DOCSIS 3.0 Vs 3.1 – Which is Best For You?

DOCSIS 3.0 is better if you have an internet plan below 1 Gbps. While DOCSIS 3.1 is better if you have an internet plan above 1 Gbps or want to future-proof your modem.
DOCSIS 3.0 Vs 3.1

As a Network Engineer, a common question I get is what DOCSIS version one should buy. I usually recommend 3.0, as this most often is enough. 

But the truth is that it really depends on your ISP and what you want.

Thus, I have written this article on DOCSIS 3.0 vs. 3.1. Where I will go into the differences between the versions and their pros and cons. 

Keep reading to learn them. 

DOCSIS 3.0 vs 3.1 – The Difference

Here are the difference between DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1.

FeatureDOCSIS 3.0DOCSIS 3.1
Max Download Speed1 Gbps10 Gbps
Max Upload Speed200 Mbps2 Gbps
Average Latency50 ms10 ms
Cost$50-$200$130-$400
Channel Bonding4×4, 8×4, 16×8, 24×8, 32×832×8
Release Date20062013
Throughput256-QAM4096-QAM

DOCSIS 3.1

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of DOCSIS 3.1 modems. I will discuss them in more detail later in the article. 

Pros

  • Faster
  • Future proof
  • Enhanced security
  • Lower Latency (ping)
  • Lower power consumption

Cons

  • Costs more
  • Uncertainty on how long until widespread usage

DOCSIS 3.0

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of DOCSIS 3.0. I will go into more detail about them later in the article. 

Pros

  • Cheaper
  • More modems to chose from
  • Enough for most plans

Cons

  • Slower
  • Won’t be viable in the future
  • Not as secure
  • Higher latency (ping)

What is DOCSIS

DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Services Interface Specification. It is a telecommunication system that allows television operators to add high-speed and telephony data to their current cable TV systems. In other words, DOCSIS can add higher speeds to the TV network’s TV and telephone services. 

DOCSIS first originated in 1997 and has only improved since. With a new version getting released every few years that implements better speeds, higher security, and overall enhanced performance. These new versions were released in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2006, and 2013.

Check out my article on what DOCSIS is and how it works for a more in-depth overview of DOCSIS technology. 

What is DOCSIS 3.1 

DOCSIS 3.1 first came into circulation in 2013, the successor the DOCSIS 3.0. It implemented unmatched internet speeds, lower latency, enhanced security, and larger capacities. [1

DOCSIS 3.1 is for the future and is thus considered future proof. And as time goes on, it will take over completely, eliminating the need for DOCSIS 3.0. 

Benefits with DOCSIS 3.1

There are many benefits with DOCSIS 3.1. But the biggest one is that it allows for speed 10 times faster than DOCSIS 3.0.

The max download speed of DOCSIS 3.1 is 10 Gbps (10 000 Mbps), while the max speed of DOCSIS 3.0 is only 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps). Furthermore, DOCSIS 3.1 has a max upload speed of 2 Gbps, much more than DOCSIS 3.0s 200 Mbps max. 

As already mentioned, this speed capacity makes a DOCSIS 3.1 modem future-proof. As future internet speed most likely will exceed 1 Gbps. 

Another benefit of DOCSIS 3.1 is that it comes with enhanced security features. This reduces the risk of malicious firmware gets downloaded to your modem.

Moreover, a DOCSIS 3.1 modem will lower your latency. Meaning the time it takes for data to travel from its source to its destination is shorter. This improves voice quality in VoIP calls and the online gaming experience. [2]

DOCSIS 3.1 modems also have an option to go into sleep mode. This makes the device’s power consummation lower than their 3.0 counterparts. 

Drawbacks with DOCSIS 3.1

The biggest drawback with a DOCSIS 3.1 modem is its price. They generally go between $130 to $400, much more than 3.0 modems.

This ties into their other drawback, which is that it’s unclear how long it will take for ISPs to begin to use DOCSIS 3.1 as the standard version. Because as for now, DOCSIS 3.1 is rare, and most ISP only offers internet plans with DOCSIS 3.0 capacity. 

This means that you maybe need to buy a new modem anyways once your ISP implements DOCSIS 3.1. Because it might take so long time that the one you buy now will be too old.

What is DOCSIS 3.0 

DOCSIS 3.0 was first released in 2006 and was at the time considered a fast high-speed option. It allowed for programming by users, which was not easily implemented beforehand. 

Certain services that we are all used to now, such as on-demand television, were improved with DOCSIS 3.0. Online gaming that allows users to interact with each other was also refined with DOCSIS 3.0. 

Since it was first introduced in 2006, DOCSIS 3.0 has become the basic technology of operators working in HFC networks. DOCSIS 3.0 has a different variety of channels. From 4×4 to 32×8, with more equaling a faster modem. 

Benefits with DOCSIS 3.0

The main benefit of DOCSIS 3.0 modems is that they are cheaper than their 3.1 counterparts. And since they are enough for most internet plans, many people think it’s worth saving the money.

Another benefit is that since DOCSIS 3.0 is older and more widespread, there are more DOCSIS 3.0 modems. This gives you a bigger pool of devices to choose from when picking the modem for your home. Allowing you to pick a device with the features and benefits that you want. Like Wi-Fi, parenting controls, better range, VPN support, etc. 

Drawbacks with DOCSIS 3.0

DOCSIS 3.0 drawback is that it’s slower, 10 times slower to be exact. This makes it impossible to receive an internet speed above 1 Gbps with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. [3]

It will also be less secure and have higher latency. Making it easier to get malicious firmware on your device. As well as giving you a worse experience playing online games. 

Another drawback is that DOCSIS 3.0 will become obsolete in the future. This means that your DOCSIS 3.0 modem will stop working once your ISP has implemented DOCSIS 3.1 completely. One should note, however, that it might take a long time before this comes to fruition.

Which Should You Buy? 

While DOCSIS 3.1 is the newer, faster, safer, and more efficient version, not all providers are using it. And even those which use it might not provide packages that offer as much speed as DOCSIS 3.1 are capable of. 

Therefore, it is often seen as an investment for the future to get a 3.1 modem. Because as for now it’s most often isn’t necessary, but will be in the future. 

But if your ISP offers a plan that supports DOCSIS 3.1, and you feel comfortable spending the money, you should consider it. It is a good feature on a modem that will give you unmatched speeds. 

That being said, DOCSIS 3.0 is not a poor choice by any means. You will get excellent speeds and usage from 3.0 as well. Furthermore, most providers only offer packages that use DOCSIS 3.0.

It is also cheaper, making it a more realistic option for a lot of people. DOCSIS 3.0 is perfectly capable and sufficient for those doing common things such as streaming, playing games, watching movies, etc. 

For now, most people can thrive off of DOCSIS 3.0. Unless you are looking for a stand-out option or live in a heavily populated area that offers DOCSIS 3.1 compatibility, sticking with DOCSIS 3.0 is the way to go. 

Over the next few years, once DOCSIS 3.1 becomes more normalized and possibly cheaper, it may become more prevalent. While 2006 may seem like a lifetime ago in regards to technology, DOCSIS 3.0 can hold its own. 

DOCSIS Versions Compared

Here are all the DOCSIS versions as they compare to each other in terms of speed and release date.

FeatureDOCSIS 1.0DOCSIS 1.1DOCSIS 2.0DOCSIS 3.0DOCSIS 3.1
Max Download Speed40 Mbps40 Mbps40 Mbps1 Gbps10 Gbps
Max Upload Speed10 Mbps10 Mbps30 Mbps200 Mbps2 Gbps
Release Date19961999200120062013

The difference between each version of DOCSIS is huge. With each generation bringing something new to the table.

DOCSIS 1.1 for example, did not increase the speed but instead added VoIP (Voice over IP) service as well as the ability to play games online and stream.

The later DOCSIS versions all added to the max speed in upload and/or download and decreased the latency.

When is DOCSIS 4.0 Coming?

DOCSIS 4.0 was first introduced in October 2017 by CableLabs. [4] But as for now, there are no devices that use it, and there are no plans to begin to use it anytime soon. 

The difference between DOCSIS 3.1 and 4.0 is that DOCSIS 4.0 has a higher upload speed of 6 Gbps, compared to 3.1s 2 Gbps. 

The idea behind DOCSIS 4.0 is that the future will need more upstream capacity than what is in use today. This because new technology and applications will emerge that enable devices to share more data. [5]

But as for when DOCSIS 4.0 will start getting used by the general public is unclear. But most likely in at least 7 to 12 years. As it is not even close to necessary yet.

DOCSIS vs Fiber vs DSL

There are three main types of internet that most homes have. These are DOCSIS, Fiber, and DSL.

Fiber is the newest and fastest form of internet. It uses glass fibers that transmit data using pulses of light. [6] This allows for an exceedingly fast internet speed in both the upload and download directions. 

The drawback with Fiber is that there is no existing infrastructure for it. Thus, it’s not very accessible for most. It also doesn’t help that it’s expensive to install. 

DLS stands for Digital Subscriber Line and uses telephone lines as a means of providing internet. This is an old form of internet transmission and is, therefore, the slowest of the three. As the telephone lines aren’t capable of carrying much information. 

The good thing about DSL is that it’s readily available nearly everywhere. Since it uses the phone infrastructure that already is there. This makes it a cheaper option than both DOCSIS and Fiber.

DOCSIS is kinda like the middle ground between Fiber and DSL. Being more accessible than Fiber but less so than DSL. This is because DOCSIS uses the television infrastructure as its way of providing internet. 

And since television infrastructure is built for more data flow DOCSIS is faster than DSL. It is, however, slower than Fiber.

Bottom Line

Most people that read this should buy a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. Since it will be more than enough for most. 

Only if you have an internet plan over 1 Gbps or want the best modem possible as well as to future-proof it, is DOCSIS 3.1 a good option.

If you plan to buy a modem I recommend you to check out my compatible modems page. Where I have researched which are the best-approved modems for every major ISP. 

Click here to check it out which is the best approved modem for your ISP. 

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