EATEL challenges Cox with 1 Gbps FTTH launch in Louisiana parishes

EATEL is leveraging its fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network to deliver a 1 Gbps service to residential customers in Louisiana's Ascension and Livingston Parishes, a move that's set on challenging local cable incumbent Cox Communications.

Dubbed GIG Internet, EATEL's service is competitively priced at $119.95 per month for eligible customers.

"We're trying to stay ahead of what's going on in the market and this Gig product is about staying in front of the needs and demand for bandwidth is," said, Toby DuBois EVP of products and development for EATEL in an interview with FierceTelecom. "This announcement really is putting out to the public that we put out a 1 Gig symmetrical product for our residential customers and we launched it on a fairly wide scale to start and wider as we go."

Having this service in hand means that EATEL can stay ahead of Cox Communications, which has yet to name the Ascension and Livingston Parish areas as targets for its own 1 Gbps service it is rolling out this year.

Harris Miller, VP of product development for EATEL, said that in order to deliver the 1 Gbps service, it will have to change the optical network terminals (ONT) at homes that want the service and upgrading its network backbone.

"We have a couple of generations of ONTs on our plant so if you call in for our new Gig service we'll have to upgrade that equipment to a Gigabit capable ONT," Miller said. "We also did some things to enlarge our pipe in our core in our distribution networks out to those edge customers as well as out to the Internet." 

The cable MSO announced in April 2014 that it would that it would provide 1 Gbps speeds in all of its markets by the end of 2016. Initially, Cox has been targeting mainly large markets like Phoenix and Irvine, Calif.

While AT&T (NYSE: T), Cox, Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) have been focusing on lighting Tier 1 cities with 1 Gbps FTTH service, EATEL's move illustrates that smaller telcos are making higher speeds available in smaller markets.

The service provider is hardly a FTTH novice, having begun building out its FiberEdge FTTH network in 2005--well before the larger incumbents began their last-mile fiber push.

Enhancing FTTH speeds has been an ongoing priority for EATEL. In February 2014, the telco increased its Ultimate High-Speed Internet plan to 150/40 Mbps and Premium High-Speed Internet plan to 50/25 Mbps.

Since it just launched the 1 Gbps service, EATEL said it will take time to tell how much interest is there, but having a FTTH network has driven more of its customers overall taking a wide range of speeds.

"This announcement is brand new so I don't know how much of that would be anecdotal at this point, but what we have seen in the past is we consistently we're staying in front of bandwidth demand so that may get them to call you," DuBois said. "We certainly see people take all the different levels of speed we have and with an all fiber system that we launched that's what separates us from those that we compete with because we can consistently offer speeds across the entire platform." 

For more:
- see the release

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This article was updated on July 16 with additional information from EATEL.