The latest cable television technology is capable of delivering broadband speeds of a gigabit per second or more. Although already available to some users, such speeds remain a pipe dream for many. The average actual connection speed in the United States is 11Mbps. Globally, the average is just 4.6 megabits per second. According to international authorities it is anything above 250 kilobits per second.

Cable companies are continuing to push the technical capacity of their existing hybrid-fibre-coaxial plant, while telcos are coaxing the best out of their copper networks. This is partly in response to consumer demand for higher speeds, but also to stave off the competitive threat or commercial cost of fibre to the home.

The latest version of the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, or DOCSIS 3.1 was introduced in October 2013.

Six technology companies have completed the first successful interoperability test of DOCSIS 3.1 products for a new generation of cable television network hardware.

“The remarkable speed at which DOCSIS 3.1 has gone from concept, to specification, to interoperability testing demonstrates the great value of collaboration by industry stakeholders,” said Phil McKinney, president and chief executive of CableLabs, the non-profit research and development consortium for the cable industry. “This is a great step forward toward future deployment.”

The specifications define support for up to 10 Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream. They can transmit up to 50% more data over the same spectrum on existing hybrid-fibre-coax cable networks. DOCSIS 3.1 modems are designed to co-exist with older versions, enabling incremental deployment.

“The success of this first DOCSIS 3.1 interop validates that multi-Gigabit services will soon be a reality for cable broadband customers,” said Tom Lookabaugh, chief research and development officer at CableLabs. “Operators around the world can now look forward to a new generation of capabilities added to their DOCSIS based networks.”

While some customers may already enjoy gigabit broadband speeds, they remain a distant possibility for many.

There is also a big difference between advertised link speed and effective throughput for any specific service. This is likely to be limited by many factors, including contention on the network and server capacity.

The average internet connection in the United States is 11Mbps, as measured by Akamai. That ranks the country 14 in the world for broadband speed, slightly ahead of the United Kingdom, ranked 16.

By state, Delaware had the highest average connection speed, at 16Mbps, but only 35% of connections can consistently deliver above 15Mbps.

South Korea leads the Akamai global index, with average connection speeds of over 24Mbps. The global average is only 4.6 Mbps.

While advertised download speeds continue to rise, enabling improved video services, many applications also require greater upstream capacity. This remains a problem for many uses and users and is increasingly important for cloud-based services and people working from home.

Although there is much discussion of network neutrality, there is still no general consensus or global agreement on what constitutes a broadband connection.

The International Telecommunications Union in its 2014 annual report on the state of broadband still defines broadband as “a capacity of at least 256kbps in the uplink or downlink speed”.