Comcast Tests Commercial CDN Service

Beta Trials Underway With Two Customers

Comcast confirmed that it is testing a commercial content delivery network (CDN) service that will focus on potential partners that deliver a variety of interactive Web services and applications, including streaming video over the Internet.

Comcast said it has beta trials underway with two unnamed customers, but noted that there are no firm plans or dates for a full commercial rollout. If it reaches the deployment level, the new offering would create a new competitor to Akamai, Limelight Networks and other third-party CDNs.’s Dan Rayburn reported Monday that Comcast’s emerging service is live and already has "a few paying customers,"  noting that it allows content owners to go directly to the MSO to have their content stored and delivered via the last mile.

According to people familiar with the project, Comcast is developing this as a product that would be competitive to other types of CDNs, but with a focus on on-net delivery, meaning that it’s tailored to run on Comcast’s own core network and last-mile access networks, and isn’t targeting global delivery or Web acceleration features.  While the CDN service under development could be used for video streaming services, it’s said to be architected to provide more benefits to Web and interactive gaming traffic.

Those same sources also emphasized that the trial CDN service does not provide a “fast lane,” provide any type of traffic prioritization, or have any ties to network neutrality, which is a major hot button again as the FCC pursues a new set of open Internet rules.

The MSO has already developed a private CDN that now supports Comcast’s own VOD service for set-tops as well as IP-connected devices, including PC browsers, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles such as the Xbox 360. By comparison, the commercial CDN service under development is being crafted as an Internet CDN that looks much like traditional CDNs, a person familiar with the project explained.

As Rayburn explained in his blog post, Comcast’s new offering could be used to displace “some traffic currently delivered by third-party CDNs like Akamai and Limelight Networks.”

And he reasons that Comcast might be in position to offer competitive pricing. “While contract variables like volume and length of contract will dictate price, I expect some content owners to be able to pay 20%-40% less than what they pay now,” Rayburn wrote, noting that his sources tell him that Comcast is tailoring its CDN primarily for large- and mid-sized content owners for large file downloads and the streaming of both live and on-demand video.

“Since Comcast owns the network and has a lower cost, they can offer a lower price in the market,” Rayburn surmised. “For content owners that have a large percentage of their content going to Comcast subscribers, it would make sense for some of them to take that portion of their traffic off a third party CDN and move it over to Comcast,” Rayburn wrote.

While noting that  Comcast’s new CDN offering has nothing to do with interconnect relationships, such as the one the MSO signed recently with Netflix, he views broadcasters, gaming companies, software companies, large publishers and others in the media and entertainment market as ideal customers for it.