Comcast Wraps Up '08 Wideband Rollout

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has launched Docsis 3.0-based 50 Mbit/s Internet services in four additional markets -- Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, and Ft. Wayne, Ind. -- meaning the MSO has reached its intended goal of deploying wideband services in roughly 20 percent of its footprint by year's end. (See Comcast Rolls D3 in Baltimore and Wideband Enters Windy City .)

Comcast, which now has wideband services available to about 10 million homes and businesses so far, has previously introduced them in Minneapolis/St. Paul, parts of Oregon and Washington (Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Eugene), in the MSO's New England region (including the Boston metro and portions of southern New Hampshire), and in Philadelphia and New Jersey. (See Comcast Rolls Wideband in the Pacific Northwest, Comcast Enters the Wideband Era , and Comcast Takes 'Wideband' Wider .)

The MSO has not outlined Docsis 3.0 deployment plans for 2009 but has said it expects to wire up all its systems for wideband by the end of 2010. Comcast has set up a Website that allows customers to plug in their ZIP codes and see if the new service is offered in their respective neighborhoods.

The competitive landscape
Comcast is introducing its "Xtreme" tier (50 Mbit/s downstream by 10 Mbit/s upstream) in Anne Arundel County, Annapolis, and Howard County, Md., with plans to offer it in the rest of the Baltimore market by the first half of 2009. The service runs about $140 per month for residential customers. The business-class version runs $189.95 per month and bundles in communications apps from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), static IP addresses, 24/7 customer support, and other features.

Comcast's initial wideband concentration in Baltimore is in areas where Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has rolled out FiOS-fed Internet services and has franchises for video offerings, says Matt Stump, vice president of industry intelligence at One Touch Intelligence . Although Verizon is starting to offer FiOS Internet services in the city of Baltimore, it has yet to obtain a video franchise there.

Comcast is also facing off with FiOS in its Fort Wayne, Ind., system.

In Chicago and Atlanta, Comcast's primary competitor is AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and its U-verse platform, which is fairly well deployed in the suburbs of those cities. In Chicagoland, Comcast is offering Wideband initially to homes in the northern and northwestern suburbs, including Cook County, Lake County, McHenry County, and the northern edge of Kane County. Comcast anticipates deploying wideband in the city of Chicago, its western and southern suburbs, and northwestern Indiana in the first half of next year.

In the Windy City, Comcast also comes up against RCN Corp. , a competitive cable overbuilder, which has already indicated it will begin to deploy Docsis 3.0 and cable modem services of "at least" 50 Mbit/s sometime in 2009. (See RCN Unveils Wideband Plans.)

Other speed plays
Comcast is coupling its wideband launches with a new, single-channel Docsis tier called "Ultra," which offers speeds up to 22 Mbit/s down and 5 Mbit/s up for $62.95 per month.

As it's done in other wideband markets, Comcast is also doubling the speeds of its "Performance" tier to 12 Mbit/s down by 2 Mbit/s up. The MSO's "Performance Plus" tier will be upgraded to "Blast," which delivers 16 Mbit/s down by 2 Mbit/s up.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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