Gigabit Cities

Comcast Preps 2-Gig Service… Over Fiber

Move over, DOCSIS. In its first gigabit service deployment, Comcast will start rolling out a symmetrical 2Gbit/s residential broadband service next month over a fiber-to-the-home network.

In a surprise announcement this morning, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) unveiled its new Gigabit Pro offering and said it will begin deploying it in Atlanta in May. The multi-gigabit service will be made available to "any home within close proximity of Comcast's fiber network," reaching more than 1.5 million Atlanta customers in all. Comcast also said it plans to extend Gigabit Pro across the country throughout 2015, with a goal of making the service available to 18 million homes by year's end.

The notion that Comcast is creating a fiber-fed consumer broadband service is big news in part because of the company's significant investment in DOCSIS 3.1 technology. The latest DOCSIS iteration should significantly extend the life of hybrid-fiber-coax networks, making it possible to deliver gigabit speeds without taking fiber all the way to the home. Comcast began field-testing DOCSIS 3.1 only a few short weeks ago and plans to deliver broad-scale gigabit services using the new technology, starting in 2016. (See Comcast Puts DOCSIS 3.1 Live in the Field.)

However, while Comcast has been pushing heavily on the DOCSIS front, it's also been driving fiber deeper into its network, apparently preparing for the launch of the Gigabit Pro FTTH service. According to this morning's press release, Comcast has already built out more than 145,000 route miles of fiber.

There are still numerous questions about Gigabit Pro, not least of which is how the service will be priced. However, Comcast has confirmed that it will not follow Google Fiber Inc. 's model of creating "fiberhoods" that guarantee a certain level of customer uptake before service is delivered. As Doug Guthrie, SVP of Comcast Cable's South Region, noted in today's announcement, "Our approach is to offer the most comprehensive rollout of multi-gigabit service to the most homes as quickly as possible, not just to certain neighborhoods."

For the latest on the Gigabit Cities movement, visit Light Reading's dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel. And be sure to register to attend Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live event on May 13-14 in Atlanta.

Comcast also stated that customers will need to have specialized equipment installed for Gigabit Pro, raising the question of which vendors the company will use. Currently in its highest-speed residential deployments, the company relies on Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) gear in the last mile and Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR) hardware in the home. Sources close to Comcast say the cable operator will continue working with those partners for Gigabit Pro.

The other major issue for Comcast is how it will combine its new fiber service with its TV offerings. A spokesperson confirmed that the company has no plans to bundle Gigabit Pro with TV service right now. At least in the near term, Gigabit Pro will be a standalone product.

The Gigabit Pro news follows another recent announcement by Comcast that the service provider has formed a multi-year partnership with the Atlanta Braves. Comcast has committed to delivering video, voice and high-speed data services to the new SunTrust Park, which the Braves are now developing. That fiber-based service will also be capable of multi-gigabit speeds.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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billsblots 4/20/2015 | 12:27:44 PM
need home gigabit? not sure about that, can play xbox plus stream live hockey on the computer simultaneously, with wi-fi to chat about bad refs on another device, on maybe 15Mbps on Comcast. When services start streaming 4K Ultra HD video the demand will explode, if many actually try to pull that thru their cable.

More important for gaming, rather, for not getting wasted in gaming like Call of Duty, may be the latency rather than pure volume of throughput.  Difficult to imagine 20 - 60 times the bandwidth I already have.
brooks7 4/6/2015 | 11:23:03 AM
Re: Interesting... Phil,

What about those of us without a home business?  My work already has Gigabit connections in Data Centers.


brooks7 4/6/2015 | 11:23:02 AM
Re: Interesting... Phil,

What about those of us without a home business?  My work already has Gigabit connections in Data Centers.


Phil_Britt 4/6/2015 | 9:26:32 AM
Re: Interesting... Brooks7, 


"Need" is a relative term. Remember when you first got broadband? You may have thought you didn't "need" it. But try going back to dial-up after that. I don't have gigabit Ethernet or any prospect of having it any time soon. But once it was available, my business would soon rely upon it, therefore it would be "needed."
brooks7 4/5/2015 | 5:30:07 PM
Re: Interesting... "People need gigabit internet these days, there is no question about that."

I don't have Gigabit Internet.  What would I be able to do that I can not do today?  So, yes I have a question about that.


danielcawrey 4/5/2015 | 3:58:37 PM
Re: Interesting... People need gigabit internet these days, there is no question about that. 

What surprises me is how slow US operators have been to provide this service to customers. Apparently there hasn't been a lot of clamoring for faster speeds – even though companies like Google with their Fiber initiative are pushing the issue. 
brooks7 4/3/2015 | 2:10:02 PM
Re: Interesting... Kb,

I think you can narrow that to Centurylink and AT&T because they are the only telcos that have Google Fiber properties.


KBode 4/3/2015 | 1:14:57 PM
Re: Interesting... Yes Google denies it, but I think Google Fiber is largely about throwing billions at motivating a stagnant sector, and it's working. And yes, regulation is only prefereable in cases of market failure (which certainly exists in many areas).

Will be curious to see how much downward pricing pressure Google Fiber puts on Comcast's 2 gig product in Atlanta, and what the pricing for the service is in other, non-Google Fiber markets.
cnwedit 4/3/2015 | 1:06:13 PM
Re: Interesting... It just shows competition is a much better driver of new services than regulation.

I think the points on price, scalability and profitability are all well-taken. Speaking at an Oracle event last week, the head of Google Fiber refused to say if its KC deployment is profitable. If all these gigabit efforts aren't solidly grounded in the ability to scale and ultimately to make money, then it's all just so much posturing by the carriers. 

KBode 4/3/2015 | 8:03:46 AM
Re: Interesting... If it's anything like their 505 Mbps offering, yes I imagine it will be priced high enough to ensure that very few actually take it.

As an aside, wasn't Title II supposed to demolish sector investment? :)
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