Google Fiber, AT&T, CenturyLink drive the 1 Gbps game

1 Gbps citiesGoogle Fiber's (Nasdaq: GOOG) 1 Gbps fiber to the premises (FTTP) plan may only be a blip on the broadband screen, but the one thing it has done is tout the importance of bandwidth speeds to consumers.

Not surprisingly, the search engine giant's FTTP build has garnered a mix of praise and criticism from incumbent telcos and cable operators that don't think there's an immediate need for 1 Gbps speeds.

Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) COO Rob Marcus said during the Broadcast and Cable/Multichannel News OnScreen Summit last December that he could not see the utility for a 1 Gbps data speed tier in the near-term.

"It will be interesting to find out whether there are applications that will take advantage of a 1 Gbps service," Marcus said. "If there is, we will provide it; our infrastructure has the ability to provide much faster speeds today. We're prepared to compete head to head with Google."

Regardless of the criticism of Google Fiber and the questioning of the need for a 1 Gbps connection, it has prompted others to respond with their own experiments and trials.

Three service provider segments are now either in the process of delivering, or have announced their intention to deliver, a 1 Gbps FTTP service:

Google: With the Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., areas as its initial target, Google Fiber has announced 13 surrounding towns where it plans to launch the 1 Gbps service. Outside of Kansas City, the service provider plans to roll out service in Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah.

Provo is one of Google Fiber's most unique markets to date. Unlike the other markets where it intends to deliver 1 Gbps FTTP service, the Internet search giant purchased the struggling iProvo municipal network for $1. Just as it unveiled pricing in the Provo market, Comcast said it would begin offering Provo residents a $120 monthly bundle of video, voice and 105 Mbps Internet service. 

How big Google Fiber's FTTP build could be is debated by telecom and financial analysts alike. Ken Sena, an analyst with Evercore Partners, forecast that Google could sign up 3 million customers in the next seven years. He added that it would cost the Internet search giant about $7 billion to reach about 8 million homes.

Municipalities: Google Fiber may get all of the attention, but it was Chattanooga, Tenn.-based EPB Fiber that began the 1 Gbps broadband revolution in 2010. EPB Fiber currently offers 1 Gbps service for $350 a month. Joining EPB is Lafayette, La.-based LUS Fiber, which has also been offering a 1 Gbps service since 2010, while Leverett, Mass just began building its network. Meanwhile, other communities such as Chicago and Seattle have entered into partnerships with Gigabit Squared to deliver service to their communities. 

ILECs: Like Time Warner Cable, the three largest U.S.-based telcos AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), have been largely dismissive of 1 Gbps service, but all three have either begun or announced 1 Gbps service pilots.

Hours after Google Fiber announced its intention to bring service to Austin, AT&T issued a press release saying it would offer a 1 Gbps service at some point in the market as well. Bill Smith, president of AT&T Network Operations, said during the Jeffries 2013 Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference that "our 1 Gbps plans were not in response to Google's announcement."

CenturyLink is taking a leverage and extend approach to its 1 Gbps pilot deployment in Omaha, Neb., by replacing a legacy HFC cable system with FTTP. While it touted its 1 Gbps-capable network in Omaha, a number of users who have been converted to fiber said in a Broadband DSL Reports user forum that they are only getting up to 40 Mbps. 

Finally, Verizon while not offering a 1 Gbps service yet, launched a 500 Mbps FiOS speed tier in July. The telco, however, is not a Gbps FTTH novice, having already conducted trials of 1 Gbps in New York and a 10G XG-PON trial with a customer in Taunton, Mass., in 2010.

In the chart below, we examine the progress that service providers have made in rolling out 1 Gbps FTTP services in specific cities.

City Surrounding areas Service provider Provider type Services offered Start date Pricing Competition
Austin   AT&T ILEC 1 Gbps FTTH data, U-verse TV no date yet N/A Time Warner Cable, Google, and Grande Communications
    Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  mid-2014 N/A AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Grande Communications
Cedar Falls, Iowa   Cedar Falls Utilities Municipal electric utility 1 Gpbs/ 500 Mbps FTTH data 95% complete $267.50 (city); $272.50 (rural) CenturyLink
Chattanooga   EPB Fiber Municipal provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, IPTV avail. since 2010 $350 AT&T
Chicago   Gigabit Squared, City of Chicago Community provider 1 Gbps FTTH 2014 N/A AT&T, Comcast
Kansas City, Kan.   Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  Nov. 2012 $120 TV, data; $70 stand-
alone data
AT&T, Comcast
  Mission Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  no date yet N/A TWC
  Mission Woods Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  no date yet N/A AT&T, Charter
  Shawnee Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  no date yet N/A AT&T, Verizon
  Olathe Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  no date yet N/A AT&T, TWC
  Westwood Hills Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  no date yet N/A AT&T, TWC
Kansas City, Mo.   Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  Nov. 2012 $120 TV, data; $70 stand-
alone data
AT&T, TWC, and Consolidated
  Gladstone Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  no date yet N/A AT&T, TWC
  Grandview Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  no date yet N/A AT&T, TWC
  Lee's Summit Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data  no date yet N/A AT&T, TWC
  Raytown Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV  no date yet N/A AT&T, Comcast
Lafayette, La.   LUS Fiber Municipal provider 1 Gbps FTTB, IPTV, voice complete in 2010 $999.95 for business AT&T, Cox
Leverett, Mass.    Leverett Broadband Committee Municipal provider 1 Gbps FTTH data  end of 2014 N/A Verizon
Omaha, Neb.   CenturyLink ILEC 1 Gbps FTTH data, Prism IPTV pilot  $150 stand-alone; $80 triple play Cox Communi-cations
Orono, Me.   GWI, Gig.U CLEC 1 Gbps FTTH data  ongoing $139.95 a month FairPoint, TWC
Provo   Google Fiber Internet search provider 1 Gbps FTTH data, TV late-2013 $70 stand-alone; $120 Internet & TV bundle CenturyLink, Comcast
Springfield, Vt.   Vtel Rural ILEC 1 Gbps FTTH data  avail. now $35 a month Comcast
Seattle   City of Seattle, Gig.U Municipal provider 1 Gbps FTTH data N/A $80 a month CenturyLink

Compiled data from company web sites, related press releases, and http://www.broadbandmap.gov/.

Updated article with correct competitors in Austin Texas and Kansas City, Mo. 

Google Fiber, AT&T, CenturyLink drive the 1 Gbps game
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