AT&T's Smith: Our Austin 1 Gbps plan is not a response to Google Fiber

AT&T (NYSE: T) may have been one of the latest traditional service providers to reveal plans to launch a 1 Gbps fiber plan, specifically in the Austin, Texas market, but an executive maintains the carrier is not just responding to Google Fiber's (Nasdaq: GOOG) move into the city.

Bill Smith, AT&T Networks

Smith (Image source: AT&T / NC State Univ.)

Speaking at the Jeffries 2013 Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Bill Smith, President of AT&T Network Operations, said the 1 Gbps plans had already been on the drawing board for a while.

"Our 1 Gbps plans were not in response to Google's announcement," Smith said. "We had a team suit up and developing that plan for some time, but they accelerated our need to go public with it but we had been planning to do it."

The telco is not a fiber to the premises (FTTP) novice, however. Unlike its RBOC brother Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T has mainly focused its FTTP efforts in Greenfield housing developments.

Today, the telco has been mainly offering lower speed services over the FTTP network. In April, a report emerged that the telco upped the speed on its FTTP network 24/3 Mbps, up from 18/1.5 Mbps.

Smith maintains that the GPON network they deployed can support 1 Gbps if needed.

"We have been deploying for some time a Gigabit per second-capable network in GPON in new developments, but the issue is there have not been many new developments built," Smith said.

Outside of Greenfield areas, the service provider passes 1.8 million in the former BellSouth territory with an existing fiber to the curb (FTTC) architecture, a technology that it pioneered in the late 1980s.

"Fiber to the curb technology has gotten long in the tooth so what we're doing there is going into those 1.8 million homes and upgrading them to a combination of a fiber to the home overlay or new version of fiber to the curb," Smith said.  

Like other telecom providers that have built fiber throughout their metro and last mile networks, Smith said that while they can do 1 Gbps today on FTTP, they have aren't seeing demand for such speeds yet.

"I have been responsible for AT&T's network since April of '08 and I have yet to have a customer complaint that our U-verse network did not give them the speed they needed," Smith said.

In combination with its FTTP plans, AT&T will enhance its existing hybrid copper/fiber FTTN network.

While VDSL2 with vectoring is all the rage, AT&T today can deliver over 50 Mbps on a single pair of copper at 2,200 feet and 100 Mbps with bonding.

In addition to bonding and vectoring, Smith said that they are working with some of their suppliers on point solutions to deliver higher speeds on longer loops, including what he calls a VDSL Service Expansion Module (VSEM).

"You go from the VRAD that serves your customers today at the fiber to the node location, do a fiber extension, put this thing and shorten the loops," Smith said.

Smith added that there could be a situation where they are able to deliver up to 100 Mbps to almost every residence in a subdivision, "but we have got three streets that go beyond that point it's fairly easy to put in a small extension of fiber hosted off that existing node and shorten those loops and get those customers as well."

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