CableLabs has released the DOCSIS 4.0 cable modem specification. It allows data rates of up to 10 gigabits per second downstream and up to 6 gigabits upstream. It will enable service providers to deliver symmetric multigigabit services over existing hybrid fibre-coaxial cable infrastructure.

The specification provides faster data rates, lower latency, increased security and higher reliability. The technology is part of planning for a 10G platform, which it calls the next great leap for broadband.

When CableLabs was founded in 1988, people were using dial-up modems to connect to the internet at 9,600 bits per second. Current cable technologies can enable homes to connect at 1 gigabits per second, which is a 100,000 times faster transfer rate.

The current Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, DOCSIS 3.1, provides asymmetric services with a maximum upstream capacity of 1-1.5 gigabits per second, shared across multiple users. Upstream usage is typically only around 10% of downstream usage, but applications like remote working, cloud services, and video sharing will require increased upstream capacity.

Docsis 4.0 allows the full spectrum of the cable plant to be used at the same time both downstream and upstream, while remaining backwards compatible. Previously referred to as DOCSIS 3.1 Full Duplex, these technologies have been rebranded as part of DOCSIS 4.0.

Delivery of the specification is the first step in a three-part lifecycle that has been part of the DOCSIS process for over 20 years. The second step includes interoperability events and the final step is certification.

Cable providers are anticipating competition from 5G wireless networks, that will also offer gigabit rates with low latency.