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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Comcast Corp started offering a super-fast Internet service that allows customers to download a high-definition movie in 10 minutes.


Comcast offers super-fast Internet speeds
The largest U.S. cable television operator, said on Wednesday it has started offering a super-fast Internet service that allows customers to download a high-definition movie in 10 minutes.

The new premium service was launched in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and marks a leap in connection speeds for Comcast. The new service offers speeds starting at 50 megabits per second, compared with the previous fastest connection speeds of 16 mb per second.

Comcast said the new service is aimed at residential and business customers. But at $149.95 a month, compared with about $50 a month for its usual service, it is likely to attract businesses or very heavy residential users, such as video game players or movie download fans.


Comcast Corp. the largest U.S. cable television operator, said on Wednesday it has started offering a super-fast Internet service that allows customers to download a high-definition movie in 10 minutes.

The new premium service was launched in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and marks a leap in connection speeds for Comcast. The new service offers speeds starting at 50 megabits per second, compared with the previous fastest connection speeds of 16 mb per second.

Comcast said the new service is aimed at residential and business customers. But at $149.95 a month, compared with about $50 a month for its usual service, it is likely to attract businesses or very heavy residential users, such as video game players or movie download fans.

It shares the Twin Cities market with regional phone company Qwest Communications International Inc.

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts unveiled plans for the new super-fast service at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, describing it as "wideband," and the company said it plans to reach around 20 percent of its subscriber base with the service by the end of the year.

The company plans to increase speeds on the service, eventually offering speeds of 100 mb to 160 mb per second.

The technology that enables Comcast to increase download speeds is called 'channel bonding' and uses cable pipes more efficiently to deliver video, Internet and voice.

Comcast's plans came less than a week after the company said it would change the way it manages its network and cooperate to resolve critics' claims it interferes with Internet file-sharing services.
File-sharing services are normally used to distribute content more efficiently by people trying to move large files such as music and movies.

Cable operators are increasingly concerned with improving the efficiency of their cable plants to be able to push more content through their pipes at faster speeds to rival growing competition from telephone companies like Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

Verizon is rolling out a new high-tech fiber-optic service (FiOS) both for digital video and super-fast Internet connections up to 30 mb a second.

MORE...
Comcast launches 50Mbps broadband... for $150 per month
Comcast has been promising that DOCSIS 3.0 goodness would be coming to its customers this year, and the cable giant is about to make good. Starting tomorrow, Comcast's new "extreme high-speed" Internet tier will be available to subscribers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area, including Hudson, Wisconsin. Download speeds will top out at 50Mbps while uploads will be capped at 5Mbps. But all of that speed comes at a price: $149.95 per month for consumers, and $199.95 per month for business class service.

Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas characterized the price as "competitive," saying that it's roughly the same as what Verizon charges for similar speeds on its FiOS network. That's more or less accurate, but there's a wide gap between the 50/5 tier and the next one down, 8/2, which costs $52.95 per month for video customers. Still, if you're willing to pay for it, the superfast Internet is there.

"This announcement marks the beginning of the evolution from broadband to wideband," said Comcast High-Speed Internet SVP Mitch Bowling. "We believe wideband will usher-in a new era of speed and Internet innovation for today’s digital consumers. Wideband is the future, and it's coming fast."

How fast? Douglas said that the company intends to have DOCSIS 3.0 and the accompanying 50Mbps tier available to 20 percent of its customers by the end of 2008. It should be available nationwide by the middle of 2010. And 50Mbps is only the beginning; Comcast plans to up the speeds to at least 100Mbps in the next couple of years. DOCSIS 3.0 is theoretically capable of 160Mbps speeds, which gives the company some headroom to increase speeds.

There's something for the rest of Comcast's Twin Cities' subscribers as well. Those on the lowest, 6Mbps/384Kbps tier will see their upload speeds jump to 1Mbps. 8Mbps Performance Plus customers will see 1Mbps upload speeds double to 2Mbps.

Since Comcast made its DOCSIS 3.0 intentions official at CES this year, there has been a lot of speculation about where the first deployment would show up. Some analysts believed that those with access to Verizon's FiOS or possibly AT&T's U-Verse networks would be first to see Comcast's "extreme high-speed" offerings. Instead, Comcast is rolling it out in the Twin Cities first, an area served by Qwest and with no superfast broadband competition. "We chose the Twin Cities because they have done an excellent job operationally on other rollouts we have done," Douglas told Ars.

When asked if Comcast would manage its DOCSIS 3.0 network any differently, Douglas reiterated the company's decision to alter its traffic management practices that are currently under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission. "We're committed to changing our network management process from what they are today by the end of the year, and we just need time to work that all out," Douglas said. "We're going to work not just with BitTorrent, but a lot of other P2P companies, the Internet Engineering Task Force, academics, and others to get together and come up with a better way to manage the network."

Geeks around the country have been salivating at the thought of 50Mbps downloads, and it's great to see such high speeds finally spreading beyond Verizon's FiOS network. The price is likely to be a deal-breaker for a lot of people—$149 is a lot to pay for broadband, even if it's blazing fast. It sounds as though Comcast is open to the possibility of dropping the price if the new offering is widely ignored. "It's too early to talk about future price drops," said Douglas. "A lot of this is going to be about consumer demand and the response that we see. We'll adjust based on consumer demand." The company may have to if it expects to get more than a small handful of subscribers to sign up for 50Mbps speeds.

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