AT&T (NYSE: T) may have created a lot of buzz with its 1 Gbps deployments in Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, N.C., but the launch of its 75 Mbps U-verse tier illustrates that it's just as motivated to expand its existing fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) service base.
The service provider will offer the High Speed Internet 75/8 Mbps service option in four markets: parts of Monterey and Sacramento, Calif.; Toledo, Ohio; and El Paso, Texas.
Eligible customers will be able to get the 75 Mbps tier for $74.95 as a standalone service and $39.95 if purchased as part of a bundle. However, AT&T said that offers "may not be combined with other promotional offers on the same services and may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice."
Bundles continue to be a factor with AT&T's customer base. According to the telco, 97 percent of its IPTV customers already purchase dual- and triple-play bundles. During the third quarter, AT&T said ARPU for U-verse triple-play customers continued to be more than $170 a month.
To make this new speed option available, AT&T said that it upgraded its existing copper network by incorporating a new 17 MHz signal, twice the 8.5 MHz that was previously available.
"This upgrade takes us from 8.5 MHz to 17 MHz and we're doing that that through the 17a profile on new and existing VDSL2 line cards," said Bob Bickerstaff, Vice President of Voice & Data Products for AT&T, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "We have about 100,000 VRADs out there, which is how we access the local network, and we're enabling it so that all those areas are capable of 17 MHz."
Bickerstaff added that the benefits of going 17 MHz include the ability to achieve higher speeds and reach, which is also available on its current generation of customer premises equipment (CPE).
"There are a number of benefits, including higher speed," Bickerstaff said. "It's not just highest speeds, but it will also help us in some cases use pair bonding and improve our ability to use single pair more frequently than we would have otherwise."
Similar to the rollout of its 45 Mbps tier, AT&T said that it expects to expand the availability not only in these four markets, but also across the 21 states where it currently provides U-verse today.
"Our intent is to go national with all 21 states in our complete VDSL footprint," Bickerstaff said. "Once we get it into the marketplace and make sure it's everything we need it to be then we'll then expand it."
The introduction of the 75 Mbps tier is part of AT&T's multibillion Project VIP effort that was launched in the fall of 2012 for its existing copper-based broadband U-verse network.
Like other traditional telcos, AT&T is also looking at other emerging technologies to advance the copper part of its network, including vectoring and G.fast.
"As we think about where this goes next, we're studying vectoring," Bickerstaff said. "It's an intriguing technology for us as a way to get the next round of speeds out to customers on copper and we're also studying technologies like G.fast."
With the addition of the 75 Mbps offering, AT&T will now have a speed portfolio that will range from as low as 3 Mbps and up to 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps in select markets where the GigaPower service is available.
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This article was updated on Dec. 22 with additional information from AT&T.