The battle for SMBs gets a 100-meg player

Comcast is avoiding the war of words over 100 Megabit per second service by launching its new offering in the SMB space, not the consumer market. Earlier this year, when Cablevision announced a 101 Mb/s service, it came under immediate fire from Verizon, which insisted such a service was impractical on a hybrid fiber-coax network, since 101-Meg customers would be eating up the bandwidth shared by an entire neighborhood. For its part, Verizon has been deploying 100 Meg-capable home equipment for years now, but admitting the applications are not yet there for that kind of bandwidth.

The Comcast service, currently only available in the Twin Cities area, costs $369.95 a month, which may limit its appeal to some SMBs as well, especially when you consider that the upstream bandwidth is only 15 Mb/s. A bandwidth-hungry small business, such as a media firm or doctor’s office with large image files, is likely to need upstream as well as downstream bandwidth.

But with Comcast’s push into the SMB space, being able to claim a 100-Meg service is not too shabby. We’ve already begun to see the marketing hype increase for these customers, who at the end of the day often are more lucrative and loyal than residential triple-play customers. Telecom service providers repeatedly tell me they haven’t yet seen the cable inroads into their SMB customer base. That may be the result of SMB concerns that cable won’t be any better at providing customer service that meets their needs than large telecom players often has been.

Cable has made it clear that the business market is not a passing fancy, however, and this is just one more indication of the serious competition ahead. Incumbent telcos would be wise to look closely at how well they are meeting SMB needs and CLECs targeting SMBs should also be wary of cable inroads. This is not a customer base that should be taken for granted. Efforts such as the one by Verizon Business to bring its Verizon Enterprise Center self-help portal to SMBs and now Comcast’s 100 Meg push are upping the ante for everyone.

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