Comcast Declares Victory In Gigabit Home Internet Race

October 18, 2018, 7:00 PM UTC

Amid increasing competition for high-speed home Internet service, Comcast on Thursday said it had completed expanding its gigabit-speed broadband service to nearly every home in its service area.

About 58 million homes across the cable giant’s 39-state footprint can now order Comcast’s Xfinity Gigabit service, which can cost $100 to $160 per month depending on the region, more than double the price of slower broadband plans. But it is so fast that customers can download high-definition movies in under a minute and connect dozens of devices in a single household without a hiccup. Comcast also offers limited-time, promotional rates of $90 per month for new gigabit customers.

“One of the ways that we compete, of course, is ensuring that we’ve got the fastest and the most reliable network,” Matt Strauss, executive vice president of Xfinity Services at Comcast, tells Fortune. “What’s partly behind the announcement is reinforcing that now we have one gig deployed across our entire footprint.”

Comcast started deploying gigabit service in earnest about three years ago. But the company, which has 24.4 million total home broadband customers, wouldn’t say how many people have signed up so far, disclosing only that 75% of all its customers now receive speeds of 100 megabits or higher.

However, a Morgan Stanley survey released on Thursday said that only a tiny fraction of households—3% of cable Internet customers nationwide—have 1 gigabit speeds or higher.

But 1 GB speeds may gain in popularity in the future. While a typical high-definition movie file is about 3 GB or 4 GB, a growing number of movies are available in 4K, for which files sizes can exceed 100 GB.

Comcast’s announcement on Thursday, which makes it the largest gigabit Internet provider by number of potential homes, comes as telecom carriers Verizon and AT&T are just starting to introduce competing home Internet services with new 5G wireless technology. The 5G service is 10 to 40 times faster than current 4G LTE wireless networks.

This month, Verizon started taking orders for its 5G program in parts of four cities, with plans to expand to more, while AT&T plans to bring its 5G home Internet service to 12 cities this year.

Though AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) already compete in some areas where Comcast (CMCSA) has its wired home Internet service, the 5G networks can—at least in theory—be offered more economically and in far more metro areas than the limited regions where the carriers have wired connections to homes. AT&T, for example, says its current wired gigabit Internet service potentially reaches only 10 million homes with a goal of passing 14 million by the end of 2019.

Comcast and other cable companies still rely entirely on wired connections to customer homes for their gigabit service using cable gear that includes the industry’s newest DOCSIS 3.1 technology, introduced in 2015. At that time, the prime competitor appeared to be Google’s Fiber service, but Google (GOOGL) has since scaled back its ambitions for Fiber and stopped expanding to new cities.

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