Comcast To Begin Testing Super-Fast Cable Broadband This Year

Most talk of new high-speed broadband has revolved around Internet service providers laying new networks of fiberoptic cable to deliver download speeds of 1Gbps or more, but Comcast says it plans to start testing a system that could provide upwards of 10Gbps over coaxial cable lines.

In yesterday’s call [transcript PDF] to discuss Comcast’s quarterly earnings, the company said it will begin “trialing and ultimately deploying DOCSIS 3.1 in our network, which will provide significant added capacity and lay the groundwork for future speed increases for our broadband customers.”

DOCSIS (short for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) allows for high-speed transfer of data over existing cable lines. DOCSIS 3.1 is the latest version, released in 2013, and supports speeds of nearly 10 times the current 3.0 standard.

As notes, it’s highly likely that Comcast won’t push DOCSIS 3.1 to the limit but will instead use it to offer gigabit broadband service that is closer to what Google Fiber and AT&T’s Gigapower services are providing in the few markets they serve.

Brian Roberts, Comcast’s CEO, labeled DOCSIS 3.1 a “quantum leap forward.” Comcast Cable president Neil Smit said the testing of this faster cable broadband will begin in the last quarter of 2015. The company says it plans to continue building out its fiber network.

The question is going to be price. Comcast recently announced initial pricing for its Gigabit Pro fiber service: $300/month, plus upwards of $1,000 in installation and activation fees, which seems a deliberate statement to customers that this is a product intended for businesses and users willing to plunk down significant cash. We won’t know for some time if Comcast will target a similar market with its pricing for higher speeds achieved through DOCSIS 3.1.