Comcast to Bring Ultra-Fast Internet to U.S. by 2016

© Joe Raedle/Getty Images A Comcast truck is seen parked at one of their centers on February 13, 2014 in Pompano Beach, Florida. Today, Comcast announced a $45-billion offer for Time Warner Cable.
© Joe Raedle/Getty Images A Comcast truck is seen parked at one of their centers on February 13, 2014 in Pompano Beach, Florida. Today, Comcast announced a $45-billion offer for Time Warner Cable.

Comcast says it will soon compete head-on with Google Fiber.

In a blog post today, the company announced plans to offer internet speeds of up to 2 gigabits per second to the majority of its nearly 22 million subscribers by the end of the year. That’s about twice as fast as the ultra-high-speed service Google is now offering in three US cities, and 80 times as fast as Comcast’s standard broadband internet plan.

“We’ll first offer this service in Atlanta and roll it out in additional cities soon with the goal to have it available across the country and available to about 18 million homes by the end of the year,” the blog post says.

Most remaining customers who aren’t able to take advantage of the two-gigabit service will eventually be offered Google-like one-gigabit speeds over traditional coaxial cable, according to the post.

Google began rolling out its one-gigabit fiber service more than two years ago, saying it wanted to push other ISPs into offering faster internet speeds. And this is now happening, at least on some level. For Google and others, the hope is that faster speeds will not only improve the performance of today’s internet application, from Facebook to Netflix, but also engender a whole new wave of more advanced online applications.

The rub is that Comcast’s offer may not result in widespread use of high-speed fiber. It must still lay fiber to individual homes, and customers may be asked to incur the cost—something they may not be willing to do.

The Price of Fiber

Comcast hasn’t discussed pricing for its new service. The company’s XFINITY Extreme 505 service costs $399.95 per month and offers speeds of about half a gigabit. However, competition from Google Fiber, which is planned to expand into Atlanta, may drive down prices in some areas. We’ve already seen this from AT&T, which offers gigabit fiber connections for $70 a month in Austin, Texas, where it competes with Google Fiber, but $110 in Cupertino , where it doesn’t.

The real sticking point may the the setup costs. Comcast already has fiber optic pipe running through much of the country, but providing links from these pipes into people’s homes—so-called “last mile” connections—could be an expensive process. Google has largely defrayed these costs by focusing on rolling out the service one neighborhood at a time to areas in which many people have signed up in advance.

What Comcast is promising is a service that will be widely available to everyone within proximity to its pipes, which suggests it will install the service on a per-household basis. While offering nation- and city-wide service sounds radical, if the costs are so high that only a few people can afford to have service installed, it becomes a much less impressive.

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Source: Wired | Klint Finley

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