NBN Co, the company building and operating Australia’s broadband network, has introduced what it bills as the “cutting edge cable technology DOCSIS 3.1 on its HFC network” – ahead of the planned ramping  up ofe HFC activations in the coming months.

NBN said implementing DOCSIS 3.1 doubled the downstream capacity on the HFC network, which is slated to serve some three million premises across Australia 2020.

“Although DOCSIS 3.1 does enable higher speeds on HFC networks that is not our core focus at this present time,” said NBN Co CTO Ray Owen. “From an NBN Co point of view DOCSIS 3.1 will help us increase capacity on the HFC network far more efficiently than conducting new optical node splits which will, in turn, free up construction resources elsewhere to complete the network build by 2020.

“In addition, we also look forward to the benefits that DOCSIS 3.1 will help bring on the operational side of the network in delivering a more stable and resilient network for end-users,” said Owen.

“The technology improves the online experience for homes and businesses by helping to ensure there is sufficient capacity available to meet demand – especially at peak-usage times,” it added, noting that DOCSIS 3.1, already launched by several US cable operators such as Comcast and Cox Communications, significantly improves the spectral efficiency of the HFC network.

This, it added, will allow NBN Co to use new higher range spectrum – therefore doubling the capacity available. “This will prove a key benefit for NBN Co on our HFC network given that around 75% of new end-user premises coming onto the NBN network are now taking either 50Mbps or 100Mbps services with nearly 50% of our 4.1 million activated premises now on 50Mbps or above speeds.”

Prior to launching DOCSIS 3.1 the only way NBN Co could increase capacity on the HFC network was by installing new optical nodes; a process known as node-splitting, to reduce the number of premises served by the existing optical nodes on the network.

“Using technology from our HFC technology partner ARRIS, NBN Co is planning to deploy DOCSIS 3.1 technology across the vast majority of the NBN HFC broadband access network by 2020 in both the downstream and upstream directions,” it said.

NBN Co also said that as DOCSIS 3.1 is brought onto the network on an area-by-area basis ,most end-users should have immediate access to the technology as their existing NBN Co Network Termination Device (NTD) inside their home is already fitted with DOCSIS 3.1 capable technology.

The firm said using Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) modulation technology and a more advanced Forward Error Correction (FEC) method as part of DOCSIS 3.1 would also help to provide a more reliable and stable connection for end-users on the network.