Atlantic Broadband has been feverishly deploying DOCSIS 3.1-based gigabit Internet, with at least four announcements last month alone, and five more since its declaration in the spring that it would push its reach to 90% of its serviceable homes and businesses by the end of August. The company has 875,000 serviceable homes and businesses across 11 states.
The company put its product roadmap for gigabit Internet into place more than five years ago to keep up with the exponential growth in data usage it was seeing from its residential customers and the demand for higher-capacity speeds from its small-to-medium business (SMB) customers. Its first deployment was in 2014 in the greater Miami area, followed by a launch in Connecticut in 2016. At the time of that deployment, only 4% of U.S. homes had access to gigabit speeds.
Along the way, there has been an amount of consumer education required to explain what gigabit Internet is and what it can do to benefit daily life in the home and business.
"Our focus has been coupling the obvious speed benefits of our broadband services with attributes that are equally if not even more important, including consistency of performance and reliability, which are essential for residential and business customers who depend on these services," said Heather McCallion, VP, product and programming, for Atlantic Broadband.
Gigabit deployment is an instance in which technological developments and industry innovation were a step ahead of customer demand, but they still produced an immediate and tangible benefit to the company and to consumers, even those who have not yet chosen to subscribe to the service.
"For example, the steps taken to ready the network for gigabit Internet … all mean more efficient use of available spectrum, while enhancing performance of the legacy products, even as it creates the technological environment for DOCSIS 3.1 product deployments," McCallion said.
The challenges faced throughout deployment have to do with the nature of DOCSIS 3.1.
"Bandwidth reclamation via channel realignment, the need for more physical space and power to house CMTS and related hub-based equipment, the need to enhance the backbone and transport to ensure the CMTSs have sufficient bandwidth, the need for extensive training to acclimate technicians to deploying and troubleshooting the DOCSIS 3.1 technology, even the investment in new meters and test equipment to read and monitor the 3.1 signal have been required as readiness steps for deployment," McCallion said.
Pricing for residential customers starts at $79.99 per month with a one-year price guarantee and Pro GigaEdge for Business starts at $329.99 per month for three years. Atlantic Broadband has partnered with Extreme, Cisco, Fujitsu, and Ciena to help deliver backbone throughput required to feed the Cisco CMTSs. CPE comes from both Hitron and ARRIS.
While Atlantic Broadband doesn't disclose subscriber data, McCallion did say that the gigabit product continues to experience month-to-month growth and that its gigabit subscribers have more than doubled in the last year. The company is also experiencing increased demand for higher speed Internet tiers below Gig, including for the Premier (250 Mbps) and Extreme (400 Mbps) products, which saw "extreme" growth in the last year.
"This is indicative of interest among a growing segment of customers for substantial speeds for home and business applications, and these customers will be prospects for Gig upgrades in the future," McCallion said, noting that Atlantic has a "Test Drive a Gig" promotion so that customers can trial the gigabit service.