Texas Overbuilder Makes Grande Improvements

Texas overbuilder Grande Communications Inc. is competing in the cable-product-escalation race, adding higher data speeds, HDTV and digital-video recorders to its marketing mix.

Higher data speeds will debut first. The company -- which offers bundled services in Austin, Corpus Christi, Midland, Odessa, San Antonio, San Marcos and Waco -- will roll out a 4-megabit-per-second service Dec. 3. The new product, dubbed "Grande.NET 4000," will be priced at $99 per month.

Grande -- which competes in its market against Time Warner Cable and SBC Communications Inc. -- will continue to offer 2.5-mbps, 1.5-mbps, 256-kilobit-per-second and dial-up services to its customers.

Then Dec. 8, the company will introduce DVR and expanded HDTV services. The latter is already available in Corpus Christi, Midland, Odessa and Waco. It will be new to the Austin, San Antonio and San Marcos markets.

Services will include Showtime HD and in-market HD feeds from local affiliates except in Corpus Christi, where no broadcasters are currently airing in HDTV. Grande will add new HDTV cable channels in the first quarter of next year.

The company concluded a test of DVR service in Waco and will now offer consumers Motorola Inc. hardware capable of 40 hours of recording. The service is priced at $9.95 per month in addition to digital services and box rental.