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AT&T Brings Dallas ‘GigaPower’ In Merger-Fueled Fiber Frenzy

AT&T U-verse is pullling out the big guns.

After launching a 1-Gigabit- per-second-capable “U-verse With GigaPower” broadband service in pockets of Austin, Texas, late last year, the telco now has set plans to launch the service in Dallas this summer, with an expectation that other communities will get it as well.

The upgrades are fueled by the proposed merger of cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

“In light of a new competitor … we are going to be a little more aggressive and assertive in deploying that technology around the country,” Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO, said last Thursday (March 6) at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco.

The Comcast-TWC deal “is an industry-redefining deal from our standpoint,” Stephenson added.

AT&T’s new plans for Dallas will amp up competition with Time Warner Cable, the market’s incumbent cable operator. TWC currently offers a 75-Mbps residential DOCSIS 3.0 service in the Big D, along with a fiber-fed business service that offers multi-Gigabit speeds. It is also progressing with “TWC Maxx” all-digital upgrades that will include a new 300-Mbps residential broadband tier.

But AT&T’s more-aggressive stance on its targeted fiberto- the-premises deployment plans isn’t just due to the giant cable transaction on the horizon.

AT&T is considering expansion because it likes the results it is getting with its initial GigaPower deployment in Austin, where it started off with a symmetrical 300-Mbps service that will be upgraded to 1 Gbps by mid-2014, about the time that Google Fiber is expected to begin connecting homes to its 1-Gbps network in the market. Grande Communications launched its 1-Gbps service in speed-happy Austin last month.

AT&T will generally direct more of its “Project Velocity IP” investments to fiber-tothe- home deployment, Stephenson said, referring to a three-year capex investment that covers its Long Term Evolution deployments, U-verse speed upgrades and the expansion of its U-verse footprint by an additional 8.5 million customer locations (it launched U-verse in Augusta, Ga., this week). This year represents a “peak year” for the project, the AT&T exec said.

Like Google Fiber’s build-out approach, AT&T GigaPower is offering access on a demand-driven basis, asking residents to influence the selection of the fiber upgrades by voting on the Web. AT&T has not disclosed how many customers are on GigaPower, but has said the service is currently available to “tens of thousands” of homes.

“The cost dynamics to this deployment [in Austin] have been really, really encouraging,” Stephenson said. “We are so encouraged that we want to begin taking this to other communities … [where] we can get the terms and conditions like we have in Austin.”

TAKEAWAY

Spurred by the pending Comcast-TWC merger, AT&T is ramping up its GigaPower fiber deployments in Texas.