Comcast announced this week the rollout of gigabit Internet connections for a handful of cities across the nation. The new service will hit residences and businesses in Atlanta and Nashville in early 2016, followed by Chicago, Detroit, and Miami in the second half of this year. Comcast hasn’t yet provided pricing information.
What makes this announcement a big deal is that the new gigabit service won’t be experienced on fiber optic connections as seen with the company’s current Gigabit Pro service, which costs $300 a month and provides speeds of up to 2Gb/s. Instead, this new service will use the current TV cable network that’s already installed and sparkly new DOCSIS 3.1 technology.
First introduced in 1997, DOCSIS stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. New versions typically don’t make the headlines, the company explains, but v3.1 is different because it now allows gigabit speeds. That means Comcast doesn’t have to run new lines and its customers don’t have to pay a hefty fee for installing the necessary equipment, unlike other gigabit services.
Comcast says that it has “extensively” tested the DOCSIS 3.1 modems in labs and simulated network environments, and a few have been installed in homes in Philadelphia and Atlanta. This rollout across the five cities will be the first time these modems will be widely used in homes and offices. Comcast will also be using its existing cable plants.
News of the cable-based gigabit service arrives after Comcast introduced Gigabit Pro last year to metro Atlanta, which offers a 2 gigabit symmetrical (same speeds up and down) residential service. Gigabit Pro has evolved into an 18 million client business, spreading over Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Nashville, and other markets. It’s a fiber-to-the-home solution, meaning potential customers must be located near Comcast’s fiber network in order to get the service.
Although Comcast’s new offering will be slower than Gigabit Pro, it’s still faster than what most North Americans receive from their broadband cable provider. There’s a good chance Comcast will charge half of what its Gigabit Pro customers pay. Comcast says that installation will be as easy as switching out the old cable modem for the new DOCSIS 3.1 model.
“DOCSIS 3.1 represents a tremendous step forward in our commitment to keeping customers at the technology forefront. Combined with all the upgrades we have already put into our advanced fiber optic-coax network, this technology will not only provide more gigabit speed choices for customers, it will also eventually make these ultra-fast speeds available to the most homes in our service areas,” says Comcast Central Division President, Bill Connors.
Along with the lack of a price, Comcast has also not specified if the new Gigabit service will have data caps or overage charges as seen with its broadband service.