New Details on Comcast Upstream Channel Bonding

Mari Silbey —  June 16, 2011

Word surfaced this week over on DSLReports that some Comcast subscribers are starting to see evidence of upstream channel bonding trials. Just like in the downstream, upstream bonding promises faster Internet speeds, this time for users who are uploading content online rather than downloading. (Think photo/video sharing and data back-ups.) After doing some investigating on my own, I dug out a few more details on the latest deployments. Here’s what I learned on the Comcast grapevine.

Comcast is aiming to bond four channels for better upstream speeds, but trials at the moment range from two, to three, to four channels bonded depending on network conditions. In theory, each extra channel increases throughput proportionally, so two bonded channels give roughly twice the throughput of one, three give roughly three times the throughput, etc., etc. According to what I’ve heard, Comcast is trying to deploy upstream channel bonding in as many places as it can in an effort to stay competitive over the next twelve months. The cable operator is planning to increase its standard upstream speeds from the 2-5 Mbps range today, to a range of 10-15 Mbps in the next year. Naturally, capacity is an issue as Comcast is also spending its bandwidth wealth on things like HD and VOD content. The MSO is going to have to do a lot of bandwidth balancing going forward.

According to DSLReports, users in Comcast trial areas today aren’t seeing significant speed increases in the upstream yet, but they are seeing more consistent speeds.

On a related note, Comcast is also demoing a 1 Gbps downstream connection out in Chicago at The Cable Show this week. Not that we’ll see that kind of speed from most of our home broadband connections any time soon, but at least Comcast can keep up with Google on the marketing front. It’s a flashback to the downstream speed wars of 2009.

9 responses to New Details on Comcast Upstream Channel Bonding

  1. I’m on Cablevision Optimum. I subscribe to Boost Plus 50/8. They also have a 101/15 plan. How come tiny Cablevision can do things so far ahead of giant Comcast? Perhaps big ISPs (not that Cablevision is small) should be broken up to better serve their customers.

  2. Comcast already has 50/10 and 105/20 plans.

    I’m currently on the 25/4 plan, but see sustained speeds up to 27/5 (boosted speeds up to 37/7).

  3. Richard- Comcast can do it, but they have to decide where to spend their resources. Cablevision may have chosen faster speeds over adding more VOD content.

    Morac- Sorry, should have clarified the speeds are a reference to standard Comcast tiers, not Extreme. Updated above.

  4. Scott G. Lewis June 16, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Isn’t there a disconnect between ever faster speeds and ever constant 250gb monthly limits? As sites start streaming 1080p video (heck, VUDU carries some 3D titles now, even), it’s going to boil over soon!

    For me, I am ready to switch to Comcast, as I’ve fed up with AT&T’s 6 down / 512 up service, but for now, they are “unable to measure my usage” and as such I’m not yet subject to a usage cap, so I’m staying.

    Unless my math is wrong, it’d be impossible watch a 1080p movie a day with today’s caps.

  5. @Richard is Cablevision even a publicly traded company? I know Comcast is, so everything they do is under strict scrutiny from it’s shareholders.

    Wow so Comcasts 105 service now has 20mbps upload? Cool. When I had 105, the upload was only 10mbps. Though they had RF upstreams at 22MHz and 29MHz, they weren’t bonded then… It was one or the other.

  6. @Scott: 720p movies are 5-6Mbps on the various services (Apple TV, XBox). So a 2-hr movie would use about 5GB. Allowing you to watch about 50 such movies (assuming you do nothing else) per month.

    I’m not sure what the average bandwidth is for XBox or Vudu 1080p. XBox uses smooth streaming so it’ll be whatever bandwidth you support, but for the sake of this conversation lets assume the highest/best quality stream is viable. Its certainly under 10Mbps since that’s the limit for the XBox. At 10Mbps a 2 hour movie would use 9GB, so a 250GB cap would be good for 27 movies, again assuming you do nothing else. I suspect you can deliver very good 1080p/24 content at 8Mbps or so (not Blu-Ray quality, but as good as cable HD) so that would be borderline. Presumably if you do anything else at all with your internet connection you’d hit the wall.

  7. Scott G. Lewis June 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I’ll go with 5 gb per movie. Now my 4 yo falls asleep every night with a movie on. Sometimes locally streamed, sometimes via Netflix. Let’s say half the month it’s from Netflix. There’s 75 gigabytes right there, or half my AT&T cap, or almost one third a Comcast cap. I think once my 18 month old gets a bit older, I might be looking at another 75 gigabytes. :)

    I have an subscription, and watch probably 2-3 games a week. Let’s say they are lower quality streams, it’s still high def, and still probably 5 GB, since while lower bandwidth, they are 50% longer (3 hours). That’s another 10 to 15 GB a week.

    I’m okay with caps, but I really don’t see 250 GB being feasible a year from now, or possibly even 6 months from now.

    I’m not sure which side of Net Neutrality I sit on sometimes, but to me, if Netflix OPTIONALLY charged a buck or two more a month, but shared revenue with my ISP, and that traffic did not count against my cap, I’d be in favor of that OPTIONAL idea, and would pay for it.

  8. @Scott,

    I assume that’s what that TW exec was thinking when they mentioned how they’d be ‘happy’ to partner with netflix to allow netflix to run on their STBs. What I assume she meant was they’d be happy to allow it assuming netflix shared the revenue with them…

    I know TW was looking at putting in seriously drastic caps of 40GB/80GB or something when they started making noise about it a year ago or so, before the market slapped them down. Not sure what their caps are now. Anybody know? I’m pretty sure that Comcasts are the largest (ignoring Verizon of course which doesn’t have any).

  9. On 22/10 but seeing 22/35 this month. Very nice:) Hope it lasts.