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Monday, October 27, 2008

Comcast broadens reach of DOCSIS 3.0, 50Mbps connections

By Eric Bangeman |

Broadband junkies in the northeastern US got some good news Wednesday in the form of an announcement from Comcast that it is extending its DOCSIS 3.0 rollout to that part of the country. The company's 50Mbps "Extreme" (can we please retire the Extreme branding already?) speed tier will be launched in the Boston area (including southern New Hampshire), as well as parts of Philadelphia and New Jersey over the next few weeks.

Back in April, Comcast flipped the switch on its first DOCSIS 3.0 deployment in the Twin Cities, pricing the 50Mbps tier at $149.95 per month. Comcast's newly-renamed Extreme 50 service is now a bit cheaper at $139.95 (upstream speed is 10Mbps). The cable giant's other new service tier is Ultra, which offers speeds of up 22Mbps down and 5Mbps up for $62.95. Most current Comcast customers will also get a speed boost: Performance broadband customers will see their speeds doubled to 12Mbps/2Mbps up, while Performance Plus subscribers get a boost to 16Mbps down.

Comcast's newly-implemented 250GB monthly bandwidth caps will also remain in place for its DOCSIS 3.0 deployments. Comcast spokesperson Charlie Douglas confirmed that the new tiers are subject to the same cap, but stressed that "far less than 1 percent" of residential customers are ever affected by the cap's presence.

Within the "next several months," DOCSIS 3.0 will be rolled out to another six or seven major markets and will pass almost 10 million homes and businesses. Comcast was mum on which markets will see the speed boosts, but a reader at Broadband Reports (which was tipped off about the announcement earlier this week) found what a web page that may shed light on Comcast's DOCSIS 3.0 deployment plans. Titled "Beta Speed Test Trial," the page contains a list of 12 markets that will presumably have provisioned 50Mbps-plus downstream speeds.

It's exciting to see DOCSIS 3.0 slowly moving out of cable labs and into neighborhoods. With this round of DOCSIS 3.0 deployments, Comcast appears to be targeting markets where Verizon has a significant FiOS presence. Verizon has rolled out its 50Mbps/20Mbps tier across its entire fiber-to-the-home network for anywhere between $89.95 and $139.95 per month, so while expensive, Comcast's Extreme 50 service is priced competitively with Verizon's offering. If the Beta Speed Test Trial page is any indication, Comcast will soon be venturing into AT&T territory and a bit further into Qwest territory with its next deployments. Given that AT&T U-verse is currently capped at 10Mbps and Qwest is starting to roll out 20Mbps DSL service, Comcast will be well-positioned even with its 22Mbps Ultra offering.