Charter Communications has laid claim to the fastest residential Internet service with the launch of a 60 Mbps service in its hometown of St. Louis.
Charter is using DOCSIS 3.0 technology for its Ultra60 service in the St. Louis metropolitan area and plans on rolling out the faster service in additional, unannounced markets.
“Speed and reliability are what consumers value most, and we offer the fastest and most reliable speed,” said Marwan Fawaz, Charter’s chief technology officer. “In addition to select Ultra60 deployments, we’re increasing our 16 Mbps service to 20 Mbps nationwide so our customers can take greater advantage of rapidly growing interactive applications available on the Internet, and to help telecommuting workers become even more productive.”
Charter said the upgrade to 20 Mbps will be automatic for Charter high-speed Internet Max customers, at no additional cost.
Charter may be a little late to the DOCSIS 3.0 party, but its downstream speed of 60 Mbps tops the 50 Mbps that Comcast deployed in 20 percent of its footprint late last year, as well as Verizon’s top speed of 50 Mbps that it has deployed in some areas of its footprint.
Charter competes with AT&T’s U-verse data service in western St. Louis County, where it passes 100,000 homes. AT&T’s U-verse service tops out at 18 Mbps.
Comcast is offering its 50 Mbps tier in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle and Atlanta for $139.95 per month as part of a bundle with its cable video service (story here). Comcast business customers can sign up for the Deluxe 50 Mbps tier for $189.95 per month.
Charter’s Ultra60 comes with a monthly price tag of $129.99 when it’s bundled with phone or video services. The nation’s fourth-largest cable operator, which is rumored to be near bankruptcy, is charging $139.99 per month for just the data service.
While Comcast bonded three downstream channels in its deployments last year, a spokeswoman for Charter said it is bonding four.
Charter is using Motorola’s cable modems in the St. Louis deployment, but the company has also certified modems from Cisco/Scientific Atlanta and Ambit. Charter uses Cisco for its cable modem termination systems (CMTSs).
DOCSIS 3.0 can achieve downstream broadband speeds of up to 160 Mbps by bonding 6 MHz – or in the case of Europe and some parts of Asia and Latin America, 8 MHz – channels together. DOCSIS upstream channel bonding can provide up to 120 Mbps of shared throughput for cable operators.
Current requirements for DOCSIS 3.0 call for equipment to support channel bonding on at least four upstream and four downstream channels, although the platform gives operators the flexibility to bond as few as two channels to meet market needs and competition.
Broadcom is working on a chipset that can bond up to eight downstream channels for even faster speeds. While Insight Communications conducted a limited test last year of an Internet service with a download speed of 100 Mbps (story here), it remains to be seen whether consumers are ready to spend more for the faster speeds in the current economy.