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Zoom’s Motorola MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Modem Arrives This Month: $159.99

Zoom’s Motorola MB8600

Zoom Telephonics will introduce its first full-featured DOCSIS 3.1 modem for broadband consumers later this month at a price of $159.99.

The Motorola MB8600 includes four GigE LAN ports with support for bonding to allow for delivered speeds of up to 4Gbps and includes Broadcom’s Full-Band Capture (FBC) digital tuning, which supports future IPTV applications.

Zoom licensed the Motorola brand name for broadband-related equipment and is hoping to grab more market share in a field dominated by more familiar brands including Arris, Ubee, and Netgear.

The unit is backwards-compatible with DOCSIS 3.0 and includes support for up to 32×8 DOCSIS 3 channels, which some cable operators are using to provide gigabit speeds.

The full feature set:

  • DOCSIS 3.1 with fallback to 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0
  • Full-band Capture Digital Tuning enhances speed and saves energy
  • Works with any router, Windows or Mac computer, HDTV, or game station that has an Ethernet port
  • This DOCSIS 3.1 modem supports Active Queue Management (AQM), which significantly reduces Internet latency.
  • 4 GigE Ethernet ports with support for port bonding
  • Vertical case saves space and enhances cooling
  • High resistance to lightning and to power surges
  • Future proof, including DOCSIS 3.1, DOCSIS 3.0
  • 2 year warranty
  • IPv6 next generation Internet addressing support
  • Multi Processor Technology with ARM based Application Processor

The box comes pre-branded with Comcast’s XFINITY logo, which means it is a sure bet Comcast will support this modem. Consumers should verify if other cable operators will approve use of this modem before buying. It will be available for retail online sale by Walmart, Amazon.com, Target, Best Buy and MicroCenter as early as late May.

Will the FCC’s Spectrum Auction Improve Your Service? Let’s Look at the Coverage Maps

Four large telecom companies won the bulk of the available licenses to operate their wireless services on the upcoming 600MHz band, once UHF TV channels occupying part of it vacate. But what exactly did AT&T, Comcast, Dish, and T-Mobile buy and where? Mosaik, a mapping firm, produced maps (courtesy Fierce Wireless) showing exactly where the four companies won 600MHz spectrum in the recent auction. The differences are striking. T-Mobile effectively won the right to launch new service almost everywhere in the country, in part because it acquired a huge number of cheap, low-demand licenses in largely rural areas.

Dish’s plans for its spectrum remain a complete mystery, while Comcast’s winning bids are entirely within areas where it provides cable service. AT&T, although already holding a large supply of low band frequencies, apparently needs more capacity in larger cities, and paid handsomely to get it.

AT&T

Most of AT&T’s winning bids cover larger cities where it already operates an extensive cellular network. Among the areas where AT&T can expand service: Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, St. Louis, Birmingham, Mobile, Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis and Little Rock. But AT&T also grabbed licenses for rural western Massachusetts, central Ohio, and southern Michigan.

Comcast

Comcast’s winning bids consisted of 10MHz of spectrum, except in Nashville where it nabbed 20MHz. Comcast grabbed enough spectrum to cover every city in Florida except Tampa (where Charter provides cable service). The cable company focused heavily on east and west coast bids, winning spectrum across much of the Pacific Northwest, the Boston-NYC-DC corridor, and Illinois and Indiana. The only downside is that 10MHz is not a lot of spectrum to support a large wireless service, but then Comcast does not require that at this time, because it will rely primarily on a shared arrangement with Verizon Wireless to power Xfinity Mobile.

Dish Network

What Dish intends to do with its spectrum remains a complete mystery, but it grabbed a significant amount of it in New York City and its nearby suburbs, including Connecticut. It also won respectable quantities of frequencies in Alaska, California, Florida, Puerto Rico, Seattle and Portland, and several midwestern and south-central cities.

T-Mobile USA

T-Mobile published a similar map as part of its press package claiming victory in the spectrum auction. This map better highlights T-Mobile’s extensive spectrum wins in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. If T-Mobile uses it all, it will command similar coverage areas comparable to Verizon and AT&T. T-Mobile will manage this without any need to merge with anyone else, as AT&T and Sprint have historically argued in their past failed efforts to acquire T-Mobile.

Spectrum Auction: T-Mobile Runaway Winner, But Dish Buy Puzzles Investors

T-Mobile’s 600MHz coverage map — assuming it builds out its full spectrum purchase.

One of the most consequential and visible spectrum auctions ever is over, and it will have a significant impact on broadcasters, wireless carriers, and the future competitive landscape of the wireless industry.

The world’s first “incentive auction” paid television stations to voluntarily vacate or move their assigned channels to make room for the wireless industry’s desire for more spectrum to power wireless data services. Up for bid was 70MHz of spectrum currently used by UHF television stations. A total of 50 winning wireless bidders collectively agreed to pay $19.8 billion to acquire that space. The biggest winner was T-Mobile USA, which is paying almost half the amount of total proceeds to acquire 45% of the spectrum available in the current auction. T-Mobile managed to acquire enough spectrum to cover 100% of the United States and Puerto Rico with an average of 31MHz of available spectrum nationwide, quadrupling its current inventory of important “low-band” spectrum, which is excellent for covering rural areas and inside buildings.

Consumers are likely to benefit as early as later this year when T-Mobile begins lighting up cellular service utilizing the newly available spectrum. Unfortunately, customers will have to buy new devices compatible with the new bands of frequencies.

Having the spectrum alone is not enough to beef up T-Mobile’s network. The company will have to invest in a large number of new cell sites, particularly in outlying areas, to eventually rival the coverage of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. But with an ample supply of 600MHz spectrum, T-Mobile could soon challenge AT&T and Verizon Wireless’ perceived network and coverage superiority. After this auction, AT&T continues to hold the largest portfolio of <1GHz spectrum — 70.5MHz. Verizon is second with 46.2MHz and T-Mobile has moved up in its third place position with 41.1MHz.

Although the FCC claims the current auction was among the highest grossing ever conducted by the FCC, industry observers claim companies got the new frequencies at a bargain price. A 2015 spectrum auction attracted $44.9 billion in bids, more than double the amount bid this year. The average price wireless companies paid per megahertz per person this year was just shy of 90¢, compared with $2.72 in 2015.

Where bargains are to be had, Charles Ergen and his Dish Network satellite company are sure to follow.

Few companies have as much unused wireless spectrum in their portfolio as Dish. Ergen loves to bid in auctions and has also picked up excess spectrum available on the cheap from other satellite companies that have since gone dark or bankrupt. Dish spent $6.2 billion on spectrum during the latest auction, puzzling investors who drove Dish’s share price down wondering what the company intends to do with the frequencies.

Investors were hoping Dish would eventually sell its spectrum portfolio at a profit, something that could still happen if other wireless carriers see a deal to be made. But some Wall Street analysts fear Dish might actually build a large wireless network of its own to offer wireless broadband service. Wall Street dislikes big spending projects and the competition it could bring to the marketplace, potentially driving down prices.

The other possibility is that Dish is making itself look more attractive to a possible buyer like Verizon, which could acquire the satellite company to win cheaper cable programming prices for its FiOS TV and an attractive amount of wireless spectrum for Verizon Wireless. The nation’s biggest wireless carrier notably did not participate in this spectrum auction.

Another unusual bidder was Comcast. Craig Moffett from Wall Street firm MoffettNathanson called Comcast’s $1.7 billion bid “half-hearted” and said it was unlikely to be enough spectrum for the company to begin offering its own wireless service. Comcast plans to rely on Verizon Wireless to power its wireless service, at least initially.

Comcast targeted its bids only in cities where it already provides cable service, which also nixes the theory Comcast and Charter might have been working together to form a cellular joint venture. Moffett expected Comcast would seek at least 20MHz of spectrum across most of the country. It ended up with 10MHz and only in select cities. Moffett thinks that may signal Comcast’s interest in buying an existing wireless carrier is still on the table.

Comcast’s NBC Preparing Launch of Subscription “All Access”-Style Streaming Service

Comcast’s NBCUniversal is laying plans to introduce a premium online video service highlighting NBC Network content and possibly various programming from the various cable channels owned by Comcast.

After watching rival CBS amass more than 1.5 million subscribers for its “All Access Pass” ($5.99, $9.99/mo for commercial-free option), Comcast’s NBC entertainment division isn’t willing to leave money on the table any longer.

The yet unnamed service is expected to compete with services like Hulu and Netflix, but will most likely be comparable to CBS’ premium subscription offering. In addition to featuring a deep library of NBC content, the service could include a significant catalog of past and present shows from cable networks like Bravo, SyFy and USA. Also to be determined is whether NBC will follow CBS’ lead and offer viewers live streaming of their local NBC station as part of the package.

The new service may not launch in the immediate future because Comcast is still observing restrictions imposed by regulators as a condition of its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal. The rules make it difficult for Comcast to develop services comprised entirely of content it owns or controls. Federal regulators added the restriction out of concern Comcast could interfere with Hulu’s access to NBC content. Hulu is popular with cord-cutters, and is seen as a viable alternative to cable television. The last of these restrictions expire in September 2018, about the time Bloomberg News reports Comcast is likely to launch the service.

If all the major American networks decide to develop their own premium streaming services, it could have significant implications for Hulu, which combines content from its partners NBC, ABC, and FOX. If NBC pulls out of the partnership, it will be free to keep all the revenue earned from its own streaming platform, and could inspire ABC and FOX to follow.

Observers suspect this represents more evidence that broadcast networks increasingly expect viewers to pay for access to their programming, at least online.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable television operator, will compete for wireless customers with a new no-contract wireless plan that combines Verizon Wireless’ mobile network with Comcast’s installed base of 16 million hotspots installed in customer homes and businesses.

Xfinity Mobile will offer two plans — a pay as you go option for $12/GB and an unlimited calling, texting, and data plan that ranges from $45-65 a month. Customers spending about $150 or more on a Comcast X1 bundle of services will pay the lesser amount, while those with a more basic package will pay more. Customers must at least subscribe to Xfinity Internet service to qualify for the new wireless plan and live in a Comcast service area.

Comcast is powering its cell phone service with its MVNO agreement with Verizon Wireless, which grants the cable company the right to resell Verizon’s wireless network under the Xfinity brand. But Comcast hopes customers will use their devices the most while connected to an Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot, available in most Comcast customer homes and an extensive network of businesses. To make sure that happens, devices acquired from Comcast will come pre-configured to automatically connect to Comcast’s Wi-Fi, where available.

Comcast’s “unlimited” $65 plan — likely to be the most popular option, is between $15-25 less than what Verizon and AT&T charge their customers for a comparable plan, at least for accounts with just a single device attached. Like other “unlimited” plans, Comcast has a fine print data cap: 20GB of wireless data usage per month, after which it will throttle the customer’s connection until the next billing cycle begins. Comcast intends to always impose the speed throttle once 20GB is reached, not just in areas with congested cell towers. But throttled speeds will be a less maddening 1.5Mbps instead of the usual 128kbps most carriers use to punish their data-heavy users.

Overall, the plan may deliver some savings to current Comcast customers unfazed by signing up for a “quad play” bundle of wireless, phone, TV, and internet access, especially for those bringing a single wireless line to Comcast. Customers with multiple wireless devices on a family plan may want to do the math before signing up with Comcast. Unlike other wireless carriers, Comcast does not offer a discount for additional lines. For most, the price will be $65 a month for each line. For an account with four lines, that would amount to $260 a month — $75 more than what AT&T charges for a similar four-line plan.

Comcast may also attract some interest from light users or those with devices like tablets. Comcast’s $12/GB data plan has no limits or minimum charges. If a customer doesn’t use the plan, there are no charges. If a customer on this plan approaches 4GB of usage in a billing cycle, they can upgrade to Xfinity’s unlimited wireless plan ($45-65) mid-month and then use up to 20GB of data with no extra charges or speed throttles. Customers can put some devices on an unlimited plan and others on a pay-as-you-go plan on the same account.

Early adopters ready to sign up when the service launches this May or June will need to buy new devices from Comcast. The company will sell current generation Apple iPhones, Samsung Galaxy smartphones, and a budget option from LG Electronics. Customers can pay for devices upfront or receive interest-free financing.

Comcast’s interest in entering the wireless business represents the latest effort to keep customers locked into Comcast’s suite of products and services. The more services a customer bundles with Comcast, the more disruptive it will be to switch to another provider.

“The economics really work,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in January. “The goal of the business is to have better bundling with some of our customers who want to save on some of their bill and get a world-class product.”

Because Comcast will rely entirely on Verizon Wireless to provide cellular connectivity, the cost of getting into the mobile business is relatively low. Comcast struck a deal with Verizon several years ago giving the cable company “perpetual” access to Verizon Wireless, as well as any upgrades Verizon makes to its network in the future. However, Verizon still has the right to raise prices on Comcast, potentially slowing or stopping Xfinity Wireless from ever growing large enough to threaten Verizon’s profits.

Charter Communications is planning to introduce a similar wireless product in 2018.

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Recent Comments:

  • Required: It's hard to believe people who just need entry level internet access are willing to pay $65/mo for that, alone. No wonder so many customers are fleei...
  • FredH: I keep hearing that (about trying to eliminate the 7 year no-data-cap requirement) and wonder how it's even possible. I hope the NYS AG will get invo...
  • John: It might be a problem with a person with disablities tries to pay and they charge them....
  • John: Well, time for everyone to start paying them by snail mail, then....
  • Mike D.: And for those who are planning to "cut the cord" after a promotion expires, be aware that Charter is lobbying the new administration and FCC chairman ...
  • Dylan: Huh, that's interesting regarding that Spectrum only saves 3/10 of its customers. Maybe there is something going on. And regarding my own promotion -...
  • Phillip Dampier: You were not on a promotion before which is why you got one this time. One year from now when your bill spikes and you call and complain, they will te...
  • Dylan: It's not that hard to get new customer pricing from Spectrum. I used to be a TWC customer paying $65/mo for 50 Mbps down internet. Once Spectrum came...
  • NM: Phillip, You may be interested in today's online story in Syracuse.com about what Spectrum's customers in CNY think about the merged company: http://...
  • Jim J: Dial tone is dial tone....
  • Julia: Even in life after TWC, if customer complaints remain the same or if a customer service rep claimed to have fixed a problem, but really didn't, you ca...
  • DPNY: As soon as Spectrum took over, my bill went up (a couple of dollars, but still)! I pay almost $250 a month as it is now for the package! I can think...

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