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.