Arris CTO Cloonan: DOCSIS 3.1 utility can be stretched out as far as 2040 with extended spectrum

BOSTON — It's feasible for cable operators to still be running DOCSIS 3.1-powered networks over copper cables as far out as 2040, according to Tom Cloonan, CTO of Arris's network and cloud business. 

Presenting to technicians and other cable-industry denizens today at the INTX show, Cloonan outlined the belief of Arris engineers that extended spectrum DOCSIS technology can extend the life of HFC plants by more than two decades, even with network bandwidth demands sustaining their rapid, 50 percent-a-year expansion. 

"One of the big questions MSOs ask is what will their networks look like in 2030, and will they be able to support their subscribers," Cloonan said to FierceCable in an interview conducted before today's presentation. 

"The answer has been to take fiber deeper and deeper, stretching it out further and further towards the subscriber," he added. "That's been an ongoing activity for the last 15 years."

So what happens when operators reach what Cloonan calls "node zero" — that point at which fiber can be extended no further, unless it's to the premises itself?

"What can you do when you reach node zero?" he asked. "Well, obviously a lot of things."

By increasing the bandwidth of DOCSIS 3.1 to 6 Ghz, he said, HFC plants could support speeds higher than 50 Gbps.

The concept could be used in complement to also-developing Full Duplex DOCSIS standards, Cloonan said.

The concept, he added, is in the "early stages" — the most advanced HFC plants currently support only around 1 Ghz. 

"It's only a work in progress," Cloonan said, "but it's a promising work in progress."

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