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In the media: Comcast teeing up 305 Mbps tier

Fri, 07/20/2012 - 10:57am
Mike Robuck

In an answering salvo to Verizon’s 300 Mbps data tier, Comcast is reportedly laying the groundwork for a 305 Mbps tier that will launch in Verizon FiOS markets before the end of this year.

DSLReports posted a story this morning in regard to Comcast Cable CEO and President Neil Smit referring to a 305 Mbps tier that would go head-to-head with Verizon “soon” during a company webcast yesterday. A spokesman for Comcast didn’t respond to an inquiry about the DSLReports story by deadline this morning.

Last month, Verizon trotted out its FiOS Quantum tiers, which feature the 300 Mbps down, 65 Mbps up tier, as well as three other offerings: 150/65, 75/35 and 50/25. Comcast’s fastest wideband tier to date features 105 Mbps on the downstream.

Prior to Verizon’s Quantum launches, Canadian cable operator Videotron had the fastest speed by a large ISP in North America with its DOCSIS 3.0-based 200/35 tier. DOCSIS 3.0 has plenty of headroom for Comcast to hit the 305 on the downstream with eight channels available for bonding, which would give it a theoretical speed of 320 Mbps.

Currently, the bulk of cable operators that are offering DOCSIS 3.0 wideband tiers are bonding four channels down and three up.

Videotron’s Pierre Roy, vice president of engineering, research and development, said his company was bonding seven or eight channels on the downstream for its Ultimate Internet 200 tier.

Doing node splits and adding more channels gives cable operators plenty of legroom to match or exceed Verizon’s fiber-based offerings, without the addition of the GPON and EPON equipment that Verizon’s top two tiers require.

On the silicon front, Intel’s Puma 6 DOCSIS 3.0 chip supports 24 channels, while Broadcom is reportedly working on a 32-channel chipset, both of which would enable downstream speeds of 1 gigabit per second.

The speed wars between cable operators and Verizon are really about bragging rights, as most residential subscribers probably aren’t willing to fork out $209.99 a month for Verizon’s fastest tier. Comcast has the deep pockets and a team of engineers to strategically deploy a 305 tier in select Verizon markets, but the majority of cable operators will sit in the grandstands during the speed wars until there’s a big enough demand by subscribers to warrant the investment.

In March, Buckeye CableSystem rolled out a 110 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up tier that at the time was second only to Videotron’s 120 Mbps tier. Buckeye is bonding four channels on the downstream to hit 110 Mbps, according to CTO Joe Jensen.

“We’ve seen very soft take-up on our 110 down, 5 up product,” Jensen said recently. “It’s a lot of market sizzle. It’s gratifying that we can demonstrate that kind of capability on our network. As far as we can tell, there’s a core group of customers that want the fastest speed and are willing to pay for it, but for the most part, a large segment of customers are happy with the current speeds we provide that are lower than 110.”

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