There’s a good chance you’ve come across advertising for Comcast’s “new Xfinity 10G network” at this point and wondered what exactly “10G” means. You’re certainly not alone. Here’s what you need to know.
“10G” Has No Relationship to 5G Cellular Technology
Comcast’s marketing term “10G” has nothing to do with cellular technology generations. Comcast is simply co-opting the number-before-a-G designation used in the cellular world to create a sense that whatever Comcast is offering is many times better than everything else on the market.
But as of 2023, we’re still firmly living in a 5G world. In fact, portions of North America are still on 4G networks despite the significant strides providers have made in rolling out 5G network deployments. And 6G? We’ll be waiting on that for quite a while.
The next generation of cellular technology is still deeply in the testing and development phase. It will be 2023 before 6G is available, and most people will wait until the 2030s to get 6G coverage outside of major cities.
Comcast does provide cellular service through Xfinity Mobile. But Xfinity Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNA), and when you use it, you’re using Verizon’s cellular network. So no 6G, and certainly no 10G there. Xfinity Mobile is plain old 5G with 4G as a fallback.
Comcast’s Ad Copy Is Needlessly Vague
If the Xfinity 10G network has nothing to do with cellular technology, what exactly is it? Good luck figuring that out by watching an Xfinity ad or reading any ad copy. On the official Xfinity splash page, the answer to “What is the Xfinity 10G Network?” is:
The Xfinity 10G Network is the new brand for our next-generation network. The Xfinity 10G Network delivers a powerful connection to our customers that will continue to get smarter, faster, more reliable, and secure. It is the network that our customers use today and the network that will power their connectivity experience in the future.
The rest of the information is just as vague as to what exactly a 10G network is. How do you get on the 10G network, according to Comcast? You’re already on it! Do you need new equipment? Nope! Have the basic “Internet Essentials” Xfinity package and want access to 10G? Don’t worry about it, you’re already using it!
So if you’ve watched the commercials, visited the website, and you still have no idea what Xfinity 10G is other than a vague sense that it must be better somehow, you’re certainly not alone. Why don’t we peel back the layers of the marketing onion and see what’s really there.
Here’s What Xfinity 10G Really Is
The air cleared about 10G’s nonexistent relationship to cellular technology and the vague ad copy, so let’s see what the “Xfinity 10G Network” really is under the hood. Here’s what the “10G” is behind the scenes and how it relates to you, a current or potential Comcast customer.
All cable-based internet service providers (ISPs) use the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) standard modems and have a final mile delivery system compliant with that standard. Why does this matter? Because the limitations of any given generation of DOCSIS and the improvements introduced by its successor govern how fast a cable connection can be, whether or not it can support symmetrical speeds, and so on.
DOCSIS 3.0 was introduced in 2006 and remained the dominant DOCSIS version for years (even after DOCSIS 3.1 was introduced in 2013). You can read more in-depth about the differences between DOCSIS 3.0 and DOCSIS 3.1, but the most important difference is overall speed and symmetry.
DOCSIS 3.0 can support a theoretical maximum download bandwidth of 1 Gbps and an upload of 200 Mbps. Though under real-world conditions, this is limited to around 800 Mbps and 100 Mbps, respectively.
DOCSIS 3.1 can support a theoretical maximum download of 10 Gbps and an upload of 1.5 Gbps. Although not yet rolled out in early 2023, DOCSIS 4.0 is just around the corner. It builds on the improvements of DOCSIS 3.1, retaining the 10 Gbps maximum download speed and increasing the theoretical maximum upload speed to 6 Gbps.
If that 10 Gbps part stands out to you in the context of this discussion, you know where we’re going. The 10 in “Xfinity 10G Network” isn’t a generational notation but a reference to the maximum theoretical bandwidth of a modern cable network.
As of 2018, Comcast had entirely upgraded to DOCSIS 3.1 (and is in the process of upgrading its network to DOCSIS 4.0). As of early 2023, the company has conducted field trials of DOCSIS 4.0 with a goal of rolling out DOCSIS 4.0 to millions of customers by the end of 2023 and all of its customers by 2025.
When Comcast’s ad copy says that everyone is on the new and improved 10G network, what it’s really saying is that Comcast is continually upgrading their network to meet the demands of the upcoming DOCSIS 4.0 standard rollout.
As of early 2023, however, most customers not part of small DOCSIS 4.0 field trials are limited to the Xfinity “Gigabit Extra” plan, which offers 1.2 Gbps down/35 Mbps up, with the “Gigabit x2” 2 Gbps/100 Mbps plan available in select markets.
When Comcast rolls out DOCSIS 4.0 beyond their field trials, customers will have the option to upgrade to even higher speeds. While there isn’t a set package and price list for DOCSIS 4.0-based plans yet, the results from the field trials indicate that symmetric fiber-like speeds like 2 Gbps / 2 Gbps and 4 Gbps / 4 Gbps are possible—speeds that will easily make Comcast the fastest ISP in many areas.
So while the whole concept of “10G” is a silly marketing idea to make you think whatever Comcast is cooking up is two-times better than 5G cellular, there really is a massive network upgrade underway and a DOCSIS 4.0 future where cable subscribers can finally have a screaming fast upload like their fiber-subscriber friends.
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