AT&T begins marketing Gfast services in 22 U.S. metro markets

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Gfast and fixed millimeter-wave provide connectivity to properties that aren’t able to support fiber.

AT&T has begun rolling out Gfast-based services in 22 metro markets across the United States, signaling the service provider’s desire to extend higher speed wireline broadband services in premises where it can’t make a business case for all fiber.

Following a Gfast trial in Minneapolis, AT&T has named eight initial cities that have properties equipped with the hybrid fiber/copper and coax technology.

A number of these cities, including Boston and New York City, are outside of AT&T’s traditional 21-state wireline internet serving area.

RELATED: AT&T ramps MDU fiber builds, sees growing potential in Gfast

Gfast is currently also on sale to MDUs in parts of 14 other metros with deployment planned in the near future.

“While fiber to the unit remains the best broadband solution for most properties where possible, Gfast and fixed millimeter-wave provide connectivity to properties that aren’t able to support fiber,” said Ed Balcerzak, SVP of AT&T Connected Communities, in a release. “AT&T is committed to providing apartments and condos with connectivity across the nation, and innovations such as Gfast are helping us to do that.”

Minimizing disruption

What drove AT&T to look at Gfast to deliver broadband, particularly in MDU environments, is that it enables the telco to minimize disruption to residents.

Unlike deploying fiber, which requires a telco to drill holes to extend wiring into each living unit, AT&T can just attach its equipment to the existing building’s coaxial cable.

“We’re tapping into the existing internet infrastructure in some multifamily properties to bring ultra-fast internet in less time and with less disruption than replacing the network with fiber,” Balcerzak said.

AT&T told FierceTelecom in an earlier interview that it estimates that 80% of the buildings in the U.S. don’t currently have a fiber connection, but have an abundance of coax and copper.

AT&T did not have to look too far to get the wiring it needs to deliver Gfast-enabled broadband services. Having purchased DirecTV, which had wired up a large amount of MDUs with coax for satellite TV, AT&T will be able to use that infrastructure to deliver up to 500 Mbps services.  

Being able to deliver a broadband, satellite video and potentially wireless services bundles out of region puts AT&T in a position to not only be more competitive challenger to larger cable operators like Charter and Comcast, but also enhance its broadband subscriber base.

John Stephens, CFO of AT&T, told investors during its second-quarter earnings call that the service provider expects the fiber footprint expansion to improve churn trends, as it enables customers to bundle broadband with DirecTV and wireless services.

“We’re seeing on an out of footprint basis where we don’t have fiber subscriber losses to competitors that can bundle,” Stephens said. “We believe we’ll address that as we continue to build out fiber.”

Enhancing FTTH

While AT&T’s Gfast expansion gives credence to the technology’s potential in MDUs, AT&T continues to enhance its FTTH footprint.

The service provider announced it will offer the FTTH service in 2 new metro areas – Biloxi-Gulfport, Miss. and Savannah Ga. AT&T has also expanded FTTH availability to over 60 communities across 20 major metros where it has service.

Today, AT&T markets its FTTH service to over 5.5 million locations across 57 metro markets. Out of these locations, over 2 million subscribers choose internet service from AT&T.

Having already added 1.5 million FTTH locations this year, AT&T said it plans to add another FTTH locations by the end of the year, which will total at least 7 million locations able to access its fiber network.

Eligible locations can choose from a range of internet speed plans: AT&T Internet 50, AT&T Internet 100 and AT&T Internet 1000.