Already a competitive threat to Comcast in the area of business services in Detroit, upstart local operator Rocket Fiber is looking to take the battle into the residential realm.
The company told Crain’s Detroit Business that it is testing a residential pay-TV service with a limited number of customers, and could have it launched by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, interviewed for the same article, Comcast regulatory chief David L. Cohen predicted Rocket Fiber would struggle to secure a beachhead in the residential market.
"I think that Rocket Fiber, like everyone else, will find that it's very difficult, very expensive, with much more questionable returns, to build out their plant, to be able to reach every household in the city of Detroit and compete household-to-household for residential broadband services," Cohen said.
Comcast is already competing for Detroit residential business with AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse platforms, as well as Dish Network.
But the rivalry between the No. 1 cable company and Rocket Fiber is intense in Detroit’s revitalized downtown sector, with the two companies competing for marketshare in high-rise offices and multi-dwelling units.
"Rocket Fiber so far has had more of an impact, maybe its only impact, in the business services sector and in MDUs (multiple dwelling units)," Cohen said. "And I'm not saying this to be judgmental, it's just a factual statement. Like many competitors in other cities, they're sort of going after the easy cream of the crop.”
Rocket Fiber CEO Marc Hudson responded that his company isn’t just serving the largest enterprise clients and that his customers prefer fiber over copper.
"Enterprise clients, in particular, usually require fiber optic infrastructure and don't consider older, slower technologies like coax cable networks to meet their current, let alone future needs," Hudson told Crain's. "Many of our clients cite the inconsistent speeds and frequent outages of their legacy copper service as reasons for switching to Rocket Fiber."