A Comcast executive says the company is currently testing technology based on the DOCSIS 3.1 standard, which can transmit data at rates up to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) in ideal environments, and is aiming to deploy the technology on a nationwide basis by 2018, according to a Fierce Cable article published last week.
Comcast vice president of network architecture Robert Howald told Fierce Cable that the technology will enable the company to offer customers broadband speeds of 1 Gbps "and higher." From the article:
"We want to get it across the footprint very quickly," Howald added, noting that the company hopes to have the technology deployed across its entire U.S. network footprint in the next 2-3 years. "We're shooting for two years," he said.To do so, Comcast plans to begin distributing DOCSIS 3.1-compatible modems, which the company had previously announced were going into production this year, to customers in early 2016.
While the DOCSIS 3.1-based service will be deployed on its existing Hybrid Fiber Coaxial network, Comcast already offers 2 Gbps fiber-based broadband services in select cities. The 2-gig fiber service, called Gigabit Pro, came only after competing services such as Google Fiber began offering 1 Gbps services for about $70 per month in select markets.
Although Comcast’s Gigabit Pro service can boast twice the speed of Google Fiber, it does so at more than four times the price. After the company’s $159 promotional monthly rate for Gigabit Pro expires, the service costs $299.95 per month. That doesn’t include the potential $1,000 in upfront fees, which Comcast describes as "up to $500 for installation and up to $500 for activation" on its website.
By comparison, Google Fiber customers do not need to pay the $300 installation fee if they sign up for its $70 monthly internet-only service or its $130 monthly internet-plus-TV service. Google Fiber only charges the $300 fee to customers who sign up for its free, basic internet service, which offers 5 Mbps download speeds and 1 Mbps upload speeds. These customers can also choose to pay the installation fee in a lump sum or through monthly payments over the first year of service.
Comcast faces a big opportunity here, with a broadband market that is already forcing it to change, a massive existing user base, and the technology to keep them from migrating to higher-performing, more affordable services. Pricing for the new service can either stave off competitors or drive customers into their hands.