Following through on its speed upgrade pledges of the spring, Cox Communications will roll out gigabit service in its first market later this month, thus becoming the first major North American cable operator to do so.
Cox Communications Inc. , the third-largest MSO in the US with about 4 million broadband customers, announced plans Monday to launch 1Gbit/s downstream service in parts of the Phoenix metro area by the end of October. It then aims to extend service to parts of Las Vegas and Omaha, Neb., as well as new housing developments in all of its markets, under the brand name of "Gigablast." Plans call for the blanketing all of the MSO's regions with gigabit service by the end of 2016. (See Cox Lays Out Gigabit Roadmap .)
In all three markets, Cox will go up against CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), which has been one of the most aggressive telcos in rolling out 1Gbit/s service. CenturyLink, which began offering gigabit service in Las Vegas last fall and in Omaha last May, has since expanded the next-gen broadband service to more than a dozen other markets, including Phoenix.
Cox may also have to joust with Google Fiber Inc. , which is looking to expand in the Southwest. Earlier this year, Google Fiber announced that it was targeting nine major metro regions for expansion, including such Cox bastions as Phoenix. (See Google Fiber Shifts Into High Gear.)
In its announcement yesterday, Cox did not reveal the maximum upstream speeds it will offer in Phoenix and elsewhere. But the MSO did say it will provide broadband customers in those areas with "the latest high-speed WiFi router," one terabyte of cloud storage security software and 10 email boxes, each with 15 gigabytes of storage.
Cox intends to charge $99 a month for Gigablast as a standalone service. The monthly cost will drop as low as $69 a month if Gigablast is bundled with other cable services, thus matching the $70 monthly price tag established by Google Fiber for its 1Gbit/s service in Kansas City and elsewhere.
It's not exactly clear how Cox will deliver such fast speeds in Phoenix, Omaha, Las Vegas and elsewhere. But Cox CTO Kevin Hart has told Multichannel News that the MSO will use a combination of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) links and DOCSIS 3.1 technology to provide the service,depending upon the area and the timing.
In addition to rolling out 1-Gig service, Cox said it has doubled download speeds for its two most popular broadband service tiers -- Preferred and Premier. The maximum speeds for Preferred subscriber has jumped from 25 Mbit/s to 50 Mbit/s, while the top rate for Premier subscribers has jumped from 50 Mbit/s to 100 Mbit/s. Cox says more than 70% of its high-speed data customers now take one of those two tiers.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading