough being the first guy on the planet to deploy "bleeding edge" technology.
Having said that, even while working with pre-standard modems, we were able to achieve excellent results. In this trial, we broke a new broadband speed record over cable of 120 Mbps in consumer homes on UPC’s cable network in Amsterdam. This trial has proven that speeds of up to 200 Mbps and beyond are now within reach over cable networks.
These early results have us excited about the future. As soon as certified Euro-DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems have passed our internal qualification process, we will move them into the field trials. Our baseline Euro-DOCSIS configuration will be four 8 MHz 256-QAM downstream channels and four 6.4 MHz 32-QAM upstream channels.
Which DOCSIS 3.0 features do you find most compelling?
The fact that 3.0 specifies lower bounds for channel bonding is very exciting. Although we expect to see the first generation to bond four upstream and four or eight downstream channels, there isn’t really a limit.
Of course, this is currently limited by the available spectrum in the downstream and upstream, but it’s not unlikely that we will see modems being able to bond 16 or 32 downstream channels in the future. Who would need speeds up to 1.5 Gbps? I don’t know the answer right now, but ask again in 10 years, and I may be able to tell you.
Apart from speeds, how else do you see 3.0 carrying the industry through the next decade?
A lot of work was done to make sure that the DOCSIS 3.0 standard was "future proof." Consider IPv6. That is very important to us for two reasons. First, it will allow us to have a single network management domain across our countries. Currently, we do not have enough private IP space for all the devices we manage. The IPv4 10.0.0.0/8 space only allows for roughly 16 million private IP numbers, and that’s barely enough for a country like the Netherlands.
Second, there will not be any more new IPv4 address space available in a few years time. We have heard this before, but this time the experts believe it’s for real. To ensure that we are not impacted by the lack of IPv4 addresses, we have initiated a major plan to move to IPv6. DOCSIS 3.0 solves this problem for the network access part.
Are there markets where you anticipate 3.0 rolling out sooner than others?
Liberty Global is one of many companies in cable that supports the development of the DOCSIS 3.0 standard. The benefits are that we can offer better services to our customers and that we can compete with the performance offered by DSL or fiber to the home.
Which of the various developments in HFC architectures is UPC most interested in exploring?
Switched digital video and fiber deep are interesting to us. Looking at investment protection, fiber deep allows us to add capacity and increase the value of our infrastructure.