Controlling Doc$is 3.0

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has certainly been the most aggressive U.S. MSO when it comes to plans involving Docsis 3.0. Today's launch of a 50 Mbit/s wideband service in the Twin Cities will be the first for many by the MSO, which plans to deploy 3.0 in 20 percent of its footprint by year's end, with a longer-term goal of installing it in all systems by mid-2010. (See Comcast Enters the Wideband Era .)

Although a lot can change between now and 2010, Comcast's plans for 2008 are still well beyond those of its U.S. MSO peers. Other operators, even some major ones, will be fortunate if they get Docsis 3.0 field tests and perhaps a deployment or two off the ground by the time 2009 rolls around. (See Teeing Up Docsis 3.0 .)

In fact, some operators' execs who aren't with Comcast have questioned privately whether there will even be enough Docsis 3.0 equipment available for Comcast to pull off what it's attempting to do this year. To be fair, Comcast has left itself some wiggle room by stating it would have Docsis 3.0 wired up in "up to" a fifth of its footprint by the end of the year. If it's under that, so be it.

I asked Mitch Bowling, the SVP and GM of Comcast's high-speed Internet division, if he had any concerns about having enough 3.0 gear to fulfill the MSO's Docsis 3.0 mission for 2008. Predictably, he wasn't all that worried.

"We've had conversations with all of our suppliers and we don't have any concern there," he said. "Our manufacturers have understood our aggressive timeline for a while now. We think everything looks very positive there."

Then again, the way Comcast has priced its first residential wideband offering ($149.95 per month), I don't expect that Docsis 3.0 modems will be flying off the trucks in massive quantities... particularly after the initial surge of interest caused by a small but passionate group of power users who are more than willing to pay a premium for the faster speeds and, of course, the all-important bragging rights.

And I suspect that's quite okay with Comcast. With its early pricing strategy alone, the MSO has all but ensured that its first deployment of Docsis 3.0 is quasi-controlled. Best to be sure you don't get trampled the first time you let a colt out of the barn to roam free.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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