NBN Co is set to begin its first DOCSIS 3.1 field trials in February next year ahead of a planned commercial launch on the HFC network before the end of 2018.
The company ran its first lab tests on the technology back in June, and more are scheduled for this month.
But it will today unveil plans for limited field trials of DOCSIS 3.1 at four HFC nodes starting February 2018.
The exact location of the trials as well as other “finer details” are yet to be worked through, according to an NBN Co spokesperson.
“We’re really excited by the possibilities offered by DOCSIS 3.1,” the spokesperson said.
DOCSIS 3.1 is the next-generation standard for hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) networks.
The upgrade promises better speeds for users, but also “greater operational efficiencies and network diagnostics … and much higher spectrum efficiency, particularly in the upstream".
Already, NBN Co has deployed network termination devices (NTDs) in homes in the HFC footprint which are capable of both DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1.
NBN Co presently uses Arris equipment in its HFC network under a $400 million deal struck back in 2015. This gear was used to upgrade the existing Telstra HFC network and was initially meant also to upgrade the Optus HFC network, but much of this will instead be replaced outright with a fibre-to-the-curb network instead.
Arris’ network and cloud president Dan Whalen said his company was seeing both trials and deployments of DOCSIS 3.1 “ramping very quickly” in the US and Europe.
“We’re involved in trials and deployments with over seven different operators in North America today,” he said.
“In 2018 we see this quadrupling or quintupling the amount of DOCSIS 3.1 devices that are going to be deployed in the field.
“There’s a lot of build-up and field trials that have happened already and then we’ll really move into mass scale in 2018 and beyond.”
While the focus with NBN Co is around the DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade, Whalen said Arris was already discussing the next iteration of HFC beyond that, which is known as full duplex DOCSIS 3.1. It has a view towards achieving multi-gigabit speeds and greater efficiency than its predecessor.
“We’re already in discussions with NBN Co on full duplex DOCSIS 3.1, and what the requirements would be and when the timing is,” Whalen said.
“I’d say if it was available today NBN Co would be willing to deploy it, and [would] work with us to deploy it in some very targeted environments to get better speeds and bandwidth for their consumers.”
NBN Co currently has around 850,000 HFC premises ready for service and about 210,000 active services. About three million premises will form the HFC footprint once the NBN is complete.