ZON Preps 1G Broadband Offer

"Anything you can do, I can do better" appears to be the services philosophy of the fiercely competitive group of network operators fighting for triple-play customers in Portugal.

With a range of high-speed broadband-based offers already out in the market from rivals such as Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT), Oni Communications , Sonaecom , Vodafone Portugal , and fellow cable operator Cabovisão S.A. , ZON Multimédia is set to trump the lot with the launch of a 1-Gbit/s service in September. (See AlcaLu's GPON Goes Portuguese and Vodafone Launches IPTV in Portugal.)

ZON, which already offers triple-play packages to 1.4 million Portuguese homes that include 50- and 100-Mbit/s broadband service tiers, says it will launch a new residential offer with maximum downlink speeds of 200 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s in pre-selected areas, though it hasn't provided locations, prices, or upstream speeds.

It's unclear, however, just how the MSO is going to deliver such speeds. By its own admission, its new EuroDocsis 3.0 network has a theoretical speed limit of 400 Mbit/s downstream and 100 Mbit/s upstream (the most advanced, current crop of "certified" EuroDocsis 3.0 cable modems can bond up to eight downstream channels and four upstream channels). ZON did not answer the phone or return email Friday.

It's possible, though, that to keep up with developments at its rivals, ZON has also invested in fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) capabilities: It signed a multi-operator agreement earlier this year on resource sharing for FTTH rollouts. [Ed note: a ZON official has since confirmed that the new 200 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s tiers will be delivered using FTTH.] (See Portugal 'Gets' FTTH, Cabovisão Joins Europe's Speed Club , and Sonaecom Plans $350M FTTH Build.)

The price likely won't attract too many early adopters, though. ZON's current 100-Mbit/s triple-play bundle (broadband, 110 TV channels, voice service) costs €64.90 (US$92.67) per month, and the new services are likely to be offered at a premium to that package.

Whatever the technology, ZON is determined to make the most of its bragging rights. "With the launch of these offers, Portugal stands out as one the leading countries in the world as regards Internet speeds and places ZON at the forefront of technological innovation... With ZON's launch, Portugal will be the first country in Europe to provide such high speed Internet access offers to residential customers, and the third country in the world to launch 1 Gbps, after only Japan and South Korea."

ZON isn't the only cable operator pushing hard with its EuroDocsis 3.0-based service offerings to counter the fiber access and DSL-on-steroids offers of the European telcos. (See Virgin Takes Fight to Its DSL Rivals, Euro MSO Hits Back at IPTV, Liberty Takes 120 Mbit/s to the Dutch, and ONO! Another Docsis 3.0 Story!)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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