Getting the fastest internet speed available typically requires fiber optic cables that transmit data with pulses of light, which can require digging up streets and yards to lay fiber. But Comcast is rolling out a new standard that uses existing cables to bring fiber-like speeds to everyday customers, with the first tests just wrapping up in the company’s hometown of Philadelphia.
By taking advantage of the two-year-old DOCSIS 3.1 standard, Comcast is able to deliver one gigabit of data per second over the coaxial cables often used to transmit broadband internet.
“The beauty of DOCSIS 3.1 is that it is backwards compatible, so no digging up streets or backyards,” Comcast chief technology officer Tony Werner said in a press release. “This technology, when combined with the extensive upgrades we have already completed on our advanced Hybrid Fiber-Coaxial network, will provide more gigabit choices for our customers.”
DOCSIS, which stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, is a standard used to transfer data over the existing network that was installed to provide cable TV service. Most modern internet providers use DOCSIS 3.0 for internet service, often topping out at 100Mbps, or about one tenth the speed of Comcast’s new service. The DOCSIS 3.1 standard is actually capable of up to 10Gbps downstream speeds, but tops out at 1Gbps uploads.
However, this was just a test showing that Comcast’s DOCSIS 3.1 system works, using employees’ homes to test out kinks in the high-speed service. Comcast is continuing to test the service in Northern California and Atlanta in addition to continued trials in Philadelphia. It expects to roll out the service to everyday customers in select markets by the end of 2016.
According to Werner, all customers need is “a new modem, a software upgrade to the device that serves that neighborhood, and a few good engineers.” Yes, that does mean you’ll need a new modem to take advantage of these speeds. However, because all DOCSIS standards are cross-compatible, your old modem will still work just fine at your existing speeds.