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Cox DOCSIS 3.0 high-speed cable service delivers – but will your home gear?

Last week, Cox Communications announced the availability of DOCSIS 3.0 high-speed broadband service in the Northern Virginia area. The service is billed to deliver speeds of up to 50 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. Preliminary tests have demonstrated those speeds to the router, but home users are likely to get an eye-opening experience on the capabilities and limitations of their own in-home technologies.

Cox arranged to put me on the beta list for DOCSIS 3.0 – ironically, a position I was in almost a decade ago when the company rolled out broadband and DOCSIS 2.0 to its cable customers.  The installation took place on the morning of Thursday, May 7; it came with a truck roll and a Cox technician delivering and plugging in a Cisco DPC3000 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, followed by me running Speakeasy’s Speed Test a bunch of times.

Initial glitches and fixes over the morning included—

  • Blocking of outbound port 25 for SMTP mail – Cox fixed by noon
  • Flash of latest firmware load onto Cisco modem – Cox completed by noon
  • Configuration /confirmation of service profile for DOCSIS 3.0 – Cox completed by noon
  • Precautionary update of firmware in Linksys by Cisco WRT310N router – Doug completed by noon

Everything quick and obvious had been fixed by noon, so why was I still getting around 6 Mbps download and 6 Mbps upload speeds on my upstairs desktop machine? The Netgear XE104 wall-plugged Ethernet switch claims it does 85 Mbps, but with 12.5 Mbps to 25 Mbps coming out of my DOCSIS 2.0 service, I hadn’t paid close and strict attention to the home networking bits and their limitations — Doom on me.

Doing what I should have done in the first place when the Cox tech had finished the install, I took my netbook down to the router and plugged it into a spare 10/100/1000 Ethernet port.

Winner! Over 50 Mbps download and over 5 Mbps upload straight from the WRT310 to the netbook’s 10/100 Ethernet port.

During all my ad hoc tests with different network gear combinations, upload speeds have remained consistently around 5 Mbps.  Download speeds have been variable depending upon home network equipment used and have also seen some other behavior I’m still trying to figure out.

Network technology                                            Peak download speed (Speakeasy.net)

Ethernet cable to router                                      Over 50 Mbps

Linksys dual-mode draft N USB device         34 Mbps

Stock 802.11g on netbook                                  24 Mbps

Netgear XE104 powerline switch                    24 Mbps (same floor of house)

Netgeer XE104 powerline switch                    7 Mbps (different floor of house)

My task over the next week is to tinker with my existing network setup and see how I can optimize wireless and Powerline connections. Some of my friends have already wondered out why I haven’t run Category 5 wiring to every room in the house.

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