Gigabit Cities

More Cable Operators Go Gigabit

Who says gigabit service is only for the largest broadband providers in the biggest, most competitive markets in the land?

Not Midcontinent Communications (Midco) , a midsized US cable operator that has announced plans to launch 1-Gig service in the upper Midwest, starting next year. MidContinent, which serves more than 300,000 cable customers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas, intends to blanket its entire footprint in the latter three states with gigabit speeds over the next three years.

And not Wave Broadband either. Wave, which serves more than 400,000 subscribers in northern California, Oregon and Washington state, is preparing to roll out 1-Gig service in a small part of the Seattle area next month. If all goes well, company officials hope to extend the service to other parts of the market over the next few years.

Both cable companies are following in the footsteps of such larger MSOs as Cox Communications Inc. and Suddenlink Communications , which have already committed to deploying 1-Gig download speeds throughout their service areas over the next few years. They're also following in the footsteps of such smaller cable providers as General Communication Inc. (GCI) (Nasdaq: GNCMA), Atlantic Broadband and Grande Communications , which have all started rolling out gigabit service as well. (See Cox Goes Gaga Over Gigabit, Suddenlink Joins Gigabit Club and Grande Unfazed in Crowded Gigabit Market.)

Under its new "Gigabit Frontier" initiative, MidContinent said it will offer 1-Gig service to 600,000 homes passed and 55,000 businesses passed in the Northern Plains states by leveraging its 7,600-mile fiber network. It intends to start next year with five of its biggest markets -- Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks in North Dakota and Sioux Falls and Rapid City in South Dakota. The company said it will reveal its pricing plans when it's ready to launch service.

The move follows MidContinent's doubling of its max broadband speeds to 200 Mbit/s in June. Known by the somewhat unwieldy name of MidcoNet Xstream Wideband 3.0, the DOCSIS 3.0-powered service offers 200Mbit/s downstream and 20Mbit/s upstream speeds for about $106 per month.

Jon Pederson, VP of technology sat MidContinent, noted that the company has seen bandwidth usage by customers soar 77% this year. "Consumption doubles every 15 months and I don't see it slowing down," he said.

For the latest on this subject, visit Light Reading's Gigabit Cities content channel. And watch for forthcoming details on Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live event, to be held in May 2015 in Atlanta.

As for Wave, it aims to roll out gigabit service through its new CondoInternet subsidiary, which it bought last year. Plans call for CondoInternet, which already offers 1-Gig service to up to 20,000 condominium and apartment residents in the Eastlake part of Seattle, to extend service to about 2,400 single-family homes in the same neighborhood using its fiber network. (See Small ISP Expands Seattle Gigabit Network.)

Wave intends to price the gigabit service at a flat rate of $80 per month, with no contracts, installation fees or bundles required. It will also offer a lower tier, with max download speeds of 100 Mbit/s, for $60 a month.

In the Seattle market, Wave will be taking on the large incumbent telco, CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), which is gearing up to start offering gigabit service there next year. Wave will also compete again the incumbent cable operator, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which has not revealed its gigabit plans yet but does offer download speeds as high as 505 Mbit/s in many of its other markets (although not yet in Seattle).

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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