Getting High on Speed

AT&T’s best broadband is still no match
for cable.

While the nation’s biggest telephone company last
week expanded the availability of its fastest digital
subscriber line service — at 24 Megabits per second
downstream — to 120 markets in 22 states, that’s less
than half the top speeds offered by major cable competitors
in many markets.

In fact, separately last week, Suddenlink Communications
rolled out a Texas-sized broadband service
at 107 Mbps downstream in the Austin suburbs,
thereby claiming the residential Internet speed record
in the U.S., at least for now.

The St. Louis-based cable operator announced
that it has started offering residential customers in
three Texas communities — Georgetown, Pfl ugerville
and Leander — its new “High Speed Internet
MAX 107.0” service, with a top download speed of
107 Mbps and uploads up to 5 Mbps.

“Based on our research, we believe this residential
download speed to be the fastest available in the
U.S. today,” Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent said in announcing
MAX 107.0. “We are pleased to bring cutting-
edge technologies to our communities and we
will continue our efforts to expand the availability
of this and other advanced services.”

In addition to Suddenlink, Cablevision Systems
and Mediacom Communications already top the
100-Mbps mark. Comcast this year expects to
begin offering 100-Mbps downstream speeds to
residential customers (see “Comcast: 100 Meg in
2010,” March 22, page 2). Cable operators use the
next-generation DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem technology
to deliver the ultra-fast connections.

Suddenlink’s 107-Mbps tier is $107 per month
when bundled with phone or TV service and $120
per month when ordered as standalone service. The
cable operator passes between 50,000 and 60,000
homes in the three suburban-Austin communities
where MAX 107.0 is initially available. The MSO is
using Cisco Systems’ modular cable-modem termination
system (M-CMTS) and Arris DOCSIS 3.0 modems
to deliver the MAX 107.0 service.

AT&T’s U-verse High Speed Internet Max Turbo,
which provides up to 24 Mbps downstream and up
to 3 Mbps upstream, is available for $65 per month
to qualifying residential customers as part of a bundle
with AT&T U-verse TV. The 24/3 tier is available
to eligible small business customers for $95 a

The Max Turbo service is based on Very High Bit-
Rate DSL 2 (VDSL2), which provides a theoretical
maximum of 50 Mbps at a 1-kilometer distance from
the central office. However, U-verse TV uses a portion
of the VDSL2 connection to deliver video.

By contrast, cable operators including Comcast,
Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Cablevision
currently offer broadband packages with
at least 50 Mbps downstream.

Also last week, Cox launched Ultimate High Speed
Internet in Hampton Roads, Va., offering downloads
of up to 50 Mbps and uploads at 5 Mbps. The
Hampton Roads launch follows Cox’s deployment of
DOCSIS 3.0-based service in six divisions: Las Vegas;
Louisiana; Northern Virginia; New England (Rhode
Island); Arizona; and Orange County, Calif.

As in other markets, Cox Ultimate Internet in
Hampton Roads includes a feature called Power-
Boost, which provides a temporary extra burst of
speed for file downloads up to 55 Mbps.

Broadband is settling into a more mature stage of growth, but it’s still
growing, according to Leichtman Research Group:

The 19 biggest U.S. broadband providers had 71.8 million subscribers at the end of 2009, up 39 million
over the last five years

Cable has 39.3 million broadband subs, while telcos have 32.5 million

Cable companies accounted for 57% of broadband additions in 2009