Comcast is upping upload speeds. But for now, you’ll need a premium bundle.

By Dasblog

Comcast is upping upload speeds. But for now, you’ll need a premium bundle.

Comcast is upping upload speeds. But for now, you’ll need a premium bundle.

Upload speeds have entered the chat at Comcast.

After years of touting its downloads while hiding much slower upstream figures in smaller-print disclosures, the Philadelphia cable giant is now seriously upgrading the latter.

But for now, Comcast is reserving those faster uploads for subscribers who pay extra for its “xFi Complete” option.

That $25 bundle, discounted to $20 through the end of the year, already includes a rented cable modem and WiFi system ($14 separately), unlimited data instead of the 1.2-terabyte cap it enforces outside Northeast markets, and a set of online-security tools.

Seeing Comcast reserve yet another feature for that premium tier of service may evoke an airline advertising a Basic Economy airfare stripped of much of what used to come with a plane ticket, then selling a bundle airfare that restores those perks.

Comcast then invited a little more cynicism about this pricing when chief financial officer Michael Cavanaugh said on its Q3 earnings call that with subscriber growth stalling, the company now expects most broadband revenue growth to come from increased per-user revenue.

But Comcast calls this a temporary throttling of its rollout so it can monitor this upgrade’s reliability, after which it will open this to customers who bought their own modems.

“We want to make sure we’re at a certain level,” said company spokesman Joel Shadle. “It’s starting with xFi Complete,” he emphasized–with customer-bought modems becoming eligible maybe in the second quarter of 2023.

There should not be compatibility issues with modems supporting an industry standard called DOCSIS 3.1. Some older modems, however, only meet that specification’s 3.0 version.

In March, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge told attendees at an investor conference that its Spectrum service, the second biggest after Comcast’s Xfinity, could deliver uploads as fast as its downloads without changing out customer equipment.

Comcast’s upload upgrade started in August for some Colorado Springs, Colorado, customers, and has since expanded to Panama City Beach, Florida, Augusta, Georgia, and Northeastern markets that will include Baltimore, Boston, Hartford, Connecticut, Philadelphia and Washington.

Not all homes in a market have it yet – spot checks at five Colorado Springs addresses only showed the older speeds.

Except for Comcast’s entry-level plan, in which 75 megabits per second downloads are now matched by 75 Mbps uploads, the new offerings lack the “symmetric” bandwidth of fiber-optic systems like Verizon’s Fios.

For example, 200 and 300 Mbps plans now come with 100 Mbps uploads, up from just 10 Mbps before. They top out at 200 Mbps for 1.2 Gbps and 2 Gbps options.

“They’re going through a crawl-walk-run approach,” said analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. “Offering it to just the highest customers is the crawl phase, because few people will get it.”

The cable industry has traditionally acted as if there’s no demand for faster uploads when most people live a download-first lifestyle. Charter’s Rutledge, for example, also said at that event that customers didn’t need symmetric upload speeds.

Entner, however, said he expects other cable operators to follow Comcast’s lead–assuming it can deliver those faster uploads and they help win it more customers.

“I think all the cable operators are watching,” he said. “Based on that, they will make their decision.”

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