Grande Joins 1-Gig Race In Austin

Grande Communications is joining the 1-Gig fray in Austin in the form of a fiber-fed broadband service that will sell for $64.99 per month and compete with similar projects underway by AT&T and Google Fiber.

Grande Communications said the service, to be called Power 1000, will debut on Wednesday, Feb. 18, and initially be offered to customers in parts of Belmont, Rosedale, Bryker Woods, Pemberton Heights, Tarrytown, Oakmont Heights and the Old Enfield neighborhoods in West Austin. The service provider said eligible customers can now place pre-orders for the 1-Gig offering, noting that the new service will come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Grande’s broadband cap-free Power 1000 service will be available to about a quarter of the 75,000 homes in Austin served by the company, a Grande official said. Grande has not yet decided if or when it might extend similar 1-Gig offerings in its other service areas, which include San Antonio, Dallas, San Marcos, Waco, Corpus Christi, Midland and Odessa.

“Grande, a Texas-based company, has been serving Austin for over a decade and we are proud to be the first to actually deliver the unbelievable speed of 1 Gigabit Internet service to our home market,” Grande president Matt Murphy said, in a statement.

Associated with the 1-Gig deployment, Grande said it will raise the  downstream  Internet speeds of other residential tiers in Austin starting March 4 for no additional charge. Customers with service below 15 Mbps will be upgraded to its Power 15 Mbps tier; subs on the 30 Mbit/s service will get bumped to the Power 50 Mbps service; and customers on Grande’s 65-Meg service will jump to 75 Mbps.

With Grande entering the mix, Austin is rapidly becoming a 1-Gig mecca.

AT&T recently announced it had doubled the number of homes that will have access to U-verse with GigaPower in Austin. AT&T’s new, targeted fiber-to-the-premises network, which is presently available to “tens of thousands” of customer locations in the Austin area, is starting off with symmetrical speeds of 300 Mbps, and expects to ramp up to 1 Gbps by mid-2014.

The Premiere tier of U-verse for GigaPower runs $70 per month and waives fees for equipment, installation and service activation, but does include an agreement under which subscribers agree to 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 for U-verse with GigaPower runs $99 per month, but does not include the targeted advertising component.

Google Fiber, which has launched 1-Gig and subscription video services in parts of the Kansas City area and has begun to take over and upgrade the iProvo network in Utah, is expected to start connecting homes in Austin by mid-2014.

Time Warner Cable, the incumbent cable operator in Austin, currently offers a residential DOCSIS 3.0 service that maxes out at 50 Mbps, and offers fiber-based commercial services that provide capacities up to 10 Gbps. TWC is also accelerating its deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots in Austin, recently committing to another 1,000 hotspots on top of the roughly 1,350 it has rolled out in the market so far.

More broadly, the MSO is also gearing up for a series of residential video and broadband service upgrades that will enable the MSO to offer downstream speeds of 300 Mbps. TWC will first concentrate those upgrades on New York City and Los Angeles before expanding those efforts to other markets in 2015 and 2016 as part of a three-year growth plan that the MSO announced last month. The operator has not yet said when those upgrades will be coming to the Austin area.