Comcast: Faster downloads by year's end

The U.S. cable operator says it plans to double the downloading capability of its high-speed Internet service by the end of this year to distinguish its product from competitors.

Tech Industry
Comcast, the largest U.S. cable operator, said on Monday that it planned to double the downloading capability of its high-speed Internet service by the end of this year to distinguish its product from competitors.

"Our job No. 1 is increasing speed--increasing from 1.5 megabits (per second) downstream to 3 megabits (per second) downstream," said Steve Burke, president of Comcast's cable division, at a Morgan Stanley media conference in Boston.

Burke's comments mark the first time the Philadelphia-based company has placed a time frame on the plans.

Comcast has been quietly testing such a service in several of its markets, including Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Knoxville, Tenn., since June.

"We're doing that probably for the whole company by later this year," Burke said.

The service nearly halves the time it takes to download Web pages, video and audio, a Comcast spokeswoman said. But uploading, or the ability to send data, will remain the same at 256kbps.

Comcast's anticipated speed bump from 1.5mbps to 3mbps will cut the download time for a typical 5MB music file to 17 seconds from 30 seconds, said Joe Laszlo, a senior analyst at Jupiter Research.

The company is hoping to lure more new and existing subscribers to its high-speed Internet service by ramping up speeds. As part of the these plans, it is also building a Web site that will offer video games, video clips and, eventually, the ability to communicate via video with other members.

The cable industry hopes to fend off competitive pressures from telephone companies, which slashed prices on high-speed products this spring.

Burke reaffirmed Comcast's forecasts of more than 5 million cable modem customers by the end of this year. At the end of the second quarter, it had 4.4 million broadband customers.

Story Copyright  © 2003 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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