CableLabs will begin DOCSIS 4.0 certification later this month

Cable operators are in different stages of preparing for DOCSIS 4.0 upgrades, but vendors will soon be able to determine if their modems are up to the task. Beginning June 26, CableLabs and its subsidiary Kyrio will launch a DOCSIS 4.0 certification program.

The goal of the program, according to a CableLabs spokesperson, is to ensure cable modems are compliant with CableLabs’ DOCSIS 4.0 suite of specifications and that there’s interoperability between devices from different manufacturers.

“Vendors submit their devices to Kyrio, which executes a test plan designed to evaluate compliance with the CableLabs specifications,” the spokesperson told Fierce. “Once testing is complete, the results are presented to a Certification Board made up of representatives from several of our member companies, who determine if the device should become CableLabs Certified.”

Essentially, DOCSIS 4.0 is a new industry standard that will allow cable operators to expand their network capacity to 10 Gbps download speeds and upload speeds of up to 6 Gbps. It’s a step-up from DOCSIS 3.1, which currently supports 10 Gbps downstream and 1-2 Gbps upstream.

Deployment methods for 4.0 come in two flavors: full duplex (FDX) or extended spectrum (ESD – also known as frequency division duplex or FDD).

FDX, which is what Comcast is using, involves the simultaneous transmission of data upstream and downstream using the same spectrum. Whereas ESD, which is what operators like Charter and Cox are pursuing, allocates separate chunks of spectrum for the upstream and downstream lanes of traffic.

For CableLabs’ certification testing, vendors can submit DOCSIS 4.0 cable modems with support for FDX, ESD or both. The price for initial submission is higher for the latter than for testing just one method. But in any case, the cost runs upwards of $200,000.

The spokesperson explained CableLabs will use the same certification process for all cases, but it will also “test requirements that are specific to the given mode of operation for the submitted device.”

As for how long DOCSIS 4.0 certification can take, the CableLabs rep noted the amount of time is “inherently unpredictable.” However, based on early DOCSIS 3.1 submissions, CableLabs expects the process could take “anywhere from three to nine months.”

Vendors will be able to update their devices “as many times as necessary” to achieve certification, without having to pay additional fees.

“Because we’re using this success-based process, the time it takes will be determined by the maturity of the product and its ability to pass the tests successfully,” the spokesperson added. “Given that each update will require regression testing before we can proceed, the more often a device needs to be updated the longer it will take.”