Comcast announced that it installed the first gigabit DOCSIS 3.1-based cable modem
in a customer’s home near Philadelphia this week. Savvy readers may recall Comcast
already unveiling a 2Gbps service called Gigabit Pro earlier in the year,
but there are some differences between the two. Aside from the variation in download
speed, Gigabit Pro is available today in 14 states where Comcast provides service.
The new DOCSIS 3.1-based gigabit service, on the other hand, is more of a demonstration
and is not widely available to subscribers.
That said, the new DOCSIS 3.1-based service is significant, because it works with
the coaxial-fiber cable infrastructure already in place. It does require a DOCSIS
3.1-compatible cable modem in the subscriber’s home. Comcast reported in May that
its DOCSIS 3.1 Gigabit Home Gateway cable modem was developed in-house.
This means upgrading will require exchanging cable modems based on older DOCSIS versions
(3.0 or older) with the new DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem.
In order to get the 2Gbps Gigabit Pro service, you need to live within one-third of a
mile from Comcast’s fiber network. That Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service also requires
a technician to come to your house to complete the installation, as stated in the
Gigabit Pro FAQ. This triggers a $500 installation fee. In contrast, customers should be
able to install the DOCSIS 3.1 modem themselves, and it shouldn’t be subject to the
same distance limitations. In fact, it should work in any home currently capable of
obtaining broadband cable modem service from Comcast.
There are a few theoretical differences in maximum speed. The Gigabit Pro service
delivers a symmetrical 2Gbps down and 2Gbps up. Comcast doesn’t say what the upload
speed is for its DOCSIS 3.1 service, though the DOCSIS 3.1 specification’s maximum speed
is up to 10Gbps down and 1Gbps up.
Comcast has yet to announce pricing for DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit Internet, either.
Its FTTH-based 2Gbps Gigabit Pro costs an astounding $299.95 per month, not counting
the $500 activation fee and aforementioned $500 installation fee.
In comparison, Google Fiber costs $70 per month, with its $300 so-called
“construction fee” currently waived.
If you’re thinking of getting gigabit Internet, and it’s available where you live,
make sure your own home network equipment supports it first. While it’s obvious 1Gbps
is very fast, older switches and Wi-Fi gear may be limited to the tens of megabits
per second. So, check your home network and make the necessary upgrades before moving up
to some kind of gigabit broadband service. And if you’ve got it already, let us know in
the comments how it is.