Buckeye CableSystem is in the final stages of a project that would enable aggregate speeds of 90 Mbps on the upstream.

Recently, Comcast announced that its Xfinity Platinum Internet tier featured 65 Mbps on the upstream, which matched Verizon’s fastest upstream speed that was launched in June.

While Comcast and Verizon battle head-to-head in their overlapping markets to win data subscribers, Buckeye CableSystem, which launched a DOCSIS 3.0-based wideband tier with download speeds of up to 110 Mbps in March, is taking a more measured approach with the systems it serves in Ohio and parts of southeast Michigan.

Currently, Buckeye CTO Joe Jensen said that the cable operator could nominally support 20 Mbps on the upstream.

“We’re working on putting together plans to expand our upstreams to be able to get three 6.4s upstream with 16 QAM, hopefully moving to 64 QAM across the board,” he said. “That would give you roughly 90 megabits upstream per segment, and I think it would certainly offer us the ability to move upwards in that upstream data rate category, but it’s all a management issue.

“We won’t be offering 90 Mbps upstream anytime soon. It is going to take a lot of preparation on our part to get there. Based on our recent field analysis, we are probably going to be in the 2-10 Mbps range for upstreams in the foreseeable future.”

In order to get to 90 Mbps, Buckeye has to replace the older Fabry-Perot lasers in the field and clear up spectrum space to increase the upstream speeds.

“We had to move some of our signaling activities so we that could clear that out, but that’s moving forward, and I’m anticipating over the next 30 days (sometime in August) we’ll have that done,” Jensen said. “Then we’re going to selectively turn up nodes as we see the need, because once we get the spectrum cleared, then we need to make sure we have DFB (distributed feedback) laser replacements for the Fabry-Perot lasers, and then we can light that additional bandwidth up.

“We’ll watch the upstream, we’ll manage the network very carefully, and as we see growth in certain segments, we’ll go in and fix them. We’ll reach a point where we’ll just turn on the rest of it and clean up the rest of the nodes, but right now it’s on a kind of as-needed basis.”

Buckeye competes for data subscribers with AT&T across roughly 70 percent of its footprint. AT&T’s fastest data tier features up to 24 Mbps downstream and up to 3 Mbps upstream. Jensen said he didn’t see an immediate need for increasing upstream speeds, but Buckeye wanted to have a plan in place for when it needed to so.

“Just because we are able to provide an aggregate of 90 Mbps on the upstream as I described doesn’t mean that we would offer that speed to the customer,” Jensen said. “That upstream is a shared pipe over a group of subscribers.”

Comcast has achieved speeds of 75 Mbps on the upstream by bonding four channels during lab and field trials. Cox Communications and Motorola hit 400 Mbps on a 5-85 MHz return path last year at an industry event.

There are plenty of options for increasing upstream speeds, some of which were discussed in a CED-hosted Webinar yesterday.

“We’ve looked at some of the spectrum-enhanced solutions and have not found anything that makes a lot of sense,” Jensen said. “I think we’re falling back on much more of a tactical approach to that, and that’s looking at where we need the bandwidth and figuring out the best technology to make that happen. It seems to be working so far. I think we’re just staying very rational on this and not getting very far ahead of the headlights.”