Comcast ups gigabit battle against AT&T with five-market DOCSIS 3.1 launch

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) plans to bring its DOCSIS 3.1-enabled gigabit broadband services to five markets this year, boosting a challenge to AT&T's (NYSE: T) ongoing FTTH program.  

Initially available in Atlanta and Nashville, Comcast will bring the service to Chicago, Detroit, and Miami in the second half of the year. The cable MSO plans to target residential and business customers with the service, which runs over its existing hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) plant.

This broader rollout follows DOCSIS 3.1 modem trials the Comcast conducted in its hometown Philadelphia market and in Atlanta in December.

DOCSIS 3.1 is just one of several tools Comcast has in its next-gen broadband toolbox. It also is using FTTH technology as the basis for its 2 Gbps Gigabit Pro service, which is currently available in Atlanta. Following launches in Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Nashville, and other markets, Gigabit Pro is now available to 18 million homes across the cable MSO's national footprint.

Although Comcast has tested DOCSIS 3.1 modems in labs and simulated network environments, the Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, and Nashville rollouts mark the first time these devices are being more widely connected to subscribers' homes and offices using standard cable connections and the company's existing HFC plant. 

Being able to use the existing cable plant is key as the MSO looks to gain momentum and directly challenge telco competitors like AT&T, which is rolling out FTTH services in select markets, particularly where the carrier only offers DSL-based services today. While FTTH offers unlimited bandwidth, it does require service providers to construct new fiber and install optical network terminals on the side of a user's home.

Another feature Comcast is touting with its DOCSIS 3.1 rollout is ease of activation. The operator said that once it completes a DOCSIS 3.1 rollout in a given market, customers with gigabit-capable devices will be able to get the service by signing up for a new plan and just plugging in a new modem.

Even with those challenges, AT&T has set an ambitious FTTH rollout schedule in some of the same markets Comcast is targeting. The carrier has also begun to advocate a leverage-and-extend approach where it will extend its existing fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) architecture for its U-verse service to take fiber to more homes and businesses. U-verse IP broadband service is available to over 57 million homes and business locations

In order to get approval to acquire DirecTV, the service provider agreed to bring FTTH to an additional 11.7 million locations. Later, AT&T said it would bring 1 Gbps service to an additional 38 markets. Upon completion of its latest build, the service provider will double the amount of metro areas it serves to 56.

For more:
- see the release
- FierceCable has this article

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