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What is DOCSIS?

By David White
Updated May 16, 2024
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Television signals are transmitted at warp speed today -- at least so it seems. Data is sent and received via cables, and the whole process can take place in the blink of an eye. These days, TV cables can provide Internet access as well. Every data transfer process that is widely used needs specifications and standards, and CATV is no different. The standards developed by CableLabs, an industry-wide nonprofit research firm, are called DOCSIS, an acronym that stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification.

The first DOCSIS, Version 1.0, appeared in 1997. The current version, 2.0, was released in 2002. Version 2.0 includes necessary updates to include IP telephony and other operations that take place in real time. DOCSIS Version 3.0 is under development. Industry experts expect it to include best practices for using cutting-edge technology to provide users with what is known as channel bonding, a melding of send-and-receive functions that can take place during the same transmission.

DOCSIS also pertains to cable modems, which provide strictly Internet access. Even though the data being transferred is not necessarily video in nature, it is governed by DOCSIS all the same. As with television cable devices, cable modems must transfer information at a certain speed range and frequency.

The idea of having standards arose from competing technologies that were damaging the market as a whole. As a result, the giants in the industry got together and elected to create a set of standards to govern the specifics of cable data transfer, including the modems used to make those transfers. The result was DOCSIS.

CableLabs, the official author of DOCSIS, rose out of this process. Modems that are DOCSIS- or CableLabs-certified are considered state-of-the-art. You the consumer can purchase a modem that is not so certified, but you run the risk of inoperability, which was the case before DOCSIS was created. A version of DOCSIS exists for European cable providers exists as well. This is EuroDOCSIS.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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