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Comcast Revs Up Speedy Cisco Wireless Gateway

Debuts Dual-Band 802.11n/DOCSIS 3.0 Gateway in Tandem with Nationwide Broadband Speed Boost 4/26/2013 7:11 AM Eastern

Comcast has launched a faster version of a wireless gateway capable of reaching 270 Mbps in concert with nationwide upgrades that double the speeds of its two most popular high-speed Internet tiers.

The new DOCSIS 3.0-powered and voice-capable Xfinity Wireless Gateway is a dual-band 802.11n router with 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz radios designed to expand wireless coverage in the home and help customers connect their tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles and PCs to the home network. 

The MSO said tests conducted by Allion USA found that the gateway provided up to 270 Mbps when riding the 5 GHz channel and 150 Mbps using 2.4 GHz, outperforming 2.4 GHz-only models from rivals Verizon Communications and AT&T. Comcast claimed the new, multi-service gateway is the first of its kind to include the 5.0 GHz radio frequency.

“Today, there are nearly six connected devices for every U.S. home with Internet service and that is only going to increase in the future which is why we continue to increase speeds on a regular basis,” said Comcast SVP of data and communications Rob Slinkard, in a statement.  “The Xfinity Wireless Gateway provides these homes with a reliably fast Internet connection that ensures our customers are getting the best performance from their wireless devices. We are continuing to invest in our network to provide customers everything they need to power their connected home.”

The gateway is also outfitted with the 2.0 version of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance platform, which targets wireline home networking throughputs of 400 Mbps in basic mode and up to 800 Mbps in the enhanced, turbo mode.

The DOCSIS 3.0 modem chip in the gateway can bond up to 16 downstream channels – enough to handle theoretical downstream bursts of 640 Mbps. Cisco makes the current model, but Comcast will be buying this new class of gateways from other manufacturers soon, a spokesman said. Last fall, Comcast talked up a wireless gateway made by Technicolor, one of its other suppliers, that could pump out Wi-Fi speeds of about 155 Mbps. 

Comcast is initially offering the new Cisco gateway to triple-play customers who also subscribe to X1, a next-gen video product that features a media rich, cloud-based user interface. Comcast has rolled X1 in several markets, including Colorado; Boston; Atlanta and Augusta, Ga.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; San Francisco; and the Philadelphia area.  Comcast charges $7 per month for the new wireless gateway, the same fee it charges for the MSO’s standard equipment.

In concert with the debut of the device, Comcast is also goosing the speeds of its two most popular high-speed Internet plans: Blast and Extreme 50.  Blast jumps from 25 Mbps downstream and 4 Mbps upstream, to 50 Mbps down by 10 Mbps up. The Extreme 50 tier rises to 105 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up, from 50 Mbps down and 15 Mbps upstream.

The enhanced, dual-band Wi-Fi capabilities in the gateway will help to ensure that the wireless home network doesn't bottleneck the wireline speeds entering the home. 

Comcast's fastest tier, limited to the Northeast, tops out at 305 Mbps down and 65 Mbps up. That offering currently uses Comcast's Metro Ethernet platform, rather than its DOCSIS 3.0 network. The next generation of DOCSIS 3.0 chipsets and modems will be capable of bonding 24 downstream channels, providing enough capacity for max speeds approaching 1 Gbps.