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DOCSIS

Charter Means Business With 75-Meg Wideband

Charter Communications Inc. is dipping into the Docsis 3.0 well again to douse the competitive DSL and T1 flames of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and other telco competitors.

Following an initial D3 business tier that pumps out 25 Mbit/s in the downstream, the MSO is now wielding a new business-class "Extreme Power" Internet tier that tops out at 75 Mbit/s in the downstream, and a 40 Mbit/s offering called "Mega Power." (See Charter Speeds Up Biz Tier.)

The 75-meg tier comes with a 5-Mbit/s upstream, and the 40-meg version caps the upstream at 4-Mbit/s.

Charter has introduced the tiers in systems so far in nine states: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Nebraska, Nevada, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and Tennessee. It's targeting the offering to small and mid-sized businesses that tend to transfer massive files, run hosted software apps and Web servers, or use frequent video conferencing. It's using a Docsis 3.0 gateway from SMC Networks Inc. to serve that base.

Charter isn't breaking down the exact pricing on the new tiers, but Ross Bopp, the director of Charter Business for the MSO's central states (Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas), says they run in the "mid-to-low $200 range" when bundled with a business voice service.

"We're seeing a terrific response from the business community," he says of the tiers, which Charter began to offer last month.

He says the new tiers are also giving Charter's business customers a "pathway" to the MSO's optical Internet and optical Ethernet services, offering them an option that undercuts the pricing of competitive T1 services, which mix together voice and data and can be subject to bottlenecks. Offering a D3 data service with a discretely managed voice offering to businesses "has been a terrific selling point" over T1, claims Bopp.

Charter's the latest MSO to offer a high-end business Internet tier based on wideband. Among other recent examples, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has been expanding the availability of a new tier for SMBs that pumps out best-effort downstreams of 100 Mbit/s. (See US MSOs Get Rolling With 100-Meg Wideband .)

Charter's business unit also provides Docsis-powered tiers that cap downstreams at 8 Mbit/s, 16 Mbit/s, and 25 Mbit/s. The last is a Docsis 3.0 tier.

Charter offers a residential D3 tier that tops out at 60 Mbit/s downstream. In May, the MSO reiterated that it's on track to deploy wideband to half its systems by year's end. (See Charter Revs Up Wideband, SDV Rollouts .)

Outside the D3 world, Charter offers an optical, private networking service that offers speeds from 10 Mbit/s to 100 Gbit/s, and fiber-based Internet services that produce dedicated speeds of 5 Mbit/s to more than 1 Gbit/s.

In the first quarter, Charter's business unit brought in $118 million, up 10.3 percent year-on-year. Charter emerged from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last November. (See Charter Leaves Chapter 11 .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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