News

Vidotron Gets Faster

2/29/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Canadian cable operator Vidéotron is now delivering speedy broadband Internet to 112,000 cable households in Quebec after a successful year-long test of channel-bonding technology from Cisco Systems.

On Feb. 6, the company announced two new residential services that deliver download speeds of 30 Megabits per second and 50 Mbps, respectively.

“As a provider of high-tech services, we strive to deliver the higher speeds and transfer limits that consumers, families and organizations need,” Vidéotron senior vice president of marketing Manon Brouillette said in a statement.

PRICE POINTS

The high-speed services don’t come cheap. Ultimate Speed 30 costs $64.95 per month and Ultimate Speed 50 is $79.95 per month.

Vidéotron has also placed firm download caps on the offerings — 30 Gigabytes and 50 Gigabytes per month, respectively — to discourage bandwidth hogs.

Customers wanting more will have to pay $1.50 per Gigabyte, said spokeswoman Isabelle Dessureau.

For increasingly plugged-in customers, the new products will make downloading content much faster, said Vidéotron officials.

At 30 Mbps, a song takes two seconds to arrive and a 2-Gigabyte movie takes eight minutes.

At 50 Mpbs, a full music compact disc takes 10 seconds to download, and the movie needs five minutes.

The services are currently limited to subscribers in Laval, Quebec, but the company plans to make them available to all its 933,000 Internet customers soon.

Canadian electronic media and Internet observer Greg O’Brien, who runs the cable-centric news site Cartt.ca, said his countrymen consume bandwidth the same way Americans do — often on movies and music. He thinks Vidéotron has been careful to market the service to a small market of super users, at least at first.

“I think the pricing is about right. People in Canada are getting used to the idea of paying a higher cost for more bandwidth,” he said.

And while Vidéotron’s public announcement of bandwidth caps is unusual, nobody has been screaming about it, O’Brien added.

The use of Cisco’s wideband technology has given Vidéotron —and potentially other cable companies — a chance to compete with pure fiber competitors, like Verizon FiOS, which offers service at 15 Mbps to most of its customers, and 50 Mbps to a select few.

The system can attain speeds of 100 Mbps, and Vidéotron was even able to push it a bit further, but the company decided against offering that much bandwidth.

“Our goal is clear: We want to gear our services to the majority,” said Dessureau. “After having carefully studied the market, it was determined that speeds of 30 and 50 Mbps suited the needs of the market, as well as consumer demand, existing technological capacities and the Internet chain.”

Cisco hailed the Vidéotron rollout as the first in North America for its channel bonding system based on a standard that existed before the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 3.0 was set.

“As video and new media continue to drive the need for unprecedented levels of speed and bandwidth, cable operators and other service providers and under increasing pressure to transform themselves from being a 'service’ provider into an 'experience’ provider,” Surya Panditi, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Optical Technology and Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) business unit, said in a release.

GEAR IN USE

Vidéotron is using Cisco’s uBR10012 CMTS that can aggregate 6-Megahertz quadrature amplitude modulation channels. Each QAM channel can carry up to 40 Mbps of traffic.

Customers use Linksys WCM300 and Scientific Atlanta DPC2505 cable modems.

Vidéotron’s offerings currently allow 1mbps upload speeds but it will improve when DOCSIS 3.0 becomes widely used, said Dessureau. “More users want speed on uploads,” she said. “They generate a lot of content themselves.”

Theoretically, a channel-bonded architecture can handle upload speeds of more than 100mbps per second.

September