Last week, I posed the possibility that cable providers would have to choose between providing the pipes or the water (connections or content) for the Internet. It’s too soon to know if they will have to pick one or the other, but it’s clear that Comcast definitely wants to be in the pipe business. Yesterday, the company launched its new Comcast High-Speed 2go service in Portland, Oregon. Atlanta is slated to be the next market in the nationwide rollout.
This new service is fourth generation — or “4G” — will be offered with a 4G-only card in the “Metro” package, or in a “Nationwide” version that includes a card that works with both Comcast’s 4G and Sprint’s 3G network, using the slower connection for coast-to-coast coverage when out of range of the faster connection. The 4G service provides up to 4 Mbps download speeds, nearly three times faster than the 1.4 Mbps offered by 3G service. Comcast will offer bundled wired and wireless service starting at $50 a month; existing “triple-play” customers will be able to add the wireless service to their subscription for as little as $30 more per month.
There are no signs that Comcast is planning to abandon the content delivery side of its operations, but this move to provide high-speed wireless Internet connections in major markets shows that it’s serious about the “pipe” side of the business. It has also stolen a march on its competitors that could translate into a lasting advantage. If people start to depend on the Internet more and more for their entertainment content, Comcast may be in the best position to meet the demand for mobile connections.