Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) Chief Executive Brian Roberts dazzled a cable industry audience Tuesday, showing off for the first time in public new technology that enabled a data download speed of 150 megabits per second, or roughly 25 times faster than today's standard cable modems.
The cost of modems that would support the technology, called "channel bonding," is "not that dissimilar to modems today," he told The Associated Press after a demonstration at The Cable Show. It could be available "within less than a couple years," he said.
The new cable technology is crucial because the industry is competing with a speedy new offering called FiOS, a TV and Internet service that Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) is selling over a new fiber-optic network.
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The top speed currently available through FiOS is 50 megabits per second, but the network is already capable of providing 100 Mbps and the fiber lines offer nearly unlimited potential.
The 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 said last month it expected manufacturers to begin submitting modems for certification under the standard by the end of the year.
In the presentation, ARRIS Group Inc. chief executive Robert Stanzione downloaded a 30-second, 300-megabyte television commercial in a few seconds and watched it long before a standard modem worked through an estimated download time of 16 minutes.
Stanzione also downloaded the 32-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007 and Merriam-Webster's visual dictionary in under four minutes, when it would have taken a standard modem three hours and 12 minutes.
"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."
Other cable industry executives, including Time Warner Inc. (TWX) Chief Executive Richard Parsons, News Corp. (NWS) President Peter Chernin and Viacom Inc. (VIA) Chief Executive Philippe Dauman, cheered the demonstration during a panel afterward.
Brian Dietz, spokesman for the conference host, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said the demonstration was the key technological advance showcased at the conference.
"It's an exponential step forward and we're very excited," Roberts said. "What consumers actually do with all this speed is up to the imagination of the entrepreneurs of tomorrow."