Comcast has entered the Gigabit era.
Aiming to one-up 1-Gig residential broadband offerings from the likes of AT&T and Google Fiber, Comcast next month will introduce Gigabit Pro, an uncapped, fiber-based, symmetrical 2 Gbps service that will initially be offered to more than 1.5 million customers in Atlanta and expand the service into more Comcast markets throughout 2015.
“We’ll first offer this service in Atlanta and roll it out in additional cities soon with the goal to have it available across the country and available to about 18 million homes by the end of the year,” Marcien Jenckes, executive vice president, consumer services for Comcast Cable, explained in this blog post.
Atlanta, the first market to get Gigabit Pro, is becoming a speed-crazy city. Google Fiber, for example, will be offering its mix of 1-Gig and pay-TV services in Atlanta as part of a plan to expand services to 18 new cities across four metro areas. Atlanta is also on the list for AT&T’s fiber-based 1-Gig-capable GigaPower offering.
But Comcast’s new offering will extend well beyond Atlanta soon. As Comcast brings Gigabit Pro to additional markets, it will make the service available to residential customers who are within “close proximity” (about one-third of a mile) of Comcast’s fiber network. Jenckes noted that Comcast has spent nearly a decade building a national fiber backbone spanning 145,000 route miles of fiber.
Comcast, which is in the process of merging with Time Warner Cable, said it is still evaluating how it will price Gigabit Pro. Comcast has been tapping its fiber-based platform, usually used for businesses customers (Comcast currently offers up to 10 Gbps to business customers via its fiber-based Ethernet service), to deliver Extreme 505, a targeted residential service that offers 505 Mbps down by 100 Mbps upstream in its northeastern systems as well as its South Division and Central Division. Comcast plans to convert its existing Extreme 505 customers to the new 2 Gig service, and will sell it at a price that’s below the rate those customers are currently paying for the 505-Meg service. For customers who take the Gigabit Pro plunge, Comcast, as is the case today with Extreme 505, will need to perform a separate install that will include pulling a fiber to the home and equipping the home with a new termination device and modem that supports the FTTP network.
“A big part of that experience is speed, and with Gigabit Pro, we’ve now increased speeds 14 times in the past 13 years. Over the coming months and years you can expect us to be aggressive, but deliberate, about rolling out gigabit and multi-gig services across the country,” Jenckes wrote.
Further out, Comcast expects to vastly broaden its ability to deliver Gigabit speeds through the deployment of DOCSIS 3.1, a next-gen HFC platform that will be capable of delivering up to 10 Gbps down and at least 1 Gbps upstream. Jenckes noted that Comcast hopes to start D3.1 rollouts in “early 2016.”
"Gigabit Pro isn’t the only way we plan to bring gigabit speeds to customers’ homes. We are currently testing DOCSIS 3.1, a scalable, national, next generation 1 Gbps technology solution. We hope to begin rolling out DOCSIS 3.1 in early 2016, and when fully deployed, it will mean almost every customer in our footprint will be able to receive gigabit speeds over our existing network (a combination of both fiber and coax)," he wrote.
Speaking at a Light Reading event last month, Jorge Salinger, Comcast’s VP of access architecture, said the MSO has begun to test DOCSIS 3.1-based traffic in the field.
DOCSIS 3.1 is designed to be about 50% more efficient from a bits-per-hertz perspective than DOCSIS 3.0/2.0. D3.1 will achieve that in part by utilizing blocks of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) subcarriers, eschewing the use of 6MHz- and 8MHz-wide channels employed by today’s DOCSIS and EuroDOCSIS networks, and through the use of low density parity-check, a forward error correction scheme that uses less bandwidth than the current Reed-Solomon approach.
Foreshadowing all of this, Comcast recently filed an application for the “True Gig” trademark.
Updated: Comcast confirmed that Gigabit Pro will not be subject to any data consumption policies. The MSO is currently testing residential usage-based Internet policies in a handful of markets, including Atlanta, that charge $10 for each additional bucket of 50 Gigabytes when customers exceed their monthly allotment of 300 GB. In Tucson, Ariz., Comcast is testing a different policy that adjusts the monthly consumption ceiling based on the speed of the customer’s data tier.
Comcast ended 2014 with 21.96 million high-speed Internet customers. More than 50% of those customers take a service of 50 Mbps or more, and about 90% get 25 Mbps or more.