Charter Business started rolling out DOCSIS 3.0-enabled tiers in various systems last month, and the operator could have it installed in 50 percent of its total footprint by the end of the year.

Charter is offering two tiers to its business customers: the first, which is called Mega Power, features speeds of up to 40 Mbps on the downstream and up to 4 Mbps on the upstream, while the second (Extreme Power) tops out at 75/5. Charter Business said the pricing on the two tiers varies depending on the customer’s needs.

Jim McGannJim McGann, senior vice president of Charter Business, said Charter is bonding four channels on the downstream. Charter business is using cable modems from SMC Networks and Ubee with cable modem termination systems from Cisco and Arris.

“What we’re doing at Charter is as residential DOCSIS 3.0 launches in a market, we follow pretty closely behind with our business services offering,” McGann said. “We just got started with our first markets in May.”

Charter Business has launched its DOCSIS 3.0 tiers in California, Missouri, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Connecticut, Nevada, Tennessee and California.

A breakout of some of the cities where Charter Business has deployed DOCSIS 3.0 includes:

  • California – Long Beach, Riverside, San Bernardino, Malibu and others
  • Missouri – Municipalities in St. Louis County, Warrensburg, Farmington and others
  • Massachusetts – Worcester, Southbridge, Pepperell and others
  • Minnesota – Rochester, Duluth, Mankato, Albert Lea and others
  • Connecticut – New Milford, Newtown and Winsted
  • Nevada – Reno
  • Tennessee – Jasper

Charter Business is also offering other features with its DOCSIS 3.0 tiers, including IP addresses, online backup, desktop security, custom Web hosting and firewalls.

Charter Business offers small businesses 8 Mbps, 16 Mbps and 25 Mbps tiers, but the DOCSIS 3.0 speeds provide additional flexibility.

“Historically for Charter Business, and I think it’s the same for other MSOs, once we got to whatever the maximum that DOCSIS would support, we would move the customer to a fiber-based solution, which obviously has a higher price tag on it, and we have to build out that fiber network, too,” McGann said. “The nice thing with DOCSIS 3.0 is that it gives them significant bandwidth over our coax network.”

Charter Business serves three levels of commercial service clients. In addition to the small businesses, it also serves medium, multi-located clients, such as health care institutions, through its fiber offerings. On the enterprise side, Charter Business is offering cellular backhaul and POP-to-POP connection for carriers within its footprint. (For more on specific business services by the top-10 MSOs, check out a recent “MSO Business Services” wallchart.

In Charter’s first-quarter earnings call last month, Charter President and CEO Mike Lovett said the company would roll out more carrier, wholesale and carrier backhaul commercial services offerings. Charter’s commercial services revenue was up 10.3 percent year-over-year.

McGann said that while Charter Business has been successful, there’s still plenty of room to grow revenues across all three segments. Charter is exploring what kinds of applications and services its business customers want. Charter Business is looking at bonding DOCSIS 3.0 channels on the upstream, due to customer interest, but McGann said there was no timetable.

While Cox Business, Time Warner Cable and Optimum Lightpath come to mind as cable operators that have traditionally made headway in the commercial services sector, Comcast and Charter are starting to snag customers from the entrenched service providers in their footprints.

On the lowest level, just pulling customers away from T1 lines is proving to be a good entry point for cable operators. The voice and data market in the U.S. for SMBs is $32.2 billion in 2010, according to a recent forecast by Analysys Mason.

“The opportunity continues to be very exciting just because of the pure number of small businesses that are out there,” McGann said. “From a Charter Business standpoint, we’re looking at how we maximize against that opportunity, and what are the requirements of the small business owner that we can bring to them from the voice, data and video perspective.”

More Broadband Direct 6/17/10:
•  Charter Business opens up D3 throttle for commercial services
•  Comcast tees up 100 Mbps tier in Augusta
•  Videotron launches online video Web portal
•  Sezmi says 10 more markets on the way
•  Clearwire launches 3G/4G devices for Macs
•  FCC votes to reconsider broadband regulations