Comcast Tests Pricing For 105-Mbps Tier

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How much would you pay for one of the zippiest residential broadband services in America?

Comcast is looking to answer that question, quietly testing out different price points for its Extreme 105 package, which offers 105 Megabits per second downloads.

In markets where Extreme 105 is available, Comcast is offering a 12-month promotional price of $105 per month, when bundled with cable TV. The company is also testing higher- and lower-priced offers with different configurations in various markets, although a company rep declined to specify those.

As of the end of September, Comcast was offering 105 Mbps to more than 25 million homes in markets where the operator has launched Xfinity branding. But for now the MSO is not actively marketing the higher-speed tier, which offers 10 Mbps upstream. The operator's 50 Mbps service is available to more than 40 million homes.

With about 83% of Comcast's footprint now upgraded to DOCSIS 3.0, "we are reinforcing our product superiority," Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said on the operator's Oct. 27 earnings call.

But Comcast can't lay claim to the fastest Internet in all markets anymore: Verizon last month grabbed the marketing trophy with a FiOS Internet package that provides 150 Mbps downstream. At about $200 per month, however, the service likely have limited appeal.

Meanwhile, Cablevision Systems' 101-Mbps Optimum Online Ultra is $84.95 or $104.95 per month depending on bundle options. Suddenlink Communications' 107-Mbps tier, available in limited markets, is $107 per month (bundled with TV or phone).

Comcast's promotional pricing for Extreme 105 makes it only five dollars higher than Extreme 50, which is $99.95 per month -- so existing customers of that tier are likely candidates to upgrade, as that would more than double their download speeds. The 105 Mbps service works with the same standard DOCSIS 3.0 modems Comcast uses for Extreme 50.

"The hope is [the 50- and 105-Mbps tiers] will spur developers to create applications that can take advantage of these speeds," such as telemedicine and high-performance gaming, Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said.

This week, the Federal Communications Commission issued a report finding that 68% of subscribers' reported Internet access connections as of the end of 2009 were too slow to qualify as high-speed Internet, with less than 3 Mbps downstream and/or 768 Kilobits per second upstream. However, the data was based on subscribership rather than availability, so the report shed no light on what broadband speeds are available to consumers.

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