Big incumbents turn up giga-game heat

11 February 2016 by Steve Blum
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Comcast and AT&T see high speed broadband opportunity in many of the same places. The two companies will go head to head with gigabit offerings (or at least giga-somethings) in five markets, according to a story by Sean Buckley in FierceTelecom

Comcast has made its intent clear: it’s finally going to bring its DOCSIS 3.1-based gigabit broadband services to five cities this year, a move that directly challenges AT&T and Verizon and their FTTH buildout and pricing strategies.

Following initial launches in Atlanta and Nashville, Comcast will bring the service to Chicago, Detroit and Miami later this year…it’s targeting all markets where AT&T is also offering its GigaPower 1 Gbps service. AT&T itself, the very next day after Comcast’s announcement, said that it would expand GigaPower in four large metros.

Deployment plans are still short on fiber. AT&T’s so-called GigaPower packages come in two flavors: a gigabit via fiber and 300 Mbps or less via hopped up copper. Comcast will rely on Docsis 3.1 technology, which, it says, will push residential service into the gigabit range via traditional coax. Outside plant upgrades remain necessary, though. According to the FierceTelecom article, Docsis 3.1 requires building fiber deeper into neighborhoods, splitting nodes and upgrading system bandwidth to 1.2 GHz.

Competitive heat in affluent, customer-dense markets is a good thing, but it also provides a stark contrast to rural areas and more distant suburbs. Cable companies don’t tend to build there in the first place, and big wireline phone companies are retreating, Verizon by selling systems to Frontier and AT&T by switching to fixed wireless service. Competition matters.