Google 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-
|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-
|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.