Direct Communications Upgrades Cable Network to new DOCSIS 3 System

Direct Communications Cable in Idaho completed a system-wide network upgrade over the course of the Summer of 2014 that will allow residents in all cable franchise towns served by the company to receive up to 20 megabit-per-second internet speeds.

The towns served by Directcom Cable include AberdeenBancroftDowneyFish HavenGeorgetownGraceLavaMcCammonMontpelierParis and Preston

More speed means more fun online.

More speed means more fun online.

The network upgrade was specifically a change from the old Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 1.0 to a newer DOCSIS 3.0 network specification. The DOCSIS 3 equipment allows an increase in data transmission speeds (both upstream and downstream).

Brian Black, Senior Network Administrator for Direct Communications, explained that the upgrade required a complete equipment swap in all of the fiber huts. “We had to purchase three new CMTS’s to support DOCSIS 3, which cost about $50,000 each.” (Cable Internet delivery includes two primary components: a cable modem, located at each customer premises, and a cable modem termination system (CMTS) located at the Cable TV headend.)  

For existing customers, anyone requesting speeds above the previous top speed of 10Mb would need a new DOCSIS 3.0 modem. All new customers automatically receive a new DOCSIS 3.0 modem at the time of install. 

Black said: “The real difference between a DOCSIS 3.0 system and the old DOCSIS 1 system is that a DOCSIS 3.0 modem can connect to multiple channels at once, whereas the old modem could only connect to a single path. So in theory, customers will now have four times the bandwidth available to them at any given time. Right now each of our customers are set up to connect to two downstream channels, and to four upstream channels, but once we have completed the next planned system-wide upgrade to all digital cable TV, each customer with be connecting to four downstream channels, and to four upstream channels.” 

This explains part of the motivation for the company to migrate to an all-digital cable TV system, because besides improving the quality of the picture and number of available TV channels, moving to all digital TV delivery will also free up more bandwidth for the growing customer demand for faster internet speed. 

Brian Black, Senior Network Administrator for Direct Communications in Idaho

Brian Black, Network Administrator for Direct Communications in Idaho

“What this upgrade to  DOCSIS 3.0 means now for all customers is basically more bandwidth available for everyone, and more consistent speeds, especially during peak hours in the evenings when everyone wants to get online at home to stream video, or catch up with their friends on Facebook,” said Black.

“In theory, I suppose we could deliver speeds up to 50Mb or 100Mb to a single customer now on the coax cable network, but really our goal with this upgrade is to make sure we can deliver the speeds we have already sold to customers, and keep up with the customer growth. We feel pretty good about being able to deliver a solid 20Mb to everyone in town, so we want to keep an eye on that and see where the growth takes us before we start selling even higher speeds. “

Direct Communications has experienced three straight years of over 20% growth per year in customer subscriptions, as residents in small towns in Idaho adopt high-speed internet in increasing numbers, and keeping up with the demand has kept Black and his co-workers busy. Black is very pleased with how the new DOCSIS 3 network is performing.

“It’s been a huge change, and I am very happy with the results. The network is just much more stable, and people have responded by using their internet service a lot more already. We have seen internet usage double in some towns like Preston since we did the upgrade, which is great because it means people trust their internet more, have higher expectations now, and are turning to their internet service more for things like entertainment.”

“Our next step is to obviously move the Cable TV service to an digital head end, which will hopefully happen by the end of this year, free up more channels, and then keep improving our network through deploying more fiber nodes throughout the neighborhoods, and splitting up the network to make sure we can always stay ahead of the demand for bandwidth.”

Note: Aberdeen has not yet been upgraded to Docsis 3, but is on Docsis 2.0.