Rogers Rolls With Metered Wideband

Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), the largest MSO in Canada, has fitted its new Docsis 3.0 tier with a "monthly usage allowance" of 175 GBytes. After dropping a hint about its Docsis 3.0 plans in July, Rogers today followed with the formal launch of a new 50-Mbit/s downstream by 2-Mbit/s upstream wideband service to the majority of its Greater Toronto Area (GTA) cable system. The "Ultimate" tier sells for C$149.99 (US$135.90) per month. Rogers is also using Docsis 3.0 channel bonding to bump the max downstream of its Extreme Plus tier from 18 Mbit/s to 25 Mbit/s. Rogers, which ended the second quarter with 1.57 million high-speed Internet subs, said it will expand its deployment of Docsis 3.0 in the GTA and its other cable markets in the "coming months." The fastest residential Internet service from BCE Inc. (Bell Canada) (NYSE/Toronto: BCE), Rogers's primary competitor, offers 16 Mbit/s down by 1 Mbit/s up, with a 75-GByte monthly usage cap. As for Rogers's 50-meg Ultimate tier, the MSO charges $0.50 per GByte above the 175GB monthly ceiling, but caps the maximum charge for additional use in any given month at $25, so the most that even the heaviest Ultimate tier users would theoretically have to pay is C$174.99 (US$158.94). Although metered broadband policies have been heavily criticized in the U.S., resulting in the introduction of legislation that aims to clamp down on such efforts, Rogers adopted the usage-based model relatively early on. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) keeps "excessive use" in check with a monthly 250GB ceiling, but doesn't charge by the gigabyte if customers breach the threshold. (See Bill Could Kill Broadband Meters , TWC Mothballs New Metering Trials , and Comcast Draws the Line at 250GB.) Following a battery of tests and consumer communications efforts, Rogers began enforcing its consumption-based model last July. (See Rogers Takes Internet Meter to the Masses.) To keep customers apprised of their usage, Rogers uses PerfTech Inc. to deliver in-browser messages when customers reach 75 percent of their monthly allowance, and again when they actually hit the ceiling (customers can permanently opt out of this if they wish). Rogers has also set up an area on its Website that allows customers to track their Internet usage in real time. Rogers has not disclosed what percentage of customers has been subject to additional use charges so far, but "the overwhelming majority of customers never reach their allowance thresholds," says Rogers Cable VP of product management Chris Draper. Here's how all of Rogers's high-speed Internet packages stack up today: Table 1: Comparing Tiers
Package Maximum Download Speed Maximum Upstream Speed Additional Usage Charge Monthly Fee Monthly Usage
Ultra-Lite 500 kbit/s 256 kbit/s $5/GB* $25.99 2 GB
Lite 3 Mbit/s 256 kbit/s $2.50/GB* $35.99 25 GB
Express 10 Mbit/s 512 kbit/s $2/GB $46.66 60 GB
Extreme 10 Mbit/s 1 Mbit/s $1.50/GB $59.99 95 GB
Extreme Plus 25 Mbit/s 1 Mbit/s $1.25/GB $95.99 125 GB
Ultimate 50 Mbit/s 2 Mbit/s $0.50/GB $149.99 175 GB
Source: Rogers Communications
*If this product was purchased before Jan. 14, 2008, there is no maximum charge for additional use. If this product was purchased after Jan. 14, 2008, the maximum charge for additional use is $25.

Faster upstream on the horizon
Although Rogers's high-end tier limits upstream speeds at 2 Mbit/s, that number could jump significantly when the MSO takes fuller advantage of Docsis 3.0 and begins to bond upstream channels. Rogers may try that in late 2010. "That's where the [usage] curves are telling us that we need to have channel-bonded upstream available," Draper says, noting that consumption requirements (upstream and downstream) on the Rogers cable network are growing 4 percent each month. 'N' gateway standard with Docsis 3.0
Rather than starting off with standalone wideband modems, Rogers is kicking off its deployment by standardizing on a cable modem gateway from SMC Networks Inc. that bakes in 802.11n. The key reason: "The overwhelming number of customers we talk to about these [Docsis 3.0] service levels say having WiFi enabled is an absolute must." However, Rogers eventually may "richen the mix of CPE" for its wideband products, Draper adds. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is Rogers's exclusive cable modem termination system (CMTS) supplier. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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