Cable Tech

Comcast Zips Past Verizon

There's a new leader in the US broadband speed race.

Continuing its game of chicken with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) boosted the maximum speeds for its residential broadband service to new heights in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic markets where it competes head-to-head with Verizon's FiOS service. Comcast is offering downstream speeds as high as 505 Mbit/s and upstream speeds as high as 100 Mbit/s in metro areas from Boston down to Richmond, Va., making it the fastest cable or telco broadband provider in North America.

The new Extreme 505 package from Comcast neatly tops the FiOS Quantum Internet product that Verizon started rolling out in its FiOS regions just two months ago. (See: FiOS 500 Leaves Cable in Dust.) The FiOS product offers up to 500 Mbit/s of downstream speed and the same 100Mbit/s upstream speed as Extreme 505.

Of course, neither high-speed service comes close to matching what Google Fiber Inc. is pitching. Google Fiber, which has rolled out symmetrical 1Gbit/s service in the Kansas City area -- and plans to offer it shortly in Austin, Texas; Provo, Utah; and other markets -- continues to boast the highest data transmission speeds in North America. But it still has very limited reach, and it's not clear how many more markets it will enter. At least for now, the far more important race is between Comcast and Verizon.

Confirming the initial reports of the broadband speed hike in DSLReports and Multichannel News, a Comcast spokesperson told us that the increase "reaffirms our commitment to provide the fastest speeds to more homes than any other ISP in the US." This is the MSO's 12th broadband speed hike in the past 11 years.

Previously, Comcast topped out with a 305-by-65Mbit/s service in its northeastern US markets. It quickly raised its maximum speeds last summer after Verizon bumped its top FiOS speeds to 300 Mbit/s downstream and 65 Mbit/s upstream in June 2012.

Like the earlier 305Mbit/s offering, Comcast's new Extreme 505 service is relying on fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology to deliver the blazing-fast speeds. The MSO is leveraging fiber using available commercial equipment, just as it does for its top-grade business broadband services. Using cable's traditional hybrid fiber-coax architecture and DOCSIS 3.0 technology, Comcast's fastest offering maxes out at 105 Mbit/s down and 20 Mbit/s up.

Comcast is charging $300 a month for the new service, just as it did for the 305Mbit/s offering. Not too coincidentally, Verizon is charging the same amount for its Quantum Internet product.

There's no word yet on whether Comcast will roll out Extreme 505 to its other US markets, including those where it doesn't compete with FiOS. The company told Multichannel News that it will gauge consumer interest before deciding what to do.

Likewise, there's no word yet on what Verizon's competitive response to Extreme 505 will be. Given the fact that FiOS runs over a FTTP architecture, too, a new round of speed hikes is definitely not out of the question.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

brookseven 9/23/2013 | 12:56:08 PM
Re: Still A Push Forward GeoTel,

Here is what I can tell you from my experience in the FiOS project.

Installation time was greatly extended inside the house by trying to get max speed to be demonstrated. Now granted this was several years ago (really starting in any volume in 04), but there were many nominal issues.  FiOS techs needed to show that the speeds that customers were getting were displayed on a speed test website.  Common Problems were:

1 - Cabling issues - especially folks that ended up with half-duplex ethernet

2 - Windows IP config issues - XP, in particular, had to be reconfigured to adapt to high speed interfaces (this is much easier and less of a problem now).

3 - Viruses and Spyware - Even small amounts of traffic would slow the results from maximum.

4 - "Internet Distance" to speed test sites - Delay looks like congestion.  

What would often happen would be the guy would get there and the initial setup would display pretty poorly.  They would then work on the PC and cabling and get things to 13 Mb/s (on a 15 Mb/s service) pretty easily.  Getting a speed test site to show 15 Mb/s on a 15 Mb/s service every time took a bunch of training.  In fact it would have been easier to overprovision the service.


GeoTel 9/23/2013 | 7:42:55 AM
Still A Push Forward It seems like people rarely are able to achieve these max upload/download speeds, but the push for faster, more reliable speeds is at least a move in the right direction. While Google Fiber has set the bar high, it's good to see competitors working to match both speeds and pricing. 
albreznick 9/19/2013 | 5:55:45 PM
Re: Speedy, but costly and not available to many... Sounds like you can't get the high speeds. I'm sure lots of other folks can't either. I'd love to find out how available these services actuallt are within the providers' regions. They rarely, if ever, reveal that kind of info.  
tmc8080 9/19/2013 | 5:31:12 PM
Re: Speedy, but costly and not available to many... This is delivered over Metro Ethernet/FTTP and is similar to Verizon, in that VERY few customers actually qualify.. this is called the DSL have not syndrome-- because you live in an uncovered/unqualified geography on the network..

So in that sense, they are tied.. in an overpriced underdeployed tier which very few people can get... basically the only word that is apt is "ZIP" and in zilch, zippo, nada.. you get nothing.. thank you good day..


albreznick 9/18/2013 | 5:53:53 PM
Re: Speedy, but costly and not available to many... Yup, I agree. I'm sure it's not available to that many users and will cost an arm and a leg. But it's all about the marketing wars, isn't it? Now Comcast can boast that it offers the fastest speeds around (except for Google Fiber). And that seems to be worth a lot to them. Let's see what Verizon does now and how long it takes.
KBode 9/18/2013 | 1:13:32 PM
Speedy, but costly and not available to many... I believe it costs not only $300 per month, but includes a steep ETF higher than $1,000, in addition to a $250 activation fee and a $250 installation fee. It's also not available to all that many people. I already don't think this FTTH option is available to very many users, so combine that with the price hike I bet we're talking a real small subset of customers. Still, keeps them on pace with FiOS, even if both ISPs are offering half the speed for nearly four times the price as Google Fiber.
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