Wednesday, May 9, 2007

New cable modem is 25 times as fast,
but you can't get one yet

Comcast boss Brian Roberts dazzled a cable industry audience Tuesday, with the first public demo of a new technology that enabled a data download speed of 150 megabits per second, roughly 25 times as fast as today's standard cable modems.

The cost of modems that would support new "channel bonding" technology is similar to current modems. They could be available in less than two years.

The new cable technology is crucial because the industry is competing with FiOS, a TV and fast Internet service that Verizon offers over a new fiber-optic network. The current top speed with FiOS is 50 megabits per second, but the network is capable of providing 100 Mbps and fiber offers nearly unlimited potential.

The new cable technology, called DOCSIS 3.0, was developed by the cable industry's research arm, Cable Television Laboratories. It bonds together four cable lines but is capable of allowing much more capacity. The laboratory expects manufacturers to begin submitting modems for certification by the end of 2007.

In the presentation, a 30-second, 300-megabyte television commercial was downloaded in a few seconds, and viewed long before a standard modem completed an estimated download time of 16 minutes.

The 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007 and Merriam-Webster's visual dictionary were downloaded in under four minutes, when it would have taken a standard modem over three hours.

"If you look at what just happened, 55 million words, 100,000 articles, more than 22,000 pictures, maps and more than 400 video clips," Roberts said. "The same download on dial-up would have taken two weeks. It's an exponential step forward and we're very excited. What consumers actually do with all this speed is up to the imagination of the entrepreneurs of tomorrow." (info from The Associated Press)

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