Making good on its promises to roll out DOCSIS 3.1 early this year, Comcast announced today that it's now launching gigabit service in Atlanta based on D3.1 technology. The move makes Comcast the first in the US to deploy DOCSIS 3.1 and follows the cable company's earlier introduction of Gigabit Pro, which delivers multi-gigabit broadband over a fiber-to-the-home network.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is positioning its Atlanta launch as an "advanced consumer trial," meaning that service won't be available to all customers in the market at the start. Part of the reason for the slow rollout is the fact that D3.1 equipment is only now being certified and ramped up for production. In fact, there is no CMTS equipment yet approved for DOCSIS 3.1 by CableLabs , meaning Comcast is by default using pre-certification technology.
On the modem side, CableLabs has so far certified five companies for their D3.1 CPE, including Askey Inc. , CastleNet Technology Inc. , Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR), Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH) and Ubee Interactive . Comcast is not yet disclosing which vendors it has partnered with for the Atlanta deployment. (See CableLabs Certifies First D3.1 Modems.)
Speaking about the trial launch, Comcast spokesperson Joel Shadle acknowledged that the rollout is limited in the early days because of equipment availability. He also called the deployment a learning process, noting that the goal is to "get these customers on-boarded and learn about their experience."
Comcast is offering its new gigabit service for $70 per month with a three-year contract, or for $140 per month with no contract. That includes speeds of 1 Gbit/s in the downstream, but only 35 Mbits/s in the upstream. The $70 price point matches Google Fiber Inc. 's monthly fee in many markets, and both price options drastically undercut Comcast's existing multi-gig Gigabit Pro service, which rings in at a hefty $300 per month. (See Comcast trots out Gigabit Pro… at a price.)
Most of the cable industry won't start deploying DOCSIS 3.1 until at least 2017, making Comcast early to market with the next-generation technology. In fact, according to ABI Research, only about 1% of cable subscribers worldwide will be using D3.1-enabled services by the end of this year. Those numbers look to pick up in 2017 and 2018, however, as cable companies rush to compete with FTTH deployments using their existing hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) networks.
There is some question about whether smaller operators will forego D3.1 altogether in favor of rolling out their own FTTH infrastructure. Nevertheless, IHS predicts that cable operators around the globe will pass about a third of their customers with DOCSIS 3.1-enabled headends over the next year. (See DOCSIS 3.1: Cable Tackles the Gigabit Challenge – by Heavy Reading.)
According to Telecompetitor, Mediacom Communications Corp. is one of the other US operators with near-term D3.1 deployments. That tier-two cable operator announced just yesterday its new "Project Gigabit" strategy, part of a larger plan to invest $1 billion in network upgrades over the next three years. Telecompetitor reports that Mediacom has used DOCSIS 3.0 for its initial gigabit trials, but will move forward with D3.1 as the service deployment continues. (See Mediacom Unveils $1 Billion Capital Upgrade Plan.)
Comcast, meanwhile, has already said it will launch DOCSIS 3.1 next in Nashville, with Chicago, Detroit and Miami on tap for later this year. Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) and Videotron Ltd. are also expected to announce their first D3.1 deployments in Europe and Canada, respectively, 2016, while Vodafone New Zealand has already launched D3.1 service in New Zealand. (See Comcast Reveals First D3.1 Gigabit Cities.)
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading