Are you planning to purchase a cable modem and are confused about getting a DOCSIS 3.0 or a 3.1 modem? Being an upgrade to DOCSIS 3.0, the 3.1 is superior to it, but what’s the difference?
The main difference between DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 regarding normal internet use is that DOCSIS 3.1 is 10 times faster than 3.0. It has an upstream capacity of 1-2 Gbps and a downstream capacity of 10 Gbps, whereas 3.0 struggles at 200 Mbps upstream and 1 Gbps downstream.
|Quick Comparison||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|
|Modem Cost Range||$50-150||$120-300|
|Channel Bonding (Higher the better)||8×4, 16×8, 24×8, 32×8||32×8|
And with service providers preparing for DOCSIS 4.0, DOCSIS 3.0 will become a thing of fast. So if you ask me if you should get a DOCSIS 3.0 or 3.1 modem, I’d straightway suggest getting a DOCSIS 3.1 modem.
- DOCSIS 3.1 vs 3.0: Which One in 2023?
- All DOCSIS Versions Compared (1.0 vs 1.1 vs 2.0 vs 3.0 vs 3.1)
- What is DOCSIS 3.1?
- What is DOCSIS 3.0?
- 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 for my home, 3.0 or 3.1?
- DOCSIS vs Fiber Cable vs DSL
DOCSIS 3.1 vs 3.0: Which One in 2023?
DOCSIS 3.1 is faster and better than DOCSIS 3.0, but most cable providers don’t have internet plans with such speeds. While 3.0 is enough for most internet needs, 3.1 is more future-proof, secure, efficient, faster, and costly.
Also, despite the full roll-out in the US, DOCSIS 3.1 is still unavailable at all locations. If your internet provider has shifted to DOCSIS 3.1 and requires a DOCSIS 3.1 modem, then you’ll need DOCSIS 3.1; otherwise, you don’t.
Since DOCSIS 4.0 is still not out, I believe DOCSIS 3.1 is the one to consider getting in 2023. However, if you don’t have a gigabit internet plan and your provider doesn’t require you to use a DOCSIS 3.1 modem, then there’s no problem with DOCSIS 3.0.
All DOCSIS Versions Compared (1.0 vs 1.1 vs 2.0 vs 3.0 vs 3.1)
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 to watch 4K videos, surf the web, or control your smart home in 2023?
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 the 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 DOCSIS 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 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. DOCSIS 3.1 is the way to go if you want a future-proof modem.
What is DOCSIS 3.1?
DOCSIS 3.1 is a successor to the DOCSIS 3.0 therefore it provides better internet speeds, capabilities, and security.
With a good DOCSIS 3.1 modem and network, you can easily touch download speeds of up to 10 Gbps, and upload speeds of up to 1 Gbps, which is significantly higher than what you could’ve experienced on DOCSIS 3.0.
Most of the DOCSIS 3.1 modems come with a channel bonding that uses 32 channels for downstream and 8 channels for upstream. Although, they aren’t useful if you don’t have a gigabit internet connection, but if you do have one, then you shall experience high stability.
Also most of the modem/router makers sell stand-alone modems when they use DOCSIS 3.1 technology, so could be quite hard to find a combo of modem and router. It also means that you might have to get a separate WiFi router. Although, a few newly launched modems such as the Arris SurfBoard SB8300 comes with both.
To use DOCSIS 3.1, you’ll need to have a cable internet provider that has implemented the technology/infrastructure in your area and you’ll also have to get a modem that supports it which could be slightly costlier than the DOCSIS 3.0 modems.
Launched in October of 2013, this technology is bound to last for at least 10 years, which makes them future proof. Their numbers are less as of today, as most companies do not make DOCSIS 3.1 modems, but this will change in the coming years. DOCSIS 3.0 has been on the decline for years, and it is only a matter of time before it is shut down completely.
What is DOCSIS 3.0?
DOCSIS 3.0 was released in August of 2006, which makes it quite old as of today (it’s a predecessor to 3.1)
However take nothing away from its capabilities. It can touch download speeds of up to 1 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 300 Mbps.
The fastest DOCSIS 3.0 modem can have a maximum of 32 downstream and 8 upstream channels, which makes it ideal for any kind of internet activity. Be it gaming, streaming, or surfing. You will be able to do everything at once, even on numerous devices.
DOCSIS 3.0 modems start from around 50 dollars and go all the way up to 400 dollars for the best ones. However, I don’t think most people need that much speed. On average, a modem of around 150 dollars would be just fine. In case you’re getting a combo, you might’ve to spend $20-50 more depending on the model.
The 50-60 dollar DOCSIS modems have 16×4 or 8×4 channels for download and upload, which makes them usable only for low tier packs such as 100 or 200 Mbps. I would recommend you to invest in these, only if you are tight on budget.
Otherwise, get a modem with at least 16 downstream and 4 upstream channels, as it will be future proof to some extent, and you will be able to upgrade your plans when needed.
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 data rates. 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 from DOCSIS 3.0. Thereby, even when DOCSIS 4.0 arrives, the service providers might take around 2-3 years to upgrade. If you purchase a modem today, you shouldn’t hold back and get a DOCSIS 3.1 modem.
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 DOCSIS 3.1 vs DOCSIS 4.0 comparison, the providers might catch up with the tech in the next 5-10 years, but by that time maybe, we 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 2020 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.
The gigabit-capable modems tend to run hot, which causes them to burn out within a year. So, it really is not a smart choice to opt for DOCSIS 3.0, when you want the best speeds.
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.
Although, 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 high quality-price ratios 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 for my home, 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 DOCSIS 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.
What are some of the Best DOCSIS 3.1 and DOCSIS 3.0 modems?
Here are the best DOCSIS 3.1 modems that are highly rated.
The top-rated DOCSIS 3.0 modems are listed below:
- Arris Surfboard SB6190
- TP-Link Archer CR1900
- Netgear Nighthawk C7000
- TP-Link Archer CR500
- Motorola MB7420
These modems are compatible with all the major Cable based internet service providers such as Comcast Xfinity, Cox, Mediacom, Wow, Spectrum, Sparklight, Optimum, Midco, etc.
Thank you for this timely article. It saved me about $200.
Kurt Twain says
Hey Yvonne, I’m happy to know that the article helped you save $200!
Paolo Kuphal says
Despite DOCSIS 3.1 being a promising technology, why aren’t all the cable internet providers upgrading their infrastructure? Are they waiting for the version 4.0 or would they shift to optic-fiber cables?
Back in time, I had a DOCSIS 3.0 connection, my internet provider recently upgraded my connection to 3.1, I must say that it indeed is fast and comes with high-speed capabilities.
Another thing to note is, despite being capable of providing download speeds to 10Gbps almost none of the providers in the US provide such speeds, I’m on Xfinity Gigabit Pro which provides download speeds upto 2Gbps and costs huge.
Why indeed. They aren’t upgrading because *ISPs are greedy and unethical* and force you to pay extra fees for phantom upgrades they never intend to roll out. They think customers are stupid. It has only got worse since Net Neutrality went down. Expect more shady and/or illegal addon fees, billing mistakes (don’t forget the billing mistakes–that’s a 10 billion dollar a year “mistake” industry), slower speeds, incompatible services, and data caps in the near future. All in the name of less competition and higher profits. You, dear customer, get squeezed and screwed. As usual. ATT Comcast Verizon Xfinity–they’re all guilty of it.
Kurt Twain says
Hey Paolo & Joe,
I understand and agree with your views. ISPs are more focused on profits, and there’s huge competition out there. To stand out, they must upgrade to the latest tech so that consumers get the maximum benefits. And as of now, DOCSIS 4.0 seems a bit far.
This article was very resourceful for me, thank you. I had the 1gb service with optimum using the Ubee modem. That service kept going in and out, which was bad for my work meetings. I switched to my old sbg6782 arris and no disconnection, so I changed the service.
Kurt Twain says
Thank you for stopping by. I’m really happy to know that you found this article helpful!
Scott Walker says
My Internet service provider Cablevision says I should get 3.0 and not 3.1 because they don’t think it will be compatible. is that an accurate statement to make?
Kurt Twain says
Hey Scott Walker,
Yes, that can be an accurate statement since Optimum/Cablevision/Atlice technically doesn’t support DOCSIS 3.1 infrastructure. So, even if you own a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, it would work fine with them. However, if you’re buying a new device, it’s viable to go for DOCSIS 3.1-powered modem.
I hope this clears up your confusion!
Ludwig Chehab says
One biggest advantage I’ve experienced by upgrading modem to DOCSIS 3.1 is that the newer standard supports 32×8 channels (the older DOCSIS 3.0 supports only 8×4 channels). “32×8” means up to 32 channels for downstream (from ISP to us) can be used to transmit signal and up to 8 channels for upstream (to ISP). This makes the signal spread out across many channels, hence less susceptible to noise and stabilizes the rate.
jeanette rouse says
As to speed, is it worth the cost to an average user? I have a DOCSIS 3 modem, I stream, I have worked from home and have seen no perceptible slowness. I do not game.
Comcast/Xfinity just upgraded (so their techs say) and is trying to get people to upgrade saying they will not support DOCSIS 3.
I just bought this modem about 7 months ago because xfinity insisted it was my equipment when in fact it was their cable that needed to be replaced when I moved to a new location. No mention was made to me about this potential upgrade.
Docsis 3.0 supports 32×8 the above posting is incorrect. 3.1 is more efficient with its channels and scales to 10 gigabits.
Ludwig, your statement “the older DOCSIS 3.0 supports only 8×4 channels” is not accurate. DOCSIS 3.0 supports up to 32×8 channels. Simply put, the difference in speed between DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 is due to the difference in bits per cycle that can be carried by the two specifications. DOCSIS 3.0 is 256-QAM (theoretically 42.88 Mbps per 6 MHz channel) while DOCSIS 3.1 is 4096-QAM (theoretically 1.89 Gbps per 192 MHz channel). While it is unlikely that either specification can achieve the theoretical maximum in the real world, the potential increase from 3.0 to 3.1 is substantial.
That is incorrect. Higher end DOCSIS 3.0 modems can do 32×8. Take a look at the Netgear CM700 for instance.
William Breedlove says
just tried a Arris SB8200 on Vyve cable’s gig plan (they say max of 960mps).
I couldn’t get above about 600mbs so Vyve sent out a tech who replaced something on the pole feed (anyone know what that might be?) That got me up to the 800 neighborhood but no further.
Thinkin it might be modem prob so so contacted Arris tech support. He said (and confirmed when I asked a different way) that the SB8200 would not go above 800mbs on several major carriers result of a technical implementation.
The tech said that I had two options:
Change vyve plan to one that had max of 800 mbs, or:
Buy another Arris (also DOCSIS 3.1)modem – the Arris S33.
Clearly, although a modem is advertised as DOCSIS 3.1 compliant, who knows what speed you can get in the home/office installation.
Kurt Twain says
Thank you for sharing your views.
Yes, speeds are expected to vary from the company’s promises. Even in my testing, the SB8200 achieved 750-800 Mbps. It’s because of the factors like ISP’s infrastructure, the modem’s hardware capabilities, and more. And yes, S33 is an excellent upgrade!