Comcast Goes Metro

written by Harry - Leave a reply

5/20/2011 – Comcast raised a few eyebrows earlier this week when it announced it’s entry into the medium-sized business services sector. Rolling out metro-Ethernet internet services to 20 of the most populated US cities, the telecoms giant is hoping to piggy back on the current demand for faster internet speeds amongst companies with 20 to 500 employees. It’s a bold move by the Philadelphia-based giant.

For those who aren’t in the know, metro-Ethernet is a ultra-fast computer network build on cables and infrastructure existing within a metropolitan area or city. Based on the Ethernet cable standard, it allows users to connect to the internet and experience both download and upload speeds much faster than standard consumer or small business level technology. Many cable operators have been cashing in on metro-Ethernet services for a number of years because businesses are prepared to pay more for a higher level of connectivity.

Until now, however, Comcast has been behind the curve when it comes to satisfying this market segment. Their main revenue streams have traditionally come from the consumer and small business market but they recently saw the opportunity to enter the new space by employing the same network they use to service their cellular backhaul customers. It allows them to offer the same technology used by enterprise-level companies to smaller business at a lower per-megabit price.

What makes metro-Ethernet great is that it offers much more choice in terms of connectivity. Customers can start by signing up for a 1Mbps service and then scale up incrementally to a network as fast as 1Gbps without making a single change in equipment or internal infrastructure. It is perfect for companies that are growing in employees or starting to utilise more bandwidth intensive applications like cloud computing or business continuity services. For those who are really bandwidth hungry, Comcast are even offering a service that deliver speeds of up to 10 Gbps, although additional equipment needs to be purchased client-side to make it possible.

While Comcast’s branch out into a new sector seems like an obvious progression to them, I wonder how the market will react. As a provider to consumers and small businesses, they have a questionable reputation regarding customer service. Handling single users and mom and pop stores is one thing, having responsibility for operations that involve millions of dollars is another. If you can’t even swallow one slice, what makes you think you can handle the whole cake?

IT managers whose reputations, and jobs, depend on the efficient operation of their company’s network should rightly be hesitant about entrusting such a critical business component to an operator notorious for shoddy workmanship. A lot will depend on how robust their core infrastructure is and the level of redundancy enforced. That said, in their communications they are offering substantial service-level guarantees including a 99.99 percent availably promise. Maybe they’re outsourcing their service department?

The 20 initial cities where the service is available are as follows: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Harrisburg, Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Miami, Nashville, New Jersey, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Washington DC and western New England.

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