Comcast Goes Wide With Wideband

Cable giant to deploy DOSCIS 3.0 technology in ten markets

Comcast says it will begin a broad deployment of DOCSIS 3.0 high-speed data transmission technology, also known as “wideband,” in parts of New England, Philadelphia and New Jersey over the next few weeks and begin marketing a 50 megabit-per-second (Mbps) service to customers. The cable giant says it will continue to deploy wideband technology across its footprint, rolling it out to 10 major markets where its pipes pass some 10 million homes over the next few months.

Comcast and other cable operators have come

under criticism

from Congress and FCC Democrats who say the U.S.’s broadband speeds have fallen behind European and Asian countries, and Comcast in particular has drawn the FCC’s ire for throttling back broadband speeds for its heaviest broadband users, such as customers engaged in peer-to-peer networks. But Comcast has pointed to wideband, which adds new downstream channels to the standard broadband DOCSIS system and then bonds them together to create a “virtual” wideband channel, as a way to dramatically improve broadband speeds. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts first demonstrated the technology at the

2007 Cable Show in Las Vegas

, then showed off a

super-fast movie download via wideband

at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January as he described Comcast’s plan to make a wealth of high-quality content available online through its “Project Infinity” initiative.

Comcast say it will now use wideband, which was first deployed in the St. Paul/Minneapolis market earlier this year and is now being introduced in the Boston Metropolitan region and Southern New Hampshire, to offer a new range of tiers for residential Internet service. The fastest, “Extreme 50,” will offer up to 50 Mbps of downstream speed and up to 10 Mbps of upstream speed at $139.95/month, while the next step down, “Ultra,” will provide up to 22 Mbps of downstream speed and up to 5 Mbps of upstream speed at $62.95/month.

Comcast says that Extreme 50 customers will be able to download a high-def movie measuring 6 gigabytes (GB) in about 16 minutes, a standard-def movie (2 GB) in about 5 minutes and a standard-def TV show (300 megabytes) in a matter of seconds.

Comcast will also use wideband to increase speeds for most of its existing customers. “Performance” tier customers, for example, will get doubled downstream and upstream speeds offering up to 12 Mbps and 2 Mbps, respectively. “Performance Plus” customers will be upgraded to Comcast’s “Blast!” tier, which will double their download speeds to up to 16 Mbps and provide up to 2 Mbps of upload speed.

“Wideband is a game-changer for the industry,” said Mitch Bowling, SVP and General Manager, Comcast Online Services, in a statement. “With wideband running over our next-generation fiber-optic network, we can greatly enhance our customers’ online experience immediately. And these speeds are only a preview of what’s to come—wideband will provide the capability of delivering dramatically faster speeds in excess of 160 Mbps in the future. Today’s announcement reaffirms our commitment to offer more speed to more homes than any other U.S. Internet service provider.”