Cablevision rolls out super-fast Internet access

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cablevision Systems Corp plans to roll out super-fast Internet access connections that can allow a customer to download a full-length high-definition movie in less than 10 minutes.

People attend a workshop on the first day of the 18th World Wide Web Conference in Madrid April 20, 2009. REUTERS/Susana Vera

The New York-based cable operator said on Tuesday it is also doubling the speed of its Wi-Fi wireless Internet service -- free for subscribers -- as it steps up its offerings to counter the competitive threat of Verizon Communications’ FiOS service.

Cablevision customers will pay nearly $100 a month to use the new high-speed Internet service, which will deliver download speeds of up to 101 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 15 megabits per second. Such speeds can enable the download of up to 750 digital photos or 150 songs in one minute.

The company plans to roll out the service across its entire market starting May 11. Currently Cablevision offers download speeds of 15 megabits per second for $45 to $50 a month.

It remains to be seen how much customer demand there is for new super-fast Internet access, which cable companies charge premium prices for. Comcast Corp charges up to $139 a month for its 50 megabit Wideband service in certain markets, for instance.

“Right now the real demand for 50 to 100 megabits is pretty limited,” said Todd Mitchell, analyst at Kaufman Bros. “But over the next two to three years, the number of video applications we all use will grow exponentially so it will become a necessary level of service.”

Cablevision will be the first of the major U.S. cable operators to roll out new super-fast speeds to its entire network using a new cable technology called DOCSIS 3.0. Other cable operators like Comcast and Charter Communications started trying out the super-fast access speed in some of their regions last year.

The cable companies are increasing access speeds in response to the launch of advanced digital services from phone companies Verizon and AT&T Inc, and also encouraged by the popularity of Web video services like Google Inc’s YouTube and Hulu, a venture of News Corp and NBC Universal.

Faster speeds will make it easier to watch video programing over the Web, but there are industry concerns that they might also make it easier for customers to ‘cut the cord’ of traditional cable TV subscriptions.

“The cable operators are trying to walk a fine line,” said Craig Moffett, analyst at Sanford Bernstein.

Moffett said the challenge for the operators is how to preserve their current technology and speed advantage over phone companies without harming their core video offering.

“They don’t want to provide so much bandwidth that they foster the means to bypass their core service,” he said.

Cablevision is also doubling the speed of its wireless Internet access to 3.0 megabits per second using Wi-Fi technology. The company offers the service for free to Cablevision subscribers using their laptops and other mobile devices around certain locations in its local area.

Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Richard Chang