news The chief technology officer of the NBN company yesterday said new modems launched by the company’s equipment supplier ARRIS will allow theoretical top speeds of 5Gbps down and 2Gbps up, in comments which appear to run contrary to ongoing claims by the company that Australians are not interested in gigabit NBN speeds.
In a blog post published yesterday, NBN CTO Dennis Steiger noted he had attended the SCTE Cable-Tec EXPO 2015 in New Orleans in mid-October. Steiger is a Canadian executive which the NBN company hired in June 2014. His speciality appears to be HFC cable networks of the kind that the NBN company is acquiring from Telstra and Optus.
The NBN company plans to replace the equipment in the two HFC cable networks — while leaving the cable runs intact — through contracts with US technology giant ARRIS.
In his blog post, Steiger noted the topic that dominated proceedings at the conference in New Orleans was the DOCSIS 3.1 standard — which represents the latest speed upgrade for HFC cable networks. The CTO said that at the conference, several equipment vendors launched end user cable modems capable of supporting the DOCSIS 3.1 standard. The hardware is expected to hit the market in the first quarter of 2016.
“Among the vendors was ARRIS, which is supplying network hardware to NBN’s HFC rollout,” wrote Steiger. “Arris’s DOCSIS 3.1 modem can deliver a stunning 5Gbps downstream and 2Gbps upstream – that’s five times faster than the fastest 1Gbps speed we offer to our [retail service provider or RSP] customers using Fibre to the Premises and many times faster than most of our other products.”
Steiger added that Hitron Technologies also unveiled its own first DOCSIS 3.1 modem, again capable of 5Gbps downstream speeds, with the a slower 1Gbps upstream speed capability.
“This shows that this technology should be able to easily support the products we offer over the NBN network.”
Steiger noted that these speeds represented the “maximum possible” delivered through the modem. “Actual end-user speeds experienced via services over the NBN network will depend on a range of factors including the speeds being delivered by service providers,” he wrote.
However, Steiger’s comments on speed with relation to the NBN come as other executives at the NBN company have recently been downplaying the need for higher speeds on the network. NBN company chief executive Bill Morrow told a Senate Estimates session several weeks ago that only a tiny handful of the company’s end user customers had taken up gigabit speeds over the NBN network.
It was a statement repeated on Monday by NBN spokesperson Karina Keisler.
The executive added that there were several other trends evident at the conference.
“Discussions at the event also focused heavily on the issue of proactive network maintenance on cable networks,” he wrote. “This basically means identifying and fixing problems before end-users even realise there has been a problem at all.”
“Tests on current DOCSIS 3.0 technology have shown reductions of nearly 10 per cent on network maintenance costs when proactive network maintenance is used. With DOCSIS 3.1 offering much more powerful network maintenance tools, the cost savings are expected to be even higher.”
Steiger said this represented “great news” for those on the NBN network, as it meant that when the company launched DOCSIS 3.1 in 2017, the HFC portion of its network should be much more reliable and stable than if the company was using “older technology”.
The executive said the other buzzword flying around the conference was 4K television, with most people at the conference appearing to agree that this technology was taking off significantly faster than HDTV did when it first broke through into the market.
“As 4K requires up to 25Mbps to stream properly – around five times what HD requires –it was reassuring to see vendors expressing confidence that compression technologies are evolving quickly enough to help reduce the load on our networks that 4K would bring,” wrote Steiger.
“The huge buzz around DOCSIS 3.1 – and the giant strides that this technology is making towards commercial deployment – makes us very proud that it will be the cornerstone of our cable broadband network on the NBN.”