Comcast is initiating a high-tech battle with its competition with Google. The company is promising ultra-fast speeds to most of its 22 million subscribers by 2016.
The speed is projected to be two gigabits per second. To understand that, the new speed is expected be 80 times faster that the company’s standard broadband internet currently offered and twice as fast as the Google product offered in a handful of U.S. cities.
Comcast is beginning its competition battle by rolling out the new service in Atlanta, where Google Fiber is currently setting up a system. The cable company will establish it across the country by the end of 2015, according to a company blog post.
However, all customers still may not be able to benefit from the new speeds. Currently, fiber optics are installed in neighborhoods, but the cost prevents them from being installed to individual residences. Signals, which give residents broadband and video services, are transferred at what are called “neighborhood nodes” to a coaxial cable lines. Those provide services to as many as 500 homes and are cheaper to install. With the installation of new high-speed fiber optics, Comcast will have major expense in the installation for its customers to have access. That means the customer could likely be asked to bear the additional cost if he or she wants the service.
The costs of Comcast building the fiber network in a high-tech competition with Google are reportedly similar to the expense of creating a network that is a hybrid-coax system, according to a Comcast spokeswoman. She said the new system is being laid next to the old system in the ground. However, any customer who wants a connection to the new system must be close to the fiber network and must install equipment that is “professional grade.” That would cost money because many technology experts believe the new offering is an extension of the company’s current business-class fiber optic service. Other experts suggest that the cost of laying the fiber optic network will be passed on to all Comcast customers, and that may present a problem for the company.
Comcast has other options planned for customers not wishing to partake in the new service offering, or who simply do not have the equipment to do so. It will offer a product that is one gigabit, which increases speed. That is somewhat faster than the coaxial cable system, according to company officials.
Meanwhile, cable customers are stating they are unhappy with advertisements proclaiming it has fiber-optic service when, in actuality, it is a node-coaxial cable service. The difference is picture quality and speed. Consumer groups are also unhappy with some of the pricing for faster speeds when it is already available to customers. Comcast can deliver faster broadband Internet speeds without requiring an equipment upgrade from the customer. Tech consumer experts state the company deliberately keeps customers on a low-speed service in the performance tier to make high- speed service more attractive. A bill for high-speed service could be double that of the low tier. Consumer advocates blame the lack of competition.
Now, with Google getting into the fiber-optics business in three cities, Comcast must develop a new strategy in its high-tech battle with its competition. Some experts said the cable giant may already starting out behind because Google is exploring new services that will offer 10 times faster speeds than the current system.
By Melody Dareing
Photo by Mal_irl – Flickr license