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Cable Tech

Comcast boosting downstream speeds across all markets

Comcast said it's phasing in a wave of downstream speed upgrades across a handful of speed tiers. The move comes ahead of a plan to offer upstream speed boosts to Comcast customers on the "xFi Complete" package.

By tier, Comcast said the following downstream increases are starting to be phased into certain markets this week:

  • Performance Starter/Connect: From 50 Mbit/s to 75 Mbit/s
  • Performance/Connect More: From 100 Mbit/s to 200 Mbit/s
  • Performance Pro/Fast: From 300 Mbit/s to 400 Mbit/s
  • Blast/Superfast: From 600 Mbit/s to 800 Mbit/s
  • Extreme Pro/Gigabit (formerly Ultrafast): From 900 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s

Those speed upgrades will automatically start to reach an initial set of markets this week, with plans to bring them into the rest of Comcast's footprint through the rest of the month, a Comcast official said. Comcast broadband subs won't need to reboot their modems or gateways to get the upgrade, the official added.

(Source: Comcast)
(Source: Comcast)

When the rollout is complete, more than 20 million broadband subs will get the download speed upgrade, the company said.

Those upgrades enter the picture as Comcast, like other US cable operators, are starting to see broadband subscriber growth go flat or, in some cases, go negative. Comcast reported flat broadband subscriber growth in Q2 2022; the operator is scheduled to report Q3 2022 results on Thursday, October 27.

Comcast is also juicing download speeds as the operator continues to see competitive pressure from telcos that are upgrading or overbuilding with fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks, as well as from fixed wireless access (FWA) providers.

On the FWA front, Comcast recently launched an ad campaign targeting the technical shortcomings of T-Mobile's 5G-powered home Internet product (Light Reading will have much more on that later today). Meanwhile, Verizon's Straight Talk Wireless unit today launched a new prepaid FWA offering, dubbed Straight Talk Home Internet, that's being sold exclusively through Walmart starting at $45 per month.

Speed upgrades superseding price cuts

Comcast's speed upgrade follows a tactic in which it and other cable operators have generally used to fend off rising broadband competition. Rather than getting into a price war fueled by price-cuts, they have instead focused on gaining and retaining customers by driving up the value of services with free speed boosts.

Comcast has also tried to beef up the value of its residential broadband service with Xfinity Flex, a smart home/streaming device distributed for no additional cost to broadband-only customers.

Upstream upgrades on the way

And while this wave of Comcast speed upgrades is focused on the downstream of its widely deployed hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) plant, the operator is also preparing to juice up the capacity and speed delivered on the upstream.

Tied in with a plan to introduce 2-Gig downstream speeds, Comcast is also rolling out faster upload speeds – from 5x to 10x faster – in 34 cities and towns before the end of 2022. Comcast is basing those upstream speed boosts through "mid-split" upgrades that expand the amount of spectrum dedicated to the upstream – from a legacy range of 5MHz-45MHz to a new range of 5MHz-85MHz.

Early on, Comcast will limit those faster upload speeds to customers on xFi Complete, a package that sells for an additional $25 per month. xFi Complete bundles in a lease of a Comcast gateway, the operator's advanced cybersecurity product, Wi-Fi controls and unlimited data.

All of these upgrades are taking shape as Comcast prepares to introduce symmetrical, multi-gigabit speeds in certain markets in 2023, and to make them available to more than 50 million homes and businesses before the end of 2025.

Though those activities tend to focus on faster speeds as competition with fiber and FWA ramps up, Comcast and other cable ops have been focusing their messaging on the industry's efforts on network and service reliability.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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