Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has unleashed a new Docsis 3.0 tier that will max out at 305Mbit/s downstream and 65Mbit/s upstream and sell for $299.95 per month as the operator looks to one-up a new 300Mbit/s FiOS service that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) launched about a month ago.

Comcast has introduced the new tier, called Xfinity Platinum Internet, in several Northeastern systems, including Boston; Hartford, Conn.; Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pa.; Wilmington, Del; Baltimore; Richmond, Va.; Washington; and New Jersey. In those markets, Comcast is also upping the speeds of its Blast! Tier from 25Mbit/s to 50Mbit/s; while Extreme 50 customers will now get 105Mbit/s at no extra cost. Comcast hasn't identified where the new speeds will debut next, but most of its footprint is already upgraded to Docsis 3.0. (See Comcast 'Completes' Docsis 3.0 Rollout.)

DSL Reports caught wind of the new 305-Meg tier late last week after Comcast Cable President and CEO Neil Smit brought it up during a webcast with employees.

In addition to the faster speeds, the new Platinum tier also comes with a wireless gateway, a "dedicated Personal Communications Consultant" assigned to the customer, Xfinity Signature Support (which regularly sells for $9.95 per month) and the company's Constant Guard Security suite.

Why this matters
To hit those speeds, Comcast is starting to take full advantage of Docsis 3.0 modems that can bond eight downsteam channels and four upstream channels. A new chip from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is capable of bonding 24 channels and eight upstream channels.

Update: Comcast confirmed that it is using fiber and its Metro Ethernet platform, not Docsis 3.0, to deliver the new 305Mbit/s tier, at least at this early stage. The MSO is content to use fiber for "ultrafast" speed tiers (those that offer more than 200 Mbit/s) while it gauges consumer demand for such residential products. Comcast, however, is using Docsis 3.0 to deliver its 105Mbit/s residential high-speed Internet service. (See Comcast, HBO Back Zeebox.)

Comcast's new tier is largely a marketing play, as it's unlikely that many of Comcast's residential customers can afford it or even need speeds that burst to 305 Mbit/s. However, Comcast, as Verizon suggested when it launched its newest tier, said the loftier speeds will come in handy as more of its customers simultaneously connect to the Internet via tablets, laptops and smartphones to do things like stream movies, upload photos and use videoconferencing apps.

Comcast's launch should also get some positive attention of regulators that are reviewing the proposed sale of wireless spectrum from four cable operators, including Comcast, to Verizon Wireless . There are some concerns that the spectrum sale and service bundling agreements between the cable ops and the wireless carrier will result in less landline broadband and video competition between the two sides. (See Verizon & Comcast Deny a TV Truce .)

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:26:42 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

In markets where these tiers end up going  head to head, Verizon's 300-meg tier's undercuts Comcast's price fairly deeply  -- Verizon's is running $209.99 per month with a two-year contract or $209.99 per month without. Not that it will matter too much early on with the few people who will want and pay for these tiers, but.. JB



craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:26:42 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

You're right that at this point it's more of a marketing ploy, but these Comcast systems still need to devote a sizeable amount of bandwidth to pull this off. If my math is right, it's the spectrum equivalent of about 30 HDTV channels.

So where are they coming up with the bandwidth? Is this the treasure trove that came from giving out all those small DTA boxes so they could reclaim their analog spectrum?

From small things, mama, big things one day come (Bruce Springsteen).            

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:26:41 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

Also, it will be worth keeping an eye on who this tier attracts. Seems like a nice SMB play since data peak times for businesses typically don't overlap with the  peak times usually seen for residential Internet service. JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:26:41 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

Yes, eight channels is quite a bit to put toward this new service. Since Comcast is not big on switched digital video yet to my knowledge, I imagine channels are coming way from the spectrum reclamation project with the DTAs and maybe the ability to cram more HD channels into 6MHz slots. I was a bit more surprised to see that they were able to get to 65Mbit/s in the upstream, another big indication that upstream channel bonding is finally ready to go. JB


Flook 12/5/2012 | 5:26:32 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

305 megs v. 300 megs--no significant advantage. Or did I miss something?

Soupafly 12/5/2012 | 5:26:27 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

Is this s typo by Jeff?

"Verizon's is running $209.99 per month with a two-year contract or $209.99 per month without."

Surely the variable that's not mentioned in the article, is the over-subscription level on the head-end?  The providers can offer some very fast headline speeds, but if the o/s ratio is 20:1 then your basically only guaranteed 15Mb/s.

Or am I missing something? Its been awhile since I worked on cable networks. :-)

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:26:27 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

Flook - You're not missing anything; there's no difference that any user would ever notice.

Actually, if I want to be a jerk about it (and apparently I do) .... the difference is that "305" will always remind you that Verizon beat Comcast to this speed grade, because Comcast had to tack on the extra "5" to make it sound like they weren't behind.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:26:07 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

Yep, the price with the two-year contract should be $204.99 per month. We'll get that fixed. JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:20:19 PM
re: Comcast Revs Up Pricey 305-Meg Tier

Some confusion on my part... i originally believed that Comcast was using Docsis 3.0 for this new tier, but in fact they are using fiber and its new MetroE service early on as it tries to figure out what sort of demand there is for that product. Full story on that and why Comcast made that decision is here.

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