AT&T Lights Up Austin Fiber Network

AT&T on Wednesday launched U-verse GigaPower in Austin, Texas, offering access to an all-fiber platform that will initially offer speeds up to 300 Mbps (upstream and downstream), and ratchet up  to 1 Gbps by mid-2014.

AT&T estimated that the service is being offered initially to “tens of thousands” of eligible Austinites. The launch comes months ahead of Google Fiber, which expects to start connecting homes to its 1 Gig network by mid-2014. The rollout was expected, as AT&T predicted last month that U-verse  GigaPower would debut in Austin sometime in December.

Early on, U-verse with GigaPower will offer two tiers -- Premiere and Standard -- that both offer speeds of 300 Mbps. Premiere runs $70 per month and waives fees for equipment, installation and service activation, and, according to the tier's fine print, includes an agreement under which subscribers  participate in AT&T Internet Preferences, a targeted advertising program that "may use" the customer's Web browsing information, including search terms and visited Web pages. The Standard tier runs $99 per month, but does not factor in the targeted advertising component.

Customers who sign up for either tier will be upgraded to 1-Gig for no additional cost when those speeds come online next year, AT&T said.

AT&T said it expects to expand availability of U-verse with GigaPower beyond parts of Austin area neighborhoods such as French Place, Mueller, Zilker and Onion Creek in 2014. Taking a page from Google Fiber’s demand-based deployment approach, AT&T’s expansion plans will, in part, be influenced by how many Austin residents vote for it online.

Time Warner Cable has yet to follow suit with a 1-Gig residential broadband service in Austin, but has been accelerating its deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots there. TWC, which can deliver speeds of 1-Gig and beyond using its fiber-based platform for commercial customers, has launched a 100 Mbps residential DOCSIS 3.0 tier in Kansas City, another Google Fiber market, and Los Angeles, with New York City and Hawaii on tap for the end of the year. TWC expects to roll out the 100-Meg service to more markets in 2014, but has not said when it will roll the speed upgrade into Austin.