The movement toward gigabits-per-second speed broadband services gained momentum this week as executives of Comcast, the nation’s top cable operator by subscribers, confirmed the company’s plan to deploy broadband network speeds in excess of 1Gbps nationwide by 2018.
While AT&T and other providers already offer fiber-optic Gbps-speed broadband to customers in a limited number of markets, the strategy, if successful, would make Comcast the nation’s top provider of 1 Gbps broadband and one of the first U.S. cable companies to deploy such a service. Comcast’s plan is premised on deployment of the “DOCSIS 3.1” standard for cable modems, which was ratified two years ago and—with proper equipment and under optimal network conditions—is considered capable of supporting download speeds as high as 10 Gbps. By contrast, cable modems built on the current generation DOCSIS 3.0 standard deliver transmission speeds no higher than 700 Mbps downstream/180 Mbps upstream. Affirming Comcast’s plan to test DOCSIS 3.1 on the company’s existing Hybrid Fiber Coaxial network in selected markets, Comcast Vice President Robert Howard told reporters last Friday that “our intent is to scale it through our footprint through 2016” and to expand nationwide within two to three years. In remarks last month, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts observed that the move to DOCSIS 3.1 “will provide significant added capacity and lay the groundwork for future speed increases for our broadband customers.”
Comcast’s transition to 1 Gbps network speeds through DOCSIS 3.1 is unrelated to the company’s separate and previously- announced plan to deploy fiber optic network infrastructure in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, California and other states that would deliver broadband speeds of up to 2 Gbps for a monthly fee of $300. Anticipated pricing for the new DOCSIS 3.1 service, which would require customers to purchase or rent a DOCSIS 3.1 modem, was not disclosed.