With cable, telco and Google Fiber
all gearing up for the launch of their ultra-fast broadband services, 2014 is likely to be the
year of gigabit speeds. AT&T U-Verse
has thrown its hat in the ring, with some pretty ambitious plans.
The telco is going head-to-head with Google in Austin as it looks to start offering an all-fiber, symmetrical 300 Mbps "U-Verse GigaPower" Internet service in Dec that will eventually hit 1 Gbps speeds in mid-'14. "Austin is the first but not the last. We plan to offer this advanced service in other markets, where there is high customer demand, where it makes sense for our shareholders, and where we can compete on equal terms with our competitors in a regulatory environment that promotes such investment," said Bob Bickerstaff, AT&T's vp of data product mgmt. He declined to detail other potential markets.
Exactly who needs that much bandwidth? Bickerstaff expects potential customers to range from tech entrepreneurs—whose businesses depend on moving large amount of data quickly—to early-adopters "who want to download an HD movie in less than 2 minutes." Come Dec, AT&T said the GigaPower offering will feature the telco's most advanced Total Home DVR and an upgraded U-Verse TV platform with more HD, more storage and more video playback options with an extensive library of VOD programs. While no specific plans or pricing were announced, the telco is considering "special offers and service bundles," Bickerstaff said.
Cable isn't ignoring the gigabit beat either, with Time Warner Cable
looking to deploy 1G services in NC. Speed is important even when it does not hit the gigabit range. Case in point, AT&T is expanding its 45/6Mbps U-Verse Power tier to more cities to battle cable rivals' speeds of 50Mbps, 100Mbps and higher. And faster speeds could be coming, with AT&T's earnings call hinting at 75 and 100Mbps offerings in the future.
Meanwhile, AT&T continues to focus on the smart home market. Its Digital Life smart home service is already in 45 markets in 31 states and DC. The primary path is wireless, sending data over the telco's 3G network, with broadband as backup. "We are entering markets where we have wireless spectrum," which covers almost the entire country, said Kevin Petersen, svp, AT&T Digital Life. On the video side, the U-Verse approach "has always been much broader than just TV," GW Shaw, vp of U-Verse & video products said. "It's always been about delivering a seamless, integrated experience across all of your devices." So the telco is of course focusing on getting rights from content providers to offer live and on-demand content in and outside the home, he said.
It remains to be seen how it all shakes out, but in less than a year, Austin should have two 1G networks from two separate providers, not to mention more than a thousand WiFi hotspots from Time Warner Cable. Guess the saying is true—everything's bigger in TX!
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally appeared in CableFAX Daily. Go here to subscribe.