Are you selecting a modem for your cable internet connection but confused about choosing between DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 technologies? Both versions differ in most aspects, the major ones being speed, latency, security, and cost.
For starters, DOCSIS 3.1 is 10 times faster than DOCSIS 3.0. The former comes with a max speed support of 1000 Mbps downstream and 200 Mbps upstream. Whereas DOCSIS 3.1 comes with a max speed capacity of 10 Gbps downstream and 1-2 Gbps upstream.
In the coming sections, you will learn about both versions, and by the end of this comparison, you will be able to make an informed decision.
- DOCSIS 3.0 vs 3.1: Key Differences
- DOCSIS 3.1 vs 3.0: Which One in 2023?
- What is DOCSIS 3.0?
- What is DOCSIS 3.1?
- Specs Comparison of All DOCSIS Versions
- Is DOCSIS 4.0 Coming Soon?
- Are There Any Downsides of Using DOCSIS 3.0?
- Are There Any Downsides of Using DOCSIS 3.1?
- Which DOCSIS Modem Should I Choose: 3.0 or 3.1?
- DOCSIS vs Fiber Cable vs DSL
- Modem Recommendations
- Frequently Asked Questions
DOCSIS 3.0 vs 3.1: Key Differences
|DOCSIS 3.0||DOCSIS 3.1|
|Focused Aspect||Enhanced capacity, channel bonding, and implementation of IPV6||Increased speed capacity, efficiency, progression, OFDM, wideband channel|
|Downstream Capacity||1 Gbps||10 Gbps|
|Upstream Capacity||200 Mbps||1-2 Gbps|
|Channel Bonding (Higher the better)||8 x 4, 16 x 8, 24 x 8, 32 x 8||32 x 8|
DOCSIS 3.1 vs 3.0: Which One in 2023?
What is DOCSIS 3.0?
DOCSIS 3.0 is one of the significant upgrades in the DOCSIS versions after DOCSIS 2.0. Although released a long time ago, many ISPs still use the technology to provide internet connections due to its stability.
DOCSIS 3.0 Speeds
A cable modem powered by DOCSIS 3.0 shall come with the following speed capacities:
- Max Downstream Capacity: 1 Gbps
- Max Upstream Capacity: 200 Mbps
DOCSIS 3.0 Channel Bonding
The higher the channel bonding, the better the performance. A DOCSIS 3.0 modem shall come with the following channel bonding pairs:
- 8 x 4 (slow, suited for basic use, surfing)
- 16 x 8 (medium, suited for medium-end use)
- 24 x 8 (fast, suited for smart homes & high-end activities)
- 32 x 8 (fastest, suited for gamers, streaming)
Price of DOCSIS 3.0 Modems
DOCSIS 3.0 modems start from around 50 dollars and go all the way up to 200 dollars for the best ones. In my honest opinion, don’t buy a DOCSIS 3.0 modem or modem/router combo that costs above $120. If you’re willing to pay that much, prefer getting a low-end DOCSIS 3.1 modem.
What is DOCSIS 3.1?
DOCSIS 3.1 is the latest version in power. It’s 10 times faster than DOCSIS 3.0. Despite the announcement of DOCSIS 4.0, the release shall take time, so at this point in time, it’s the fastest & the most stable DOCSIS version.
DOCSIS 3.1 Speeds
A cable modem powered by DOCSIS 3.1 shall come with the following speed capacities:
- Max Downstream Capacity: 10 Gbps
- Max Upstream Capacity: 1 Gbps.
DOCSIS 3.1 Channel Bonding
Unlike DOCSIS 3.0, which comes with multiple channel bonding pairs, DOCSIS 3.1 technology supports only one combination i.e. 32 x 8, and all the modems that use DOCSIS 3.1 come with 32 x 8 channel bonding.
Although DOCSIS 3.0 supports 32 x 8 channel bonding, the same channel bonding i.e. 32 x 8 in DOCSIS 3.1 modems, shall perform better, owing to the wideband (greater bandwidth capability)
Price of DOCSIS 3.1 Modems
The cost of DOCSIS 3.1 modems starts at $120 and goes up to $280 ($50-150 higher in the case of a modem/router combo). In my honest opinion, don’t overspend on devices just because they come with high-end specifications. Being backward compatible, they’ll work with DOCSIS 3.0 connections too.
If you’re getting a modem today, it’s always a good idea to get a 3.1 modem, as it is fast and future-proof, and DOCSIS 3.0 has been in decline for years, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a thing of the past.
Although both DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 modems are secured, the latter integrates a few additional online features to take the security up by a notch.
It’s primarily in terms of advanced encryption, where features like WPA3 offer individualized data encryption for each connected device. It means every device has its own encryption key, enhancing security and privacy.
On the other hand, the DOCSIS 3.0 models integrate a rather outdated WPA2 where all devices connected to the network share the same network encryption key.
That’s not it. DOCSIS 3.0 was introduced first in 2006, and so the initial security features that come along are rather outdated. DOCSIS 3.1, however, arrived in 2013, and modern manufacturers continue to instill advanced security features and/or good VPN and provide regular updates to boost your online security.
DOCSIS 3.1 recently has got more into the limelight with support for plans ten times faster than an upgrade to DOCSIS 3.0 and increasing needs for high speeds in most households. A report released by the Federal Communications Commission reveals that people using 1000 Mbps has risen from 6% in 2016 to 33% in 2022.
Although the data is more for fiber internet, the jump is significant for home internet as well, as users of the Xfinity 500 Mbps plan have increased from 3% to 99% in service areas. The rise hasn’t been that significant yet, but that’s primarily because of the cost and DOCSIS 3.0 still faring well with the basic plans.
As the prices for Gigabit plans continue to drop and these are more available and affordable, DOCSIS 3.1 will completely replace its counterpart and emerge as a staple standard for the upcoming modems.
Specs Comparison of All DOCSIS Versions
The difference between each generation of DOCSIS is enormous. When launched in 2001, DOCSIS 2.0 was capable of 40 Mbps downloads and 30 Mbps uploads. It was sufficient for data rates of that time, but can you imagine using this speed today?
Moving on to DOCSIS 3.0 from DOCSIS 2.0, the speed increased to 1 Gbps on downloads and 200 Mbps on uploads. This rate is sufficient for using the internet for almost all activities, such as gaming, watching movies in 4K, and streaming.
Internet traffic is increasing daily, and the data is getting larger, making it harder and time-consuming to transfer. It is only a matter of time before 3.0 gets outdated.
The DOCSIS 3.1 version is the current generation of modems you should use for your everyday internet-related tasks. It can touch download speeds of up to 10 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
Although most cable internet providers do not have plans to push this technology to its limit, that does not mean you can not use it. 3.1 is the way to go if you want a future-proof modem.
Is DOCSIS 4.0 Coming Soon?
DOCSIS 4.0 was devised in 2017, so it is not that it does not exist. But no devices currently use it, so it is of no use to the general public. It goes without saying that it is super fast and can go upwards of 10 Gbps on downloads and up to 6 Gbps on uploads.
I do not know the reason for its lack of popularity among companies, maybe it is too expensive, or the existing cables can not handle such high speeds. No comments have been made about it. So, as of today, DOCSIS 3.1 is the upper limit for Gigabit users.
Despite DOCSIS 3.1 being so relevant, a lot of service providers still haven’t updated their network infrastructure from DOCSIS 3.0. Therefore, even when DOCSIS 4.0 arrives, the service providers might take around 2-3 years to upgrade. If you purchase a modem today, it should last 3-4 years easily.
Also, one other thing to note is DOCSIS 3.1 offers speeds upto 10 Gbps, but even now, the public internet providers don’t have service packs that cross 2 Gbps. So even if DOCSIS 4.0 becomes available today, you can’t expect high-speed plans supported by it from your internet providers.
As discussed in the DOCSIS 3.1 vs 4.0 comparison, the providers might catch up with the tech in the next 5-10 years, but by that time, maybe, DOCSIS 5.0 would be released, and the loop would continue.
Are There Any Downsides of Using DOCSIS 3.0?
One of the major downsides of using DOCSIS 3.0 in 2023 is its lack of compatibility with Gigabit plans. Cable internet providers do ensure that their devices can handle these high data rates, but it is valid only in rare cases.
You have to be in particular spots in big cities to access these speeds, and not everyone or every location shall have DOCSIS 3.1 implemented.
Moreover, some regions have plans that go well over 1 Gbps in terms of speed, and I recommend that people not waste their money on DOCSIS 3.0. Its upper limit is 1000 Mbps, and it barely manages to touch it, so in such cases, go for DOCSIS 3.1 only.
However, I don’t see many noticeable differences in the DOCSIS version as most cable internet providers still offer high speeds, up to 1 Gbps on DOCSIS 3.0 infrastructure. However, if they upgrade their infrastructure and increase speeds up to 10Gbps (maximum DOCSIS 3.1 speed), then it might make sense.
If you do not intend to use it for Gigabit speeds, it should be an ideal choice. Choose a plan of around 600 Mbps, and it will work fine. Moreover, Gigabit plans are not available as readily as one would think, as this technology is still expanding.
So, if you live in such areas where it is not accessible, go with DOCSIS 3.0. It will be much cheaper than a DOCSIS 3.1 device.
Are There Any Downsides of Using DOCSIS 3.1?
DOCSIS 3.1 is a new technology that has a long way to go before it becomes ideal for the general public. The first issue with it is that it is expensive.
Even the most basic DOCSIS 3.1 modem will cost you around 180 dollars, and few people can afford this price tag. And, it will be just a cable modem, as there are no modem cum router combos that you can pick. So, there is an added cost of buying a Gigabit router on top of this 3.1 modem.
The second issue with a 3.1 modem is that it is too ahead of ISP companies. Yes, it can deal with one or two Gbps of speed, but its upper limit is 10 Gbps. It might take 5 or even 10 years for the companies to catch up with it, and by that time, your modem will become outdated.
Newer modems that are much cheaper and offer good value would have come. The best way to sum up DOCSIS 3.1 modems would be unfinished. They are incomplete and have a long way to go before becoming good enough for the general public.
However, if you want the best speeds, and are content with replacing this device every 2 years, go ahead with the purchase. You will get the highest possible download/upload speeds. I think such high data rates are crucial only for gamers and streamers, and they are the only ones who should be spending this amount of money on these modems.
Apart from these people, I would recommend you to wait a little bit more. Let the devices evolve, and make the purchase when the time is right.
Which DOCSIS Modem Should I Choose: 3.0 or 3.1?
DOCSIS 3.0 would be best for people who do not live in big cities and are into usual stuff, such as watching movies on the web, checking emails, and streaming on online services such as Netflix and Prime Video. It might give you a little less speed while downloading large files, but it will not be a deal-breaker by any means.
Streaming in HD would be feasible even with a 300 Mbps plan with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, and I believe this is the main requirement for most users. Not everybody wants to watch movies in 4K and play online battle royale games.
Now, before finalizing a 3.1 modem, see if you are eligible.
Do you live in an area where Gigabit plans are accessible? If yes, only then think about getting a DOCSIS 3.1 modem. Speeds below 1 Gbps are handled very well by 3.0 modems, and you do not need to spend any additional money if you are planning to use them in the first place.
So, make sure you are eligible and can afford a Gigabit plan. Now see if you actually need a 3.1 modem or not. A DOCSIS 3.1 is made for people who need high bandwidth. It can be for playing online games requiring low pings or for using fast internet on multiple devices.
For example, if you have a big family and 10-12 users use the WiFi simultaneously, then you would need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem for uniform distribution of the network. If you fall in either of the two categories mentioned above, order a 3.1 modem.
Remember that you will have to attach an external router for creating WiFi zones, as there are no modems that can act as both modems and WiFi routers.
DOCSIS vs Fiber Cable vs DSL
Fiber cables are the latest form of transmission of internet waves from one place to another. The waves travel at the speed of light between two points, making the internet superfast.
The issue with this form of technology is that these wires need to be set up separately. Unlike telephone and cable wires, there are no pre-existing networks, so their range is limited only to selected places.
DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line technology, which uses existing telephone lines to transmit internet waves. This old form of transmitting the internet is often the slowest. I would not recommend the DSL network to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary.
DOCSIS lies between these 2, as it is faster than DSL but slower than Fiber technology. Its main advantage lies in its range and data transmission rate. Fiber may be faster, but it is available only in limited areas, and DSL may be having range, but it is often quite slow.
So, DOCSIS provides the best of both worlds to the user. It has a delicate balance of speed and range.
Here are the best DOCSIS 3.1 modems that are highly rated.
The top-rated DOCSIS 3.0 modems are listed below:
Frequently Asked Questions
No, DOCSIS 3.0 modems aren’t entirely outdated yet, but manufacturers are transitioning to favor devices with 3.1 standards as they substantially improve the network usage experience of users. And with decreasing plan charges, the 3.0 modems will get outdated in the near future.
Yes, DOCSIS 3.1 is backward compatible with DOCSIS 3.0 and even 2.0. So if your ISP doesn’t support the latest standard, there still is an option to work with the previous version.
DOCSIS 3.1 was officially launched by CableLabs in 2013.
DOCSIS 3.1 is far better than 3.0, provided you’ve access to a high-speed internet connection. The upgrades in speed, security, network stability, and others make a compelling case for DOCSIS 3.1.