Wideband Gets Biz Boost


Comcast has launched a 100-Megabits-per-second Internet service for businesses in Minneapolis-St. Paul, an opening salvo in one of its most aggressive assaults yet on telephone companies' commercial services.

Comcast's first DOCSIS 3.0 market deployment was in the Twin Cities, in April 2008. The new business service offers up to 100 Mbps downloads and up to 15 Mbps uploads, making it one of the fastest broadband services available in the U.S. today.

“Internet speeds this fast are a game-changer for businesses,” Bill Stemper, president of Comcast Business Services, said in announcing the service. The 100-Mbps service “is ideal for data-intensive businesses that need this kind of speed and want an alternative to slower, more expensive T-1 lines.”

In the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, Comcast competes with Qwest Communications.

The cable operator is initially offering the DOCSIS 3.0-based 100-Mbps tier to commercial customers — rather than residential subscribers — “because we think this kind of speed will be of more interest to them,” Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas said in an e-mail.

Priced at $369.95 per month, Comcast's 100-Mbps “wideband” service is certainly less expensive than a typical 1.5-Mbps T-1 line from a telco for a much faster connection. T-1 lines can run between $500 and $1,200 per month, although they also typically include voice service, according to Tim McElgunn, chief analyst of Pike & Fischer's Broadband Advisory Services unit.

However, telephone companies will likely question the true speed and reliability of Comcast's 100-Mbps service or, for that matter, any other ultra-fast broadband from cable.

“I would expect telcos to focus their response marketing on whether the speeds are guaranteed [and] what happens if the MSO misses on an SLA [service-level agreement],” McElgunn said.

Other cable operators also have turned the broadband dial to 100 Mbps. In April, Cablevision Systems began marketing the 101-Mbps downstream service in its New York service area, while Canada's Shaw Communications debuted a 100-Mbps service earlier in the year.

According to Comcast, businesses that can take advantage of 100-Mbps downloads include those that must exchange large files, such as architectural firms, graphic designers, law firms, real-estate agencies and medical offices.

With the 100-Mbps service, a user could download a 2-Gigabyte file in about two minutes — a file transfer that could take more than three hours over a T-1 line.

Comcast chief operating officer Steve Burke, at an investment conference last week, said the MSO expects business services revenue will grow from about $800 million annually this year to $2.5 billion by 2012.