Comcast HD VOD Counting on DOCSIS 3.0

When Comcast CEO Brian Roberts recently announced at CES that the cable giant plans to take on its satellite rivals over who can provide the most HD channels the fastest, he mentioned that Comcast hopes to have at least 3,000 motion pictures encoded for HD VOD by about this time next year.

To pull off that VOD feat, and expand it as quickly as possible, Comcast said plans to use DOCSIS 3.0 (Data over Cable Service Interface Specification), a relatively new wideband technology that, in effect, ties together up to four regular channels in order to produce online speeds of up to 160 Mbps. (By comparison, most Comcast subscribers now have close to 6 Mbps speeds.) Initial speeds likely will start closer to 100 Mbps.

During his CES Demo in Las Vegas, Roberts downloaded an HD version of the movie “Batman Begins” using DOCSIS 3.0, which observers said took less than five minutes. Most SD-quality titles could be downloaded in less than two minutes, Comcast said.

If, indeed, DOCSIS-capable HD/SD streaming does takes off for Comcast and others, what this might portend for the mortar-store Blockbusters, next-gen disc Blu-rays, and disc-mailer Netflixes of the world is yet to be seen. (Netflix, for its part, is expanding its streaming services. See related item in this edition.)

Comcast currently is providing free HD equipment to its subs for one year when they also sign up for its digital voice and broadband services.