Cable Modems Explained: Upstream and Downstream Channels & the Benefits

Learn > Cable Modem & Routers > Cable Modems Explained: Upstream and Downstream Channels & the Benefits

Connecting to the Internet in your home is not possible without a modem. A modem is the device that sits in your home and talks to your Internet service provider (ISP) to receive data signals that connect your computer to the Internet. To get wireless Internet (WiFi) you also need a router. This page is about cable modems. You can get more information about routers here

Your cable modem communicates with your ISP through channels. These channels are known as upstream and downstream channels. Upstream and downstream channels are what make up your total bandwidth or Internet speed. Essentially, these data sending and receiving channels are how you can upload content or download content. The higher the number of channels or bandwidth speed that your cable modem has, the faster you are going to be able to do either of those things.


Upstream Channels

Upstream channels are also known as “upload speed.” This refers to the data that your computer sends out to the Internet. Anytime you use your computer to send and email or post a picture to your social media channels, your computer is uploading data. Your cable modem’s upload speed (or upstream channel) determines how much bandwidth of data your computer can send out to the Internet each second at full speed.


Downstream Channels

Downstream channels, or “download speed,” refers to the data that your computer receives from the Internet. When you use your computer to download music, podcasts, games, apps, pictures or other web content, you are using your computer’s downstream bandwidth. Just like with upstream bandwidth, your cable modem’s download speed determines how much bandwidth of data your computer can receive from the Internet each second at full speed.


Upstream Channels vs Downstream Channels

Generally, your computer or device can download data much faster than it can upload that same data. This means that the number of upload channels that your modem supports will be much less (or much slower) than the download channels. That’s not an issue for most people. If you are concerned, you can run a bandwidth speed test to help you determine the exact or range of speeds you actually need from your cable modem.

Cable modem channels are displayed as “downstream channels number x upstream channels number.” For example, 8×4, 24×8 or 32×8. The downstream is always listed first. The upstream is always listed second. For example, 8×4 means that your cable modem has four (4) download channels and eight (8) upload channels. The higher the numbers, the faster the speeds. (This varies – check with your ISP.)

Channels (DOCSIS 3.0)
Max Theoretical Speed
172 Mbps
343 Mbps
686 Mbps
1 Gbps or 1000 Mbps
1.4 Gbps or 1400 Mbps
32x8 (DOCSIS 3.1)
10 Gbps or 10,000 Mbps

Benefits of More (or Faster) Channels

DOCSIS is a standard that you need to pay attention to when getting your cable modem because it directly relates to upstream and downstream channels. The higher the DOCSIS tier (3.0 or 3.1), the higher the performance and speed of your cable modem. The higher the DOCSIS standard tier will also determine how many download and upload channels your cable modem will support. Learn all about DOCSIS here.

The more channels your cable modem supports, the more data your computer or device can quickly send and receive. This makes your gaming, streaming and general online activity experiences better. 

Hitron’s CODA DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem is available on Amazon,  The CODA has DOCSIS 3.1 with channel bonding to deliver the fastest Multi-Gigabit speeds to your connected devices.  Learn more about cable modems or cable modem routers by reading Hitron’s ​Learn Page​.

NEW! Now Available at Retail!

CODA DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem

Related Articles

What is WPS on my Router?

If you’ve looked closely at your WiFi router, you might have noticed a button marked “WPS” somewhere on it. What is this button? Why is it there and should you press it? Great questions. WPS stands for WiFi Protected Setup.  A router with a WPS button can allow any...

When Should I Reset vs Restart my Cable Modem?

When you should do a cable modem restart or reset depends on the situation. It’s extremely important to understand these terms as the function of these terms have different meanings. In simple terms, to restart or reboot your modem means to turn off your modem and...

What is WiFi 6 and Is WiFi 6 Really Better?

WiFi 6 (also known as 802.11ax) is the most recent version of WiFi. It’s the best version of WiFi to date, with more support, faster speeds, less network congestion, better security, improved battery life for devices, and more. If you are looking for the latest and...

How do I set up my cable modem?

There are differences in setting up your cable modem whether you purchased or rented the device. If you bought your own cable modem, you should check the user manual or manufacturers' support website for specific details. For example, Xfinity (Comcast) and other Cable...

Can I use any cable modem for Cable Internet?

The right cable modem or cable modem router combo to use to get cable Internet in your home depends on a few things: Whether you are renting vs buying Certification and compatibility with your Service Provider Must-have features to consider For example, if your...

These Hitron products are now available on Amazon!

You can own high-quality, Carrier-grade products!

Coax Cable Tester

DOCSIS 3.1 Cable Modem

MoCA 2.5 Coax to Ethernet Adapter

Featured Articles


Buying vs Renting a Router

Should you invest in your own Internet equipment and buy a router instead of renting one from your Internet service provider (ISP)? It depends on the cost and your preferences. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

Cable Modem Routers… A Complete Guide

This friendly, complete cable modem guide will answer your essential questions about cable modems, comparisons, compatibility and more FAQs that matter to you.

What is a Router?

A router is a small box that translates data from your modem to communicate a Wi-Fi signal to the devices on your local network. Learn more.

Why Buy a Gateway Instead of a Modem?

Should you invest in your own Internet equipment and buy a gateway or cable modem router instead of a modem? Or, should you rent it from your Internet service provider (ISP)? It depends on cost and your preferences. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

Let me know when the OS2210 is available?