Following last month's news leak at the Global Ethernet Networking 2014 (GEN14) conference, Comcast is officially unveiling its business-class Ethernet @Home service today.
The new offering delivers Ethernet services to remote workers over an existing hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) connection. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is promising symmetrical speeds of 10 Mbit/s and business-class service-level agreements (SLAs) tied to performance and availability.
Light Reading first broke the news of the new Ethernet @Home product in November when the MEF named it "Best Service of the Year for North America." As Mike Tighe, executive director of data services for Comcast Business, emphasized in an interview, however, this isn't the first time Comcast has delivered Ethernet services over HFC. According to Tighe, Comcast has marketed an Ethernet-over-coax service to businesses for more than two years and, combined with fiber implementations, has roughly 1 million business Ethernet deployments under its belt. The difference with Ethernet @Home is that Comcast is now extending the service to individual households. (See Comcast Takes Ethernet Everywhere.)
From a performance perspective, the new Ethernet service means that workers at home get a guaranteed high-speed broadband connection. From a security perspective, it means companies can offer remote, private access to work files and avoid any risk of sharing sensitive information over the public Internet.
Ethernet @Home also has major implications for Comcast. With its huge residential footprint, Comcast is creating a significant new revenue opportunity on top of its existing HFC network. The cable company is heavily targeting healthcare customers to start with, but also sees opportunities in financial services, virtual call centers and the professional sports industry. As Tighe explained it, Ethernet @Home "opens up a new market that enterprises hadn't even considered because it just wasn't available."
In one of its pre-launch deployments, Comcast worked with New Jersey-based Cooper University Health Care.
"In healthcare, the network is crucial. A key role of healthcare IT is to ensure that clinicians have uninterrupted access to images, EMRs and other information to care for patients when and where needed," said Jayashree Raman, vice president and chief information officer for Cooper University Health Care. "Comcast's Ethernet @Home gives our radiologists the ability to quickly and securely review images and patient files from their homes over Cooper's private network, letting them provide the best care for their patients in a timely manner."
Ethernet @Home may be especially appealing to large healthcare systems because Comcast can deploy integrated Ethernet services that travel over fiber in some locations and HFC in others. A healthcare provider may need gigabit service at a major facility site, but it's likely that 10 Mbit/s is fast enough for most home-based work locations. Comcast can offer both levels of service by extending fiber to areas where higher throughput is needed and relying on HFC everywhere else.
While Comcast has said Ethernet @Home is now generally available across the Comcast Business footprint, Scott Cassell, senior director of product management for Comcast Business, stated at the GEN14 conference that the company may even go beyond its footprint in the future. "It's not just about delivering these services in the metro [area]… but enabling them across the region and across the continent and, as we progress, maybe even beyond," said Cassell.
Today, Comcast delivers Ethernet services across 39 states and in Washington, DC, covering 20 of the top 25 US markets.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading
An earlier version of this story stated that Comcast had 1 million Ethernet-over-HFC deployments. That number actually covers all of Comcast’s business Ethernet deployments, over both HFC and fiber.