Comcast cites $200 cost per passing for mid-split, DOCSIS 4.0 upgrades

Comcast is working toward the rollout of symmetrical multi-gig services next year as part of a bid to keep up with fiber rivals, but it looks like it’ll be able to achieve its goal with a significantly lower cost per passing. Speaking during an investor conference on Tuesday, Comcast Cable’s Chief Network Officer Elad Nafshi pegged the figure at under $200.

Nafshi explained that number reflects the cost per passing on a gross basis to upgrade the network to a mid-split architecture and lay the foundation for future upgrades to DOCSIS 4.0. He added the cost isn’t entirely incremental either, since in many cases the operator would need to invest in capacity augmentations anyway. Beyond that, though, he declined to provide a breakdown of how the money would be spent.

For comparison, Altice USA has cited a $500 cost per passing (not including the drop) for its fiber build, while Frontier Communications and WideOpenWest have put their cost per passing at around $1,000. Shenandoah Telecommunications (Shentel) has estimated its cost per passing at $1,000 to $1,400, though its worth noting the operator serves more rural-leaning areas.

Comcast has already begun rolling out mid-split upgrades and is working toward the launch of DOCSIS 4.0 and symmetrical multi-gig service in the second half of 2023. Nafshi said early learnings from its mid-split rollout are focused on how to operationalize the new network technology to overcome external network disruptions, for instance from interference caused by TV antennas and cellular towers. The idea, he said, is to build a network that can automatically detect and self-correct in real time to mitigate such issues. Figuring out how to do that at scale to maximize both speed and reliability is part of the process, he added.

Its next step forward will be into DOCSIS 4.0. Unlike many of its peers, Comcast has chosen to pursue full duplex (FDX) DOCSIS 4.0 over the extended spectrum (ESD) variant. Nafshi noted that its decision was primarily focused on speed of upgradability.

“In order to expand the network all the way up to 1.8 GHz, you need to go out to the network and find every splitter, every cable, every device that connects to the home that is not currently capable of passing 1.8 GHz of signal. With FDX you don’t need to do any of that. All you need is a software download to a virtualized architecture, a new generation of FDX electronics in our nodes and amplifiers and we’re ready to go,” he concluded.

In September, Comcast hit a critical milestone on its DOCSIS 4.0 journey, demonstrating a new FDX amplifier functioning in a node+6 environment. At the time, Nafshi said this setup means the new amps will be able to easily slot in to the vast majority of its network without the need for additional changes.