Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has unleashed a new Docsis 3.0 tier that will max out at 305Mbit/s downstream and 65Mbit/s upstream and sell for $299.95 per month as the operator looks to one-up a new 300Mbit/s FiOS service that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) launched about a month ago.
Comcast has introduced the new tier, called Xfinity Platinum Internet, in several Northeastern systems, including Boston; Hartford, Conn.; Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pa.; Wilmington, Del; Baltimore; Richmond, Va.; Washington; and New Jersey. In those markets, Comcast is also upping the speeds of its Blast! Tier from 25Mbit/s to 50Mbit/s; while Extreme 50 customers will now get 105Mbit/s at no extra cost. Comcast hasn't identified where the new speeds will debut next, but most of its footprint is already upgraded to Docsis 3.0. (See Comcast 'Completes' Docsis 3.0 Rollout.)
DSL Reports caught wind of the new 305-Meg tier late last week after Comcast Cable President and CEO Neil Smit brought it up during a webcast with employees.
In addition to the faster speeds, the new Platinum tier also comes with a wireless gateway, a "dedicated Personal Communications Consultant" assigned to the customer, Xfinity Signature Support (which regularly sells for $9.95 per month) and the company's Constant Guard Security suite.
Why this matters
To hit those speeds, Comcast is starting to take full advantage of Docsis 3.0 modems that can bond eight downsteam channels and four upstream channels. A new chip from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is capable of bonding 24 channels and eight upstream channels.
Update: Comcast confirmed that it is using fiber and its Metro Ethernet platform, not Docsis 3.0, to deliver the new 305Mbit/s tier, at least at this early stage. The MSO is content to use fiber for "ultrafast" speed tiers (those that offer more than 200 Mbit/s) while it gauges consumer demand for such residential products. Comcast, however, is using Docsis 3.0 to deliver its 105Mbit/s residential high-speed Internet service. (See Comcast, HBO Back Zeebox.)
Comcast's new tier is largely a marketing play, as it's unlikely that many of Comcast's residential customers can afford it or even need speeds that burst to 305 Mbit/s. However, Comcast, as Verizon suggested when it launched its newest tier, said the loftier speeds will come in handy as more of its customers simultaneously connect to the Internet via tablets, laptops and smartphones to do things like stream movies, upload photos and use videoconferencing apps.
Comcast's launch should also get some positive attention of regulators that are reviewing the proposed sale of wireless spectrum from four cable operators, including Comcast, to Verizon Wireless . There are some concerns that the spectrum sale and service bundling agreements between the cable ops and the wireless carrier will result in less landline broadband and video competition between the two sides. (See Verizon & Comcast Deny a TV Truce .)
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable