AT&T Preps For Google Fiber Showdown in Austin

All-Fiber ‘GigaPower’ U-verse Service To Start at 300 Mbps, Ramp to 1-Gig By Mid-2014

With Google Fiber’s 1-Gig network deployment looming, AT&T has outlined its plans to match up in Austin, Texas, with an all-fiber platform that will eventually hit 1 Gbps speeds.

AT&T, which announced in April it would move ahead with 1-Gig upgrade in the market so long as it could secure the kind of sweetheart deal that Google Fiber got with the city, announced Tuesday that it would start to offer a fiber-fed, symmetrical 300 Mbps “U-verse GigaPower” Internet service this December, with plans to extend that to 1 Gbps by mid-2014. Customers who sign up for the 300-Meg tier will be upgraded to the faster service at no extra cost when it becomes available, AT&T said, adding that it also plans to tack on unspecified “advanced TV services and features” to U-verse TV in December.

The company said the initial rollout of GigaPower initially will reach “tens of thousands of customer locations throughout Austin and the surrounding areas this year, with additional local expansion planned in 2014 to reach even more businesses.”

Taking a page from the Google Fiber playbook, AT&T will target deployments based on customer demand. The telco is urging consumers and business owners to cast their vote at a web site dedicated to the Austin rollout. AT&T said results will influence which neighborhoods get the GigaPower service down the road.

AT&T also announced that Dahna Hull has been tapped to lead the GigaPower initiative under the newly created role of VP and general manager, Austin, AT&T Services Inc. According to Hull’s LinkedIn profile, she had been serving as VP/GM of South Texas for AT&T Mobility.

The upgrade will give AT&T a fiber-based weapon to wield against Google Fiber in Austin, and could set the stage for similar upgrades where the telco is facing similar competition from Google Fiber and other ISPs.

Google Fiber, following its agreement with the city in April, plans to start connecting homes to its 1-Gig network in Austin by mid-2014. Google Fiber will also face off in Austin with incumbent cable operator Time Warner Cable. Google Fiber has already begun to connect homes to its Kansas City-area fiber network, where it also competes with TWC and AT&T. Google Fiber is expected to launch 1-Gig services on the recently purchased iProvo network in Utah starting sometime in October, where it will compete with Comcast and CenturyLink.  

Google has long held that it is in the 1-Gig business to make money, but industry observers likewise believe the company's fiber network rollout strategy also aims to spur other ISPs into accelerating their Internet speed upgrades.

"With our all-fiber U-verse services, we are building the foundation for a new wave of innovation for Austin's consumers, businesses, and civic and educational institutions,” said AT&T Texas president Dave Nicols, in a release. “It's about engaging the full community and empowering the city and its people with all that technology can offer us. This investment will help attract new business and new jobs to Austin."