Comcast: We'll cover our entire footprint with 10 Gpbs-capable DOCSIS 3.1 tech as soon as 2018

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A top Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) executive said the company is hoping to upgrade its entire cable network footprint with DOCSIS 3.1 technology within the next two years. The company plans to begin market trials of the technology, which can support maximum speeds of 10 Gpbs, later this year.

"We're testing it this year," Robert Howald, Comcast's VP of network architecture, told FierceCable. "Our intent is to scale it through our footprint through 2016."

"We want to get it across the footprint very quickly," Howald added, noting that the company hopes to have the technology deployed across its entire U.S. network footprint in the next 2-3 years. "We're shooting for two years," he said.

Howald explained that the move from DOCSIS 3 to 3.1 will initially allow Comcast to offer its customers speeds of 1 Gbps. "DOCSIS 3.1 allows us to do that and higher," he said.

Executives from CableLabs, the company that designed the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, said that the 3.1 standard can transmit data up to 10 Gbps -- however, those speeds are only possible with ideal network configurations and equipment. Comcast's Howald said that after the company's initial DOCSIS 3.1 deployment, the company will work to tweak and enhance the technology. "Then we'll start to see more advanced features come into play," he said.

Howald declined to name Comcast's DOCSIS 3.1 vendors. According to IHS, Arris is the country's largest supplier of DOCSIS network equipment.

Although Howald's comments were specifically focused on Comcast's network, the company also must deploy DOCSIS 3.1 capable modems into customers' homes in order to offer 1 Gbps speeds and higher to users. Along those lines, the company in May announced its DOCSIS 3.1 modem that it said will go into production this year and will be available to customers in early 2016.

In July, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts gave the first concrete detail on the company's DOCSIS 3.1 rollout. He said the technology "will provide significant added capacity and lay the groundwork for future speed increases for our broadband customers." He said the company will begin trials of DOCSIS 3.1 in unspecified markets in the fourth quarter of this year.

By moving to DOCSIS 3.1 technology, Comcast will be able to provide 1 Gbps services on its existing Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC) network. Howald said the vast majority of Comcast's customers are on that network.

However, in some locations in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, California and elsewhere, Comcast is also deploying a fiber-based network. The company's fiber-based Gigabit Pro service will offer up to 2 Gpbs speeds for around $300 a month.

Howald declined to discuss how much Comcast's DOCSIS 3.1 service would cost.

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