Videotron vows wideband service before year-end

With only eight and a half weeks to go in the year, Quebec cable operator Videotron is vowing to keep the promise it made 11 months ago to deliver super high-speed Internet service.

However, how fast it will be, how much it will cost and where in Quebec it will be offered is still under wraps. “We said that we will launch service in 2007, and we’ll respect that commitment,” Isabelle Dessureault, the company’s vice-president of corporate affairs said in an interview.

In February, Videotron said it was testing Cisco Systems’ Wideband solution with the goal of getting speeds of up to 100Mbps. That’s five times faster than its 20Mpbs Extreme Plus high speed service and arch rival Bell Canada’s 16Mbps Total Internet Max service.

The test among some 150 Montreal-area users “has been very positive,” Dessureault said. But whether the new service will actually offer 100Mbps isn’t clear. In addition to testing the strain on Videotron’s backbone, the test also tried find out if home users want that amount of speed or something in between 20 and 100Mbps, and how much more they’re willing to pay. The cableco charges $79.95 a month for its current fastest offering.

There are some 900,000 Videotron Internet subscribers. Dessureault wouldn’t say how many are taking the Extreme Plus offering. By comparison Bell charges $99.95 a month for its slower product. Rogers Communications charges $99.95 for its 18Mbps Extreme Plus home service.

When Videotron goes ahead with its service it will bring this country close to the leaders in the world in terms of speed. According to the most recent statistics from the 30-country Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development, the fastest average advertised download speeds are in Japan (93 Mbps), France (44 Mbps), Korea (43 Mbps) and Sweden (21 Mbps). Japan has the fastest residential download speed available among OECD members at 1 Gbps.

One hundred megabits per second “blows the door off anything” any other Canadian provider offers, said Mark Tauschek, a telecommunications analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research. While he suspects Rogers will up its speed in the not too distant future, “I’m not aware of anybody testing going on that would get anybody close to what Videotron’s doing.”

However, he doubts Videotron’s new service will go as high as 100Mbps. Although he has no scientific research to show how fast a connection residential users want, he looks in the mirror and makes a guess.

“I’m a little bit of a geek,” he said. “If (his current provider) said you could have 100Mps and its going to cost you double what you’re paying now, I wouldn’t do it, and normally I’d be the first person to jump on more speed.

“I don’t think the average person is going to dish out considerably more than they’re paying now.” He guesses Videotron will start at about 40 or 50Mpbs, or double its current fastest speed.

“I think it would be overkill to go to 100Mbps right away,” he said.

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