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