Move Over 5G, Cable Has 10G!


LightCounting Reports on the Recent SCTE Cabletec Conference and Exhibition


The Society of Cable Television Engineers (SCTE) held its annual   Cable-Tec engineering conference October 1-3 in New Orleans.  Attendance was definitely lower than the previous couple of years.  The lower attendance could be an indicator that companies have reduced discretionary spending due to weaker H1 2019 spending by MSOs (as reported by security analyst George Notter), and could also indicate fears of a prolonged economic slowdown. 

One theme of the show was fairly unified support by the vendor community for the CableLabs led ‘10G’ marketing initiative, which was officially launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past January.  At first glance, CableLab’s ‘10G’ appeared to be just ‘DOCSIS 3.1 Full Duplex’ under a new name, but there is more to it than that. [Note: DOCSIS 3.1 can provide up to 10 Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream.  DOCSIS 3.1 Full Duplex supports symmetric 10G upstream/downstream bandwidth.]

Recently (September 2019), CableLabs announced it would complete its DOCSIS 4.0 specification in early 2020, and confirmed that the updated standard will support both Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX) and Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD). The former supports symmetric 10Gbps data streams in the same spectral band, while ESD accomplishes the same symmetric 10G/10G by extending the usable RF spectrum from 1.2 GHz to 1.8 GHz, enabling the use of non-overlapping spectrum bands for upstream and downstream traffic.  In this context, ‘10G’ is CableLabs’ marketing name for ‘DOCSIS 4.0’. 

Brian Dietz of CableLabs told the audience at SCTE-CableTec that providing a better experience for online gamers was one of the big motivators for ‘10G’. Low latency is a critical requirement for online game playing, and CableLabs released a new DOCSIS latency spec in June 2019 under the 10G umbrella that is expected to provide sub-5-millisecond latency.  Another benefit of the very low latency spec is that it plays well to the requirements of mobile backhaul, midhaul, and fronthaul (a.k.a. x-haul),  so much so that CableLabs is calling the new specification ‘LLX’, or Low Latency Xhaul, and are including ‘LLX’ in their marketing for the ‘10G network’.  Implementing LLX does not require new modem hardware, and lab trials have already been completed. Field trials are expected in mid-2020, so if things go well vendors should have product ready for most mobile operators’ 5G deployment.

Yes, the meanings of “Gs” in 10G and 5G are completely different, but this will not stop the cable providers from advertising their 10G offering, while mobile operators are just start with 5G deployments.

A link to the full version of the research note was emailed to LightCounting subscribers. It includes additional sections on virtualization in cable networks, auto-tuning 10G transceivers and coherent optics.


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