Cablevision Debuts 101-Mbit/s Wideband Service

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) has become the first U.S. MSO to launch a Docsis 3.0 Internet service that produces downstream speed bursts of more than 100 Mbit/s -- 101 Mbit/s, in fact.

In North America, that gives the New York-based MSO some cable industry bragging rights, just outpacing a 100-Mbit/s Docsis 3.0 tier that Canada's Shaw Communications Inc. launched earlier this year. But for those who are keeping score, both Shaw and Cablevision trail Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM) 's 160-Mbit/s wideband service in Japan. (See Shaw Bows 100 Mbit/s 'Nitro' Tier, Shaw Breaks 100-Meg Barrier, J:COM Does Docsis 3.0 All Over, and Wideband: Priced to Move .)

Cablevision, which has had success fending off Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) FiOS to this point, is entering the Docsis 3.0 era with a tier called Optimum Online Ultra, offering bursts of 101 Mbit/s downstream and 15 Mbit/s upstream for $99.95 per month. That's well below the $139.95 Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) charges for its 50 Mbit/s "Extreme" tier. (See Cablevision Launches 'Ultra' Docsis 3.0 Service and 40%... & Counting.) Cablevision's highest-end, single-channel Docsis tier, Optimum Online Boost, pumps out speeds up to 30 Mbit/s downstream and 5 Mbit/s upstream.

Cablevision, which passes 5 million homes in the New York metro area, expects to offer the new wideband tier in all service areas by May 11. The MSO confirmed that it's getting the service off the ground with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Docsis 3.0-certified wideband modems (the DPC3000) and the vendor's cable modem termination systems (CMTSs). Cablevision also isn't saddling the new Docsis 3.0 tier (and causing a potential uproar) with metered billing or capped consumption policies. (See TWC Mothballs New Metering Trials and Comcast Installs 250 GB Ceiling .)

Cablevision's new wideband tier will raise the bar, at least in the downstream category, with Verizon FiOS, a service that today tops out at 50 Mbit/s down and 20 Mbit/s up, and passes about 1.5 million homes in the Cablevision footprint. FiOS is also set to match up with Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) in New York City, but TWC has yet to do more than hint at launching wideband services there. Time Warner Cable, however, has revealed that its initial wideband tier will set speeds at 50 Mbit/s down and 5 Mbit/s up for $99 per month. (See TWC in '09: Job Cuts, WiMax & Wideband and TWC Dons Larger Consumption Caps.)

Cablevision's sub-$100 price on the new wideband tier might tempt some consumers, but MSO COO Tom Rutledge said in February that the company expects early adopters to be small business customers. Likewise, Cablevision doesn't anticipate Docsis 3.0 to be a "transformative factor in our business," at least in the early going. (See Cablevision Says to Watch for Wideband.)

WiFi boost
Cablevision also announced that it's doubling the downstream speed of the MSO's Optimum WiFi service to 3 Mbit/s, while keeping the upstream at 1.5 Mbit/s. Cablevision offers WiFi access for free to its cable modem subs, and reported recently that customers had accessed the wireless network more than 1 million times. The MSO has turned up WiFi in its Long Island, Connecticut, and Westchester service areas, as well as service pockets in New Jersey.

Cablevision has already revealed that it's spending $300 million, or about $70 per home passed, on its deployment of WiFi and Docsis 3.0. (See Cablevision Mobilizes Content Play, Cablevision Hits 1M WiFi Hits, and Cablevision Plays WiFi Card .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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