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Comcast takes home broadband to 105 Mbps

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U.S. cable operator Comcast is the largest broadband Internet provider in the United States—and consistently rates as offering real-world performance that actually comes close to its advertised capabilities. Now Comcast is taking the notion of home broadband one step further, announcing its new Extreme 105 broadband package taht brings download speeds of up to 105 Mbps to customers in selected markets—and introductory pricing starts at $105 per month.

“This speed tier continues to expand our portfolio of Internet service offerings and takes them up to a whole new level,” said Comcast senior VP and general manager of communications and data services Cathy Avgiris, in a statement. “With it, we’re powering the digital home of the future, where entire families using multiple devices—laptops, gaming consoles, tablets, smartphones—can all take advantage of high-bandwidth applications simultaneously ensuring they each have a great online experience.”

As an example of the capacity offered by a 105 Mbps connection, Comcast notes that a 4 GB high-definition movie that would take some 90 minute to download over a 6 Mbps home broadband connection would take just five minutes over a 105 Mbps connection, all things being equal. Of course, all things are rarely equal: capacity on local and intervening networks and at data origin points, network latency, congestion, and other factors will typically conspire to ensure customers don’t get a full 105 Mbps on everything they try to access via the Internet.

The Extreme 105 service is initially available in selected markets around the United States that Comcast says covers some 40 million homes: metropolitan areas currently included in the offering include Chicago, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., and most of the Boston area. While the service offers download capacity of up to 105 Mbps, upload speeds are still restricted to a paltry-in-comparison 10 Mbps—but that’s still more upstream bandwidth than the majority of Americans are used to having.

Comcast is debuting the Extreme 105 service at an introductory rate of $105 a month for the first 12 months as part of a Triple Play bundle that includes cable television and home phone service—and, of course, altogether costs more than a flat $105 per month. Comcast also says it will be offering Extreme 105 as a standalone service, although the company did not specify pricing: rates for standalone broadband services from Comcast are typically considerably higher than the same services bundled with other Comcast offerings. Comcast says the Extreme 105 service will come with a Wi-Fi router that “turns an entire house into a Wi-Fi hotspot”—all the better to support phones, tablets, game systems, and other Wi-Fi enabled devices.

Although Comcast is generally well-regarded for over-provisioning its network and generally giving customers broadband service in the ballpark of advertised rates, the company has also been targeted by criticism of its networking management practices—after all, this is the company that gutted the FCC’s Internet Policy statement, leading to the current charged debate over network neutrality. Comcast also recently completed its acquisition of NBC Universal, meaning it is not just a data communications carrier and the nation’s largest cable TV provider: it’s also one of the industry’s major content producers.