Comcast Goes Wide With DOCSIS 3.1 Gigabit Gateway

Following initial deployments in markets such as Salt Lake City, Comcast has moved ahead with the national rollout of the xFi Advanced Gateway, a product that supports DOCSIS 3.1, souped up WiFi and a set of dedicated IoT radios.

Early on, Comcast will deploy the new gateway (previously called the XB6) to customers on the MSO’s fastest residential speed tiers, from 300 Mbps up to 1 Gbps, in markets where it has deployed DOCSIS 3.1. Comcast has deployed D3.1, a gigabit-class technology for its HFC network, to about 75% of its footprint (or 26 markets) so far.

Comcast is leasing the xFi Advanced Gateway for $10 per month, the same price as its previous-generation DOCSIS 3.0-based gateway, the xFi Wireless Gateway (formerly known as the XB3).  Comcast designed the new gateway, but as reported earlier, the operator has tapped Arris to build a version powered by an Intel Corp. D3.1 chip, and Technicolor to build one using Broadcom’s  chipset.

The new gateway supports xFi, a cloud-based home WiFi management platform that the cable operator rolled out in May.

Among other specs, the new gateway supports and 8x8 WiFi antenna array that leans on 802.11ac version 2, which allows for it to tap into 160 MHz channels (versus 20 MHz and 80 MHz used in most WiFi routers and gateways in the market). It also uses Multi-user, Multi-input, Multi-output technology to deliver top speeds to dozens of devices hanging off the network, the company said.

That also “over-provisions” the device to support more than 1 Gbps, Fraser Stirling, senior vice president of devices and AI systems at Comcast, said. Comcast said it has tested WiFi speeds of more than 1.5 Gbps using the new gateway's wireless technology configuration. 

Comcast believes that the WiFi capacities of the new gateway will be enough to blanket the vast majority of homes with WiFi, but later this month will start to offer optional, complementary xFi Pod devices that use mesh technology to complete the whole-home WiFi scenario by extending the range of the system and eliminating dead zones.  

Comcast hasn’t announced pricing on those xFi Pods, developed in partnership with Plume, but has posted an FAQ about them. Per the FAQ, Comcast will be selling the self-installable xFi Pods in sets of three or six.

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The xFi Advanced Gateway is also equipped with a set of IoT radios – Bluetooth LE, Zigbee and Thread, making the device “capable of connecting to virtually any IoT device.” Nest devices, for example, use Thread radios. Those capabilities are also expected to ensure that the new gateway integrates with Xfinity Home, Comcast’s home security/smart home service.

Comcast said it has made the new gateway easy to set up and onboard, as customers need only plug it in, scan a QR code with the xFi app and follow the prompts. Customers will be able to self-install the device, but for company installs, the techs will be using the same “customer flow” to set up the device, Stirling said.

“Everything we’ve been doing lately has 100% self-install in mind,” Stirling said. “The SIK (self install kit) is always front and center.”

More details about Comcast’s new product and its design strategy will be featured in the December 11 edition of Broadcasting & Cable.