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Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS ) is an international telecommunications standard that permits the addition of high-bandwidth data transfer to an existing cable TV (CATV) system. It is employed by many cable television operators to provide Internet access (see cable Internet) over their existing hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) infrastructure. The various standards are sometimes abbreviated to Dx, as in a "D3 modem" (DOCSIS 3 modem).


  • History 1
  • Versions 2
  • Regional variants 3
    • Europe – EuroDOCSIS 3.1
    • Japan and Colombia 3.2
  • International standards 4
  • Features 5
  • Bandwidth tables 6
  • Equipment 7
  • Security 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


DOCSIS was developed by CableLabs and contributing companies, including 3Com, ARRIS, BigBand Networks, Broadcom, Cisco, Conexant, Correlant, Harmonic, Hitron Technologies, Intel, Motorola, Netgear, Technicolor, Terayon, Time Warner Cable, and Texas Instruments.[1][2][3]


Released March 1997, it included functional elements from preceding proprietary cable modem products: The LANcity provisioning process (DHCP/TFTP/TOD), the Motorola (General Instrument) 64 QAM set top boxes with Broadcom chipsets, and the Motorola Proprietary cable modem system (elements of the upstream MAC/PHY layer).
Released April 1999, the specification standardized quality of service (QoS) mechanisms that were outlined in DOCSIS 1.0.[4]
Released December 2001, DOCSIS was revised to enhance upstream transmission bandwidth. This was due to increased demand for symmetric services such as IP telephony.
Released August 2006, the specification was revised to significantly increase transmission bandwidth (this time both upstream and downstream) and introduce support for Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).
First released October 2013, and updated several times since. The DOCSIS 3.1 suite of specifications supports capacities of at least 10 Gbit/s downstream and 1 Gbit/s upstream using 4096 QAM. The new specs do away with 6 MHz and 8 MHz wide channel spacing and instead use smaller (20 kHz to 50 kHz wide) orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) subcarriers; these can be bonded inside a block spectrum that could end up being about 200 MHz wide.[5] DOCSIS 3.1 technology also includes some new energy management features that will help the cable industry reduce its carbon footprint.

Cross-version compatibility has been maintained across all versions of DOCSIS, with the devices falling back to the highest supported version in common between both endpoints: cable modem and cable modem termination system (CMTS). For example, if one has a cable modem that only supports DOCSIS 1.0, and the system is running 2.0, the connection will be established at DOCSIS 1.0 bandwidths.

In 2010, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urged U.S. providers to make 100 Mbit/s a standard bandwidth available to 100 million households before 2020.[6]

In the UK, broadband provider Virgin Media announced on 20 April 2011 an intention to start trials with download bandwidth of 1.5 Gbit/s and upload of 150 Mbit/s based on DOCSIS 3.0.

Regional variants

Europe – EuroDOCSIS

As frequency allocation bandwidth plans differ between United States and European CATV systems, DOCSIS standards earlier than 3.1 have been modified for use in Europe. These modifications were published under the name EuroDOCSIS. The differences between the bandwidths exist because European cable TV conforms to PAL standards of 8 MHz bandwidth and North American cable TV conforms to ATSC standards which specify 6 MHz. The wider bandwidth in EuroDOCSIS architectures permits more bandwidth to be allocated to the downstream data path (toward the user). EuroDOCSIS certification testing is executed by Belgian company Excentis (formerly known as tComLabs), while DOCSIS certification testing is executed by CableLabs. Typically, customer premises equipment receives "certification", while CMTS equipment receives "qualification".

Japan and Colombia

Most cable systems in Japan and Colombia use the North American version of DOCSIS, while some employ a variant of DOCSIS that uses upstream channels that are based on a 9.216 MHz master clock (as opposed to 10.24 MHz used in DOCSIS/EuroDOCSIS) resulting in upstream channel widths that are a power-of-two division of 6 MHz (as opposed to 6.4 MHz in DOCSIS/EuroDOCSIS).

International standards

The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) has approved the various versions of DOCSIS as international standards. DOCSIS 1.0 was ratified as ITU-T Recommendation J.112 Annex B (1998), but it was superseded by DOCSIS 1.1 which was ratified as ITU-T Recommendation J.112 Annex B (2001). Subsequently, DOCSIS 2.0 was ratified as ITU-T Recommendation J.122. Most recently, DOCSIS 3.0 was ratified as ITU-T Recommendation J.222 (J.222.0, J.222.1, J.222.2, J.222.3).

Note: While ITU-T Recommendation J.112 Annex B corresponds to DOCSIS/EuroDOCSIS 1.1, Annex A describes an earlier European cable modem system ("DVB EuroModem") based on ATM transmission standards. Annex C describes a variant of DOCSIS 1.1 that is designed to operate in Japanese cable systems. The ITU-T Recommendation J.122 main body corresponds to DOCSIS 2.0, J.122 Annex F corresponds to EuroDOCSIS 2.0, and J.122 Annex J describes the Japanese variant of DOCSIS 2.0 (analogous to Annex C of J.112).


DOCSIS provides great variety in options available at Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) layers 1 and 2, the physical and data link layers.

Physical layer
  • Channel width:
  • Downstream: All versions of DOCSIS earlier than 3.1 utilize either 6 MHz channels (e.g. North America) or 8 MHz channels ("EuroDOCSIS").
  • Upstream: DOCSIS 1.0/1.1 specifies channel widths between 200 kHz and 3.2 MHz. DOCSIS 2.0 also specifies 6.4 MHz, but can use the earlier, narrower channel widths for backward compatibility.
  • Modulation:
  • Downstream: All versions of DOCSIS specify that 64-level or 256-level QAM (64-QAM or 256-QAM) be used for modulation of downstream data, utilizing the ITU-T J.83-Annex B standard[7] for 6 MHz channel operation, and the DVB-C modulation standard for 8 MHz (EuroDOCSIS) operation.
  • Upstream: Upstream data uses QPSK or 16-level QAM (16-QAM) for DOCSIS 1.x, while QPSK, 8-QAM, 16-QAM, 32-QAM, and 64-QAM are used for DOCSIS 2.0 & 3.0. DOCSIS 2.0 & 3.0 also support 128-QAM with trellis coded modulation in S-CDMA mode (with an effective spectral efficiency equivalent to that of 64-QAM). DOCSIS 3.1 adds 4096-QAM.
Data link layer
  • DOCSIS employs a mixture of deterministic access methods for upstream transmissions, specifically TDMA for DOCSIS 1.0/1.1 and both TDMA and S-CDMA for DOCSIS 2.0 and 3.0, with a limited use of contention for bandwidth requests. Due to this, DOCSIS systems experience relatively few collisions, in contrast to the pure contention-based MAC CSMA/CD employed in older Ethernet systems (there is no contention in switched Ethernet).
  • For DOCSIS 1.1 and above the MAC layer also includes extensive quality-of-service (QoS) features that help to efficiently support applications that have specific traffic requirements such as low latency, e.g. voice over IP.
  • DOCSIS 3.0 features channel bonding, which enables multiple downstream and upstream channels to be used together at the same time by a single subscriber.[8]

All of these features combined enable a total upstream throughput of 30.72 Mbit/s per 6.4 MHz channel, or 10.24 Mbit/s per 3.2 MHz channel. All three versions of the DOCSIS standard support a downstream throughput with 256-QAM of up to 42.88 Mbit/s per 6 MHz channel, or 55.62 Mbit/s per 8 MHz channel for EuroDOCSIS. (see table below)

Network layer
  • DOCSIS modems are managed via an IP address.
  • DOCSIS 3.0 adds management over IPv6.[8]
  • The 'DOCSIS 2.0 + IPv6' specification also allows support for IPv6 on DOCSIS 2.0 cable modems (via a firmware upgrade)[9][10]

Bandwidth tables

Maximum raw throughput including overhead (maximum usable throughput without overhead). Tables assume QAM256 modulation for downstream. Higher data rates are possible but require higher order QAM schemes which require higher downstream MER.

Version Downstream Upstream
Channel configuration DOCSIS throughput EuroDOCSIS throughput Channel configuration Upstream Throughput
Minimum selectable number of channels Minimum number of channels that hardware must be able to support Selected number of channels Maximum number of channels Minimum selectable number of channels Minimum number of channels that hardware must be able to support Selected number of channels Maximum number of channels
1.x 1 1 1 1 42.88 (38) Mbit/s 55.62 (50) Mbit/s 1 1 1 1 10.24 (9) Mbit/s
2.0 1 1 1 1 42.88 (38) Mbit/s 55.62 (50) Mbit/s 1 1 1 1 30.72 (27) Mbit/s
3.0 1 4 m No maximum
m × 42.88 (m × 38) Mbit/s m × 55.62 (m × 50) Mbit/s 1 4 n No maximum
n × 30.72 (n × 27) Mbit/s

The highest DOCSIS 3.0 bandwidth for the number of bonded channels are listed in the table below.

Channel configuration Downstream throughput Upstream throughput
Number of downstream channels Number of upstream channels DOCSIS EuroDOCSIS
4 4 171.52 (152) Mbit/s 222.48 (200) Mbit/s 122.88 (108) Mbit/s
8 4 343.04 (304) Mbit/s 444.96 (400) Mbit/s 122.88 (108) Mbit/s
16 4 686.08 (608) Mbit/s 889.92 (800) Mbit/s 122.88 (108) Mbit/s
24 8 1029.12 (912) Mbit/s 1334.88 (1200) Mbit/s 245.76 (216) Mbit/s
32 8 1372.16 (1216) Mbit/s 1779.84 (1600) Mbit/s 245.76 (216) Mbit/s

Note that the number of channels a cable system can support is dependent on how the cable system is set up. For example, the amount of available bandwidth in each direction, the width of the channels selected in the upstream direction, and hardware constraints limit the maximum amount of channels in each direction. Also note that, since in many cases, DOCSIS capacity is shared among multiple users, most cable companies do not sell the maximum technical capacity available as a commercial product, to reduce congestion in case of heavy usage.

Note that the maximum downstream bandwidth on all versions of DOCSIS depends on the version of DOCSIS used and the number of upstream channels used if DOCSIS 3.0 is used, but the upstream channel widths are independent of whether DOCSIS or EuroDOCSIS is used.


A DOCSIS architecture includes two primary components: a cable modem (CM) located at the customer premises, and a cable modem termination system (CMTS) located at the CATV headend. Cable systems supporting on-demand programming use a hybrid fiber-coaxial system. Fiber optic lines bring digital signals to nodes in the system where they are converted into RF channels and modem signals on coaxial trunk lines.

A typical CMTS is a device which hosts downstream and upstream ports (its functionality is similar to the DSLAM used in DSL systems). While downstream and upstream communications travel on a shared coax line in the customer premises, and connect to a single F connector on the cable modem, it is typical for the CMTS to have separate F connectors for downstream and for upstream communication. This allows flexibility for the cable operator. Because of the noise in the return (upstream) path, an upstream port is usually connected to a single neighborhood (fiber node), whereas a downstream port is usually shared across a small number of neighborhoods. Thus, there are generally more upstream ports than downstream ports on a CMTS. A typical CMTS has 4 or 6 upstream ports per downstream port.

Before a cable company can deploy DOCSIS 1.1 or above, it must upgrade its Hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) network to support a return path for upstream traffic. Without a return path, the old DOCSIS 1.0 standard still allows use of data over cable system, by implementing the return path over regular phone lines, e.g. "plain old telephone service" (POTS). If the HFC is already 'two-way' or "interactive", chances are high that DOCSIS 1.1 or higher can be implemented.

The customer PC and associated peripherals are termed Customer-premises equipment (CPE). The CPE are connected to the cable modem, which is in turn connected through the HFC network to the CMTS. The CMTS then routes traffic between the HFC and the Internet. Using the CMTS, the cable operator (or Multiple Service Operators — MSO) exercises full control over the cable modem's configuration; the CM configuration is changed to adjust for varying line conditions and customer service requirements.

DOCSIS 2.0 is also used over microwave frequencies (10 GHz) in Ireland by Digiweb, using dedicated wireless links rather than HFC network. At each subscriber premises the ordinary CM is connected to an antenna box which converts to/from microwave frequencies and transmits/receives on 10 GHz. Each customer has a dedicated link but the transmitter mast must be in line of sight (most sites are hilltop).

DOCSIS 1.x, 2.0, and 3.0 architecture is also used for fixed wireless with equipment utilizing the 2.5 - 2.7 GHz MMDS microwave band in the U.S.


DOCSIS includes MAC layer security services in its Baseline Privacy Interface specifications. DOCSIS 1.0 utilized the initial Baseline Privacy Interface (BPI) specification. BPI was later improved with the release of the Baseline Privacy Interface Plus (BPI+) specification used by DOCSIS 1.1 & 2.0. Most recently, a number of enhancements to the Baseline Privacy Interface were added as part of DOCSIS 3.0, and the specification was renamed "Security" (SEC).

The intent of the BPI/SEC specifications is to describe MAC layer security services for DOCSIS CMTS to cable modem communications. BPI/SEC security goals are twofold:

  • provide cable modem users with data privacy across the cable network
  • provide cable service operators with service protection; i.e., prevent unauthorized modems and users from gaining access to the network’s RF MAC services

BPI/SEC is intended to prevent cable users from listening to each other. It does this by encrypting data flows between the CMTS and the cable modem. BPI & BPI+ utilize 56-bit DES encryption, while SEC adds support for 128-bit AES. All versions provide for periodic key refreshes (at a period configured by the network operator) in order to increase the level of protection.

BPI/SEC is intended to allow cable service operators to refuse service to uncertified cable modems and unauthorized users. BPI+ strengthened service protection by adding digital certificate based authentication to its key exchange protocol, using a public key infrastructure (PKI), based on digital certificate authorities (CAs) of the certification testers, currently Excentis (formerly known as tComLabs) for EuroDOCSIS and CableLabs for DOCSIS. Typically, the cable service operator manually adds the cable modem's MAC address to a customer's account with the cable service operator;[11][12] the network allows access only to a cable modem that can attest to that MAC address using a valid certificate issued via the PKI. The earlier BPI specification (ANSI/SCTE 22-2) had limited service protection because the underlying key management protocol did not authenticate the user's cable modem.

Security in the DOCSIS network is vastly improved when only business critical communications are permitted, and end user communication to the network infrastructure is denied. Successful attacks often occur when the CMTS is configured for backwards compatibility with early pre-standard DOCSIS 1.1 modems. These modems were "software upgradeable in the field", but did not include valid DOCSIS or EuroDOCSIS root certificates.

See also


  1. ^ "Five Modem Makers' Systems Considered for Cable Data Specifications". Archived from the original on October 21, 2002. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  2. ^ "CableLabs® Selects Broadcom and Terayon to Author Advanced Modem Technology Proposals". Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "DescriptionData-over-Cable Service Interface Specifications". Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Docsis 3.1 Targets 10-Gig Downstream - Cable - Telecom News Analysis - Light Reading Cable
  6. ^ DailyTech - FCC: U.S. Needs Faster Broadband Standards, Aiming for 100 Mbps
  7. ^ "Recommendation J.83 (1997) Amendment 1 (11/06)". November 2006. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  8. ^ a b CableLabs Issues DOCSIS 3.0 Specifications Enabling 160 Mbps
  9. ^ DOCSIS® » Specifications » DOCSIS® 2.0 Interface
  10. ^ Torbet, Dan (9 April 2008). "IPv6 and Cable: How Cable is managing the transition from IPv4 to IPv6" (PDF). Rocky Mountain IPV6 Task Force. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  11. ^ "How to Change Your Modem With Comcast". eHow. 
  12. ^ "United States v. Ryan Harris a.k.a. DerEngel and TCNISO, INC." (PDF). Wired. p. 2. When a computer user seeks to access the internet, the user's modem will report its MAC address to the ISP, and if the ISP recognizes the modem's MAC address as belonging to a paying subscriber, the ISP will allow the user to access the internet via the ISP's network. 

External links

  • CableLabs
    • DOCSIS 1.0 Interface Specification
    • DOCSIS 1.1 Interface Specification
    • DOCSIS 2.0 Interface Specification
    • DOCSIS 3.0 Interface Specification
    • DOCSIS 3.1 Interface Specification
  • Cisco documentation on Cable Technologies Technical information about cable TV and DOCSIS.
  • DOCSIS 3.1 This Rohde & Schwarz application note discusses the fundamental technological advances of DOCSIS 3.1.
  • DOCSIS Tutorial (2009) at Volpe Firm
  • Broadband Solutions and Testing, a DOCSIS testing service
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