After deploying its first DOCSIS 3.0-enabled wideband service in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region last year, Comcast is back in the Twin Cities with a 100 Mbps commercial services tier.

With the new service, Comcast has doubled up on its DOCSIS 3.0 50 Mbps service, which is available to both residential and business customers, by bonding a fourth channel. In addition to the 100 Mbps downstream speed, Comcast increased its upstream speed from the previous high of 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps on the new tier.

Business customers can sign up for Comcast’s Deluxe 50 Mbps/10 Mbps tier for $189.95 per month, while the faster 100 Mbps is priced at $369.95 per month. With the faster service, Comcast is drawing a bead on the T1 services that are offered by its competitors. In addition to costing less, Comcast said it’s also throwing in other features for free – such as McAfee Security Suite – that its competitors don’t include.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said the faster tier is being targeted at businesses “because we think this kind of speed will be of more interest to them.” Comcast is focusing more on small- to medium-size businesses. In last month’s earnings call, Comcast said its business services were up 51 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous quarter a year ago.

“Internet speeds this fast are a game-changer for businesses,” said Bill Stemper, president of Comcast Business Services. “When Comcast doubled its Internet speeds last year, business customers immediately took advantage of that wideband pipe to connect regional offices, support remote employees and perform large file transfers.

“(The) 100 Mbps service is ideal for data-intensive businesses that need this kind of speed and want an alternative to slower, more expensive T1 lines.”

The service also includes Microsoft Communication Services, which is valued at more than $500, and Microsoft Outlook e-mail powered by Microsoft Exchange Server for no additional fee. Comcast said the McAfee Security Suite had an annual value of $280.

With the faster speed, Comcast said downloading a large 2 GB file, such as a high-resolution X-ray or a graphic design, can be completed in about 2 ½ minutes, while downloading the same-size file on a typical business class 1.5 Mbps T1 line would take more than 3 hours.

Comcast said the 100 Mbps service would be rolled out on a market-by-market basis going forward.

Comcast has launched DOCSIS 3.0 in the following markets to date: the Twin Cities; the Boston metropolitan region; parts of southern New Hampshire; parts of Hartford, Conn.; the city of Philadelphia, as well as the greater metropolitan area; Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Pa.; large parts of New Jersey; Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Portland and Eugene, Ore.; and Seattle and Spokane, Wash.

Comcast plans to have its DOCSIS 3.0 wideband service in 80 percent of its footprint by year’s end, which was up from the 65 percent the company previously targeted. As of last month’s earnings call, Comcast currently has DOCSIS 3.0 in 50 percent of its markets, and the operator has increased the speeds of its other data tiers in those markets, as well.

While there are numerous service providers in Japan that are offering 160 Mbps services, Cablevision’s 101 Mbps service is currently the fastest in North America after it topped Shaw Cablesystems’ 100 Mbps service. Shaw, which launched its 100 Mbps wideband service in February, expects to come close to Comcast’s target sometime this fall.

Earlier this year, Virgin Media announced it was trialing a 200 Mbps service in the U.K.

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