updated 12:10 pm EDT, Thu April 3, 2008
Comcast DOCSIS 3 Access
Comcast today said it would be the first cable Internet provider in the US to offer Internet access based on the new DOCSIS 3.0 standard for cable Internet service. In its early form, the service will bond together multiple cable channels to offer download speeds of 50 megabits per second, or more than six times the 8Mbps ceiling previously set by the company's existing 8Mbps tier. This early implementation isn't set to have full support for the technology on uploads but will still offer 5Mbps upstream.
The extra speed is currently considered a luxury tier and will be available at first in a $150 monthly plan compared to the $53 for existing technology. Minneapolis and St. Paul are currently the only cities to have access, though Comcast has already said it will expand the network throughout 2008 and may also increase speeds up to 100Mbps by the end of the year.
The cable firm warns that its launch will require that a few analog stations be taken off-air and compression added to HD channels to make room for DOCSIS 3, whose channel bonding consumes much more bandwidth than earlier single-channel services. Comcast's launch also comes amid controversy over its network management techniques, which will no longer throttle BitTorrent later this year but may still impact some services.
DOCSIS 3.0 is considered essential for the cable industry to compete against Verizon's FiOS and other fiber optic services, which have already reached the 50Mbps mark. The extra speed is already being used for IP-based TV on Verizon's service and will be necessary for mainstream HD downloads, which will take as little as four minutes for a whole movie on a 100Mbps connection.