With the first round of DOCSIS 3.1 modems getting certification from CableLabs, ABI Research predicts that the new networking standard will be used by 9 million cable subscribers by 2017.
That's about 1 percent of total subscribers to cable broadband services across the world. DOCSIS 3.1 will enable cable operators to offer downstream speeds of up to 10 Gbps, enabling them to compete with insurgent fiber-based competition.
"Ultimately, in instances in which corporations and homes have already installed cable, it is more economical to upgrade cable services than make the switch to fiber, which gives DOCSIS 3.1 a definite advantage in the market space," said Sam Rosen, managing director and VP at ABI Research.
"Thinking ahead, enhanced deployments of ultra-broadband networks could pave the way for cable operators to migrate to a pure IPTV over DOCSIS network, abandoning legacy broadcast QAM technology," he added. "However, no major operator is publically investigating that approach."
Operators including Comcast and Liberty Global have stated aggressive goals for DOCSIS 3.1 deployment. In fact, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) told FierceCable in August that it planned to cover its entire broadband footprint of more than 20 million homes with DOCSIS 3.1 by 2018 -- a goal that would seem to belie ABI's forecast if successful.
Other operators, such as Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), have said there's more life left in DOCSIS 3.0. During its fourth quarter earnings report today, TWC touted the fact that 65 percent of the residential homes it serves have DOCSIS 3.0 modems.
CableLabs certifies first batch of DOCSIS 3.1 modems
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TWC's Marcus: DOCSIS 3.0 still has a lot of juice in it