Mediacom Uncorks 305-Meg Broadband Tier

Mediacom Communications is looking to raise the broadband speed bar in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where it duels with CenturyLink Communications, with the launch of a new broadband service that tops out at 305 Mbps (downstream).

The new tier, called Ultra 305, nearly triples the downstream capabilities of its previous fastest residential offering (Ultra 105). It costs $199.95 per month and is paired with a monthly data usage allowance of 4 Terabytes before overage fees are applied, a company spokesman said via email.

Under Mediacom's current policy, which was extended to all Mediacom markets last fall, customers of the MSO’s 105 Mbps Ultra Plus tier were fitted with a 2 Terabyte monthly data allowance, while those on its Ultra Plus 3T service received a 3 TB monthly limit. Under that unified plan, customers can purchase additional blocks of 50 Gigabytes for $10 when they exceed their soft monthly consumption caps. At the time, Mediacom said about 97% of its residential broadband customers don’t reach their monthly consumption limits, and that the overage fees are “not a significant revenue source for us.”

Mediacom said it’s been testing the new, faster service in the Cedar Rapids since the early part of year, and now offers it to residential customers there, as well as in nearby Marion, Hiawatha, Bertram and Toddsville.

The current version of Ultra 305 offers maximum upstream speeds of 10 Mbps, but Mediacom will be boosting upstream speeds “in the near term,” a Mediacom spokesman said via email.

The MSO, which sees the faster service coming in handy as customers connect a growing number of tablets, smartphones and PCs to their home networks,  has not announced when it plans to offer Ultra 305 in other markets. But Mediacom, which has DOCSIS 3.0 deployed to to 98% of its service area, said it will see how its launch in Cedar Rapids goes first before deciding next steps.

Mediacom said it announced the new tier at an event at its Cedar Rapids office that included participating from city officials and ambassadors from the area’s Metro Economic Alliance.

“With Mediacom Ultra 305, we demonstrate our promise to provide an always-faster Internet service,” said Mediacom group vice president Doug Frank, in a statement. “Iowans were the first in the country to break an earlier speed threshold when Mediacom launched 105-meg speeds in 2010. Today we’ve raised the bar even higher in the Cedar Rapids area where innovation and technology are fueling a new spirit of creativity and vitality.”

Other U.S. cable operators could soon follow with similar types of cable modem speed tiers. DSL Reports said Monday that Suddenlink Communications is preparing to launch a 300-Meg tier of its own, citing a letter sent by the MSO to a customer in Georgetown, Texas.

“We’re now pleased to announce that soon we’ll be launching even faster Internet service in our area:  Download speeds of up to 300 Mbps!”  Suddenlink declined to comment on the report.

Among other MSOs, Time Warner Cable plans to launch a 300 Mbps D3 service in Austin, Texas, this summer, and is making similar plans to offer such speeds in Los Angeles, New York and other markets that get the all-digital treatment and the MSO's "TWC  Maxx” network upgrades.

Comcast offers a 505 Mbps residential  service delivered over its fiber-only Metro Ethernet platform in select markets. Last week, Comcast announced that it is increasing the speed of two cable modem tiers in its Northeast division, led by “Xfinity Extreme,” which is going from 105 Mbps down to 150 Mbps down. Comcast is also rumored to be working on a 250-Meg tier for Provo, Utah, where it is facing off with Google Fiber.

Last August, Com Hem, Sweden’s largest cable operator, lit up a DOCSIS 3.0-powered tier that offers up to 500 Mbps down and 50 Mbps up.