Add another wideband feather in Comcast’s cap with today’s announcement that the faster DOCSIS 3.0-based speeds are coming to the cable operator’s Baltimore market.

This month Comcast will start rolling out two tiers of wideband services to residential homes and businesses in its Baltimore footprint. The initial rollouts will first Comcastinclude areas in Anne Arundel County, City of Annapolis and Howard County, with the remainder of the market expected to be completed by the first half of 2009.

Comcast competes with Verizon, among other service providers, in the Baltimore market.

"We are pleased to be rolling out this next generation service to our customers, which will dramatically enhance their online experience," said Fred Graffam, senior vice president of Comcast's Beltway Region. "This technology, combined with our advanced fiber-optic network, will enable us to continue to offer our customers even faster speeds and an entirely new phase of Internet innovation."

Like previous wideband deployments, the new residential tiers in Baltimore are Extreme 50 and Ultra. Extreme offers download speeds of up to 50 Mbps and upstream speeds of 10 Mbps for $139.95 month. Ultra clocks in with 22 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up at a cost of $62.95 a month.

Business customers will also have access to the new wideband services. Customers can sign up for the Deluxe 50 Mbps / 10 Mbps tier for $189.95 a month.

Comcast is currently bonding three channels on the downstream with plans to start bonding upstream channels next year.

At January’s Consumer Electronics International show, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts pledged to have DOCSIS 3.0-enabled broadband tiers in 20 percent of its footprint by year’s end. To date, Comcast has deployed the service in Minneapolis/St. Paul, the Boston metro area, southern New Hampshire, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Eugene.

Comcast used pre-DOCSIS 3.0 wideband modems from Cisco in its first launch of wideband services in the Twin Cities in April. Comcast is also working with Arris, Motorola and other DOCSIS 3.0 vendors, but didn’t say whose equipment is being used for the latest deployment.

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.

Like it has done in other wideband markets, Comcast also increased the speeds, at no additional charge, for most of its broadband customers in Baltimore:

  • Performance tier customers will benefit from doubled downstream and upstream speeds, offering up to 12 Mbps and 2 Mbps, respectively.
  • Performance Plus customers will be upgraded to Comcast’s Blast! tier, which will double their download speeds to up to 16 Mbps and provide up to 2 Mbps of upload speed.

Existing business class customers also will receive complimentary speed increase: speeds on the Starter tier will be doubled to up to 12 Mbps / 2 Mbps and a new Premium Tier also will be introduced with speeds up to 22 Mbps / 5 Mbps for  $99.95/month.

Videotron was the first North American cable operator to deploy a wideband-enabled data service while Insight Communications recently said it was testing a 100 Mbps DOCSIS 3.0 service (see story here). Cox Communications is conducting DOCSIS 3.0-powered trials this year ahead of anticipated deployments next year while Cablevision is currently getting DOCSIS 3.0 gear in place for next year as well. .

In other Comcast-related news, the company said it will be paying a quarterly dividend next month. While a large number of Fortune 500 companies have said they won’t be paying dividends due to the economic meltdown, yesterday Comcast’s board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.0625 a share on the company’s common stock. The quarterly dividend is payable on Jan. 28 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on Jan. 7.

More Broadband Direct:

• Comcast powers up wideband speeds in Baltimore area

• Suite life: RCN inks hospitality deal

• Cox, Time Warner Cable to participate in DTV shutdown test

• Verizon Wireless, Alltel deal clears FTC hurdle

• Aurora certified for MEF 18 with Zarlink

• Trilithic Partnering with Wireless Matrix

• Nokia Siemens opens doors on LTE lab in Dallas

• Alcatel-Lucent faces tall task in Friday meeting with shareholders

• Ciena posts fourth-quarter loss

• Broadband Briefs for 12/11/08