Jon Pederson, the CTO of MSO Midco, said the company’s tests of DOCSIS 3.1 network technology are proceeding as expected, and the company is on track to launch faster service powered by the technology in four to five of its largest cities by the end of this year.
“It’s working really well,” Pederson told FierceCable. “I have a modem in my home, and I’m testing pretty high speeds.”
Last year, Midco deployed Cisco’s cBR-8 converged broadband router in preparation for its DOCSIS 3.1 launch, and in February the company said it would conduct field trials of its “Midco Gig Internet” service in Fargo, North Dakota.
The company – which counts 330,000 customers in nearly 350 communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin – has committed to delivering DOCSIS 3.1-powered gigabit service to its entire service area by the end of 2017.
“We’ve deployed DOCSIS 3.1 to several headends, and we have field trials … in two of our largest cities,” Pederson explained. “And it’s going really well. The biggest challenge we see is that it’s difficult to get modems. They’re a little behind in terms of availability [in comparison to the availability of equipment for the core CMTS network]. But we expect in the next 30 to 60 days to get shipments of those.”
Pederson declined to name the company’s DOCSIS 3.1 modem and gateway vendors.
Added Pederson: “We hope to announce in probably the next couple of weeks a date when we start [DOCSIS 3.1] beta testing, and that’s bringing customers that are on the waiting list to start testing. And we still hope to launch in a number of cities before the end of the year, and that would be a full launch.”
And what of working with DOCSIS 3.1, a new network technology designed to allow MSOs to upgrade their existing hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) plants in order to provide speeds that are competitive with the latest 1 Gbps offerings from fiber and telco providers? “It takes a little fine tuning,” Pederson said. The technology “pays a little more attention to the quality of your plant. But honestly we’ve had much fewer problems than you would expect for such a brand new product.”
“It’s a little bit different between the lab and the real world because in the real world you’ve got greater distances, you might have faulty cable here and there. And one of the things that DOCSIS 3.1 is designed to do is to live in that world a little bit better,” he added.
Concluded Pederson: “There’s a lot of, I guess you would say, knobs in DOCSIS 3.1 that can be tuned,” he said. “And getting that all figured out, and tuned for your particular plant, is something that takes a little while to adjust.”
Of course, Midco isn’t the only MSO gearing up to launch DOCSIS 3.1 services in an effort to provide faster speeds to customers. In June Comcast said it started the second leg of its deployment, with DOCSIS 3.1-powered 1 gig service trials kicking off in Nashville following a rollout in Atlanta in March.
Other MSOs too are also moving toward the technology, albeit some faster than others. DOCSIS 3.1 deployments require upgrades to operators’ core networks as well as to customers’ home equipment.