Two MSOs. Two announcements. Two technologies. Two places on the cable industry’s business services spectrum.

Comcast announced that it has enabled greater speeds for small to medium-sized business (SMB) customers throughout the country, using its patent-pending PowerBoost technology. Meanwhile, Cox Business announced that it has become MEF-14 compliant.

Both are continuous developments. Comcast’s PowerBoost for business, which can increase throughputs to 16 Mbps downstream and 2 Mbps upstream (from 8 Mbps down/1 Mbps up) parallels a doubling of speeds that the MSO began enabling to residential customers in 2006.

This tweak to cable’s DOCSIS platform aims to enable to a temporary burst of speed, but that apparently hasn’t always been the case. High-speed data users who post on have noted that when initially deployed both at Comcast, and then (through licensing) to Cox and Shaw, PowerBoost got stuck, enabling what they called a "Permaboost." (See "Shaw Users Seeing ‘PermaBoost.’")

Apart from providing these bursts of throughput, Comcast began offering SMBs last November a suite of Microsoft-based email, calendaring and document-sharing tools.

Business services are a fraction of total revenue (not meriting a mention in Yahoo Finance’s report on today’s earnings call), but Comcast has shown more focus on the business services market since hiring Bill Stemper as president of Comcast Business Services in August 2006. He keynoted an SCTE symposium in Atlanta last fall, noting then that the total spend of SMB customers in the Comcast footprint was around $20 billion. (Click here for related video, and here for written excerpts.) Ethernet and QoS As for Cox, which has been serving businesses for more than 10 years, it’s continuing along a Metro Ethernet roadmap that began with MEF-9 certification last June.

The beauty of Ethernet is its speed, cost and flexibility. By original nature, however, it’s not as conducive to QoS as SONET and ATM. Establishing the presence of appropriate QoS hooks is what’s involved with the MEF-14 certification.

Cox Business is ranked fourth among U.S. Ethernet providers, according to a Vertical Systems Group report released last summer, behind AT&T, Verizon Business and Time Warner Telecom. The Optimum Lightpath division of Cablevision is also a strong proponent of this technology. (See this report on Optimum’s use of Ethernet in the Data Center market.)

Metro Ethernet is aimed at high-end data customers. An example included in the Cox release this week was a private IP network aimed at the heathcare industry in Hampton Roads, VA, where connectivity was engineered "to exceed MEF specifications."

Certification of MEF compliance is conducted by the test firm iometrics.

– Jonathan Tombes Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at

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