Qwest last week took aim at what it perceives to be cable’s weak spot: the upstream.

The tier 1 telco unveiled higher Internet speeds in some of its coverage areas, using second generation very high bitrate digital subscriber line (VDSL2) broadband technology. The company is offering two new options: 40 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream for $109.99 per month and 40 Mbps downstream/5 Mbps upstream for $99.99 per month. Both options require the customer to bundle a home phone package.

The higher speeds are only possible in areas where Qwest has upgraded its plant to fiber, including Denver, Tucson, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Qwest, whose coverage area includes 14 states in the Midwest and West, competes with Comcast in several markets. Comcast is engaged in an aggressive deployment of DOCSIS 3.0 wideband over 65 percent of its footprint by the year’s end. Comcast’s highest tier, Extreme 50 offers 50 Mbps downstream, and 5 Mbps upstream. (For more, click here.)

Qwest is touting its upload speeds as a differentiator to cable.

"Faster download speeds are important, but upload speeds are getting more attention," said Neil Cox, EVP of Qwest product and IT, in a prepared statement. "By increasing connection speeds in both directions, Qwest is poised to support user-generated content and simultaneous high-bandwidth applications like multiple online video streams and downloads."

Motorola also sees upstream speeds as a weakness of cable on the competitive front. Motorola is working to optimize RF performance and data  throughput in the upstream and plans to announce some related technology at October’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, said Floyd Wagoner, director of marketing and communications, Motorola Access Networks.

"The RF upstream is a much more hostile, noisy environment to deliver services," said Wagoner. Motorola is working to simultaneously deploy (within DOCSIS environments) synchronous code division multiple access (S-CDMA) and advanced time division multiple access (A-TDMA) to deal with noise in the spectrum below 15 MHz.

"Before channel bonding (DOCSIS 3.0), we have to clean up the spectrum," said Wagoner. "S-CDMA is a noise cancellation technology."

VDSL2

While cable contends with its upstream challenges, telcos such as Qwest must deal with their copper challenges.

Some telcos, notably Verizon, are rolling out fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP), but Qwest’s fiber deployment is primarily fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) except in select, new neighborhoods.

"VDSL2 is really the next version of fiber-to-the-node," said Travis Leo, Qwest’s product director of high-speed Internet product management. "Qwest set a goal of passing three million homes with that technology by the end of this year."

One commentator to a related LightReading story recently questioned whether Qwest’s VDSL2 technology can really deliver the promised upstream speeds because chipsets that support the 30a profile for up to 100 Mbps of symmetric throughput over existing copper plant must be placed much closer to the home than the typical 4,000-4,500 feet maximum copper loop length. (For more, click here.)

Optimal performance of VDSL2 is commonly understood to begin deteriorating at around 300 to 400 meters.

—Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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