Comcast Joins In the Gigamania

If Google Fiber’s true aim is to prod Internet-service providers to move ahead with 1 Gigabit upgrades, then consider it mission accomplished … times two. One-upping the speeds currently offered in limited areas by Google Fiber and AT&T’s “GigaPower” platform, Comcast announced last Thursday (April 2) that it would offer a symmetrical 2 Gigabit-per-second residential broadband service that will be available to about 18 million homes before the end of 2015.

The service, called “Gigabit Pro,” will initially be available next month to 1.5 million customers in Atlanta, and then start its march into other Comcast markets.

Comcast is still evaluating pricing on the new service, but to deliver it, the Philadelphia- based MSO will use fiber-to-the-home technology that it has been relying on for Extreme 505, a residential service that pairs a 505-Mbps downstream path with one at 100 Mbps upstream. Comcast said it plans to convert Extreme 505 customers to Gigabit Pro and offer the faster service for less than what they’re paying now ($399.95 a month with a three-year contract).

Comcast will offer the uncapped Gigabit Pro service to customers within “close proximity” (about one-third of a mile) of Comcast’s existing fiber network. Using this capital-friendly, success-based model, the MSO will perform a separate install for Gigabit Pro customers that will involve pulling fiber to the home and equipping the household with a new termination device and modem that links to the fiber-to-the-premises network.

Comcast will expand and complement its Gigabit capabilities via the coming deployment of DOCSIS 3.1, a next-generation platform for hybrid fiber coaxial networks that will be capable of delivering speeds of up to 10 Gbps downstream and at least 1 Gbps upstream. Comcast intends to start DOCSIS 3.1 rollouts in “early 2016,” Marcien Jenckes, executive vice president, consumer services for Comcast Cable, explained in a blog post.

Comcast, which is still seeking approval for its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, announced the 2-Gig initiative and offered an update on its DOCSIS 3.1 deployment plan five weeks after the Federal Communications Commission reclassified broadband as a Title II service, a move that the cable industry had warned could chill investment.