While buying a cable modem, you probably might’ve heard about the DOCSIS technology. If yes, it stands for “Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification.” The specification is one of the reasons why you can experience high-speed internet on cable TV system. (which was previously possible only via optic fiber cables.)
The 2 most recent versions of these devices that are currently in use are DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1. We will discuss both of them in detail below so that you learn about the features and if it’s worth upgrading your network from 3.0 to 3.1 (If your cable internet provider has the technology.)
- DOCSIS 3.0 vs DOCSIS 3.1: Side-By-Side Comparison
- 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 in 2020?
- What are the downsides of using DOCSIS 3.1?
- Which modem should I choose for my home?
- DOCSIS vs Fiber Cable vs DSL
DOCSIS 3.0 vs DOCSIS 3.1: Side-By-Side Comparison
DOCSIS 3.1 comes with higher internet speed capacities than DOCSIS 3.0. For instance, it has the upstream capacity of 1-2 Gbps while a DOCSIS 3.0 struggles at 200 Mbps. Similarly, downstream capacity of DOCSIS 3.1 is 10 Gbps, but its predecessors speed is limited to 1 Gbps.
DOCSIS 3.1 technology is 10 times faster than DOCSIS 3.0, but majority of the cable providers don’t have service packages with such speeds. While 3.0 is enough for majority of the internet needs, 3.1 is more future-proof, secure, efficient, faster, and a bit costly.
|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|
|First Specification Issue Date||2006||2013|
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 2002, 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 for watching television or surfing the web in 2020?
Moving on to the 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.
However, internet traffic is increasing day by day, and the data is getting larger, which makes 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 which you should be using for your everyday internet-related tasks. It is capable of touching download speeds of up 10 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
Although majority of the cable internet providers do not have plans that can push this technology to its limit, but that does not mean you can not use it. If you want a future proof modem, DOCSIS 3.1 is the way to go.
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, there are no devices that use it currently, 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.
We 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.
We will tell you why DOCSIS 4.0 is not needed in the first place. It is because cable internet providers can not even make the most out of DOCSIS 3.1, so thinking about 4.0 is irrelevant for now. Maybe in the next 5-10 years, the providers might catch up with the tech, but by that time maybe, we could expect DOCSIS 5.0.
Are there any downsides of using DOCSIS 3.0 in 2020?
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 modems which do support Gigabit speeds 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 of speeds.
Moreover, there are plans in some regions which go well over 1 Gbps in terms of speed, and I would recommend such people to 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 much of noticeable differences in both the DOCSIS version as most of the cable internet providers still offer high speeds upto 1Gbps on DOCSIS 3.0 infrastructure. However, if they upgrade their infrastructure and increase speeds upto 10Gbps (maximum DOCSIS 3.1 speed) then it might make sense.
If you do not intend to use it for Gigabit speeds, then it should be an ideal choice for you. Choose a plan of around 600 Mbps, and it will work just 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.
What are the downsides of using DOCSIS 3.1?
DOCSIS 3.1 is a new technology, and it 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 of DOCSIS 3.1 modem will cost you around 180 dollars, and not many 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 the one or two Gbps of speeds, 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 would have come that are much cheaper, and offer high quality-price ratios.
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 of 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 when the time is right, make the purchase.
Which modem should I choose for my home?
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 a majority of users. Not everybody wants to watch movies in 4K and play online battle royale games.
Now, before you finalize a 3.1 modem, see if you are eligible for one.
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 that require low pings, or for using fast internet on multiple devices at once. 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.
Keep in mind 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 which makes 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 the existing telephone lines for the transmission of internet waves. This is an old form of transmitting the internet and 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.
- Arris Surfboard SB8200
- Motorola MB8600
- Netgear CM1000
- Netgear Nighthawk CM1100
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