Frontier beats Google Fiber to the 1 Gig punch in Oregon

Frontier Communications is making a move to take advantage of the 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) trend before Google Fiber by lighting up service for residential customers in select neighborhoods in Beaverton, Ore.

Stopping short of where it would specifically bring the service first, the telco said that more areas would be announced as work to upgrade the area fiber network "continues into next year."

News of the 1 Gbps service in Oregon should not be that unexpected. During an event held in Portland, Frontier's Chairwoman and CEO Maggie Wilderotter discussed the company's plans to provide Gigabit speeds in the near future.

Wilderotter said the telco would offer 1 Gbps speeds within "the next several quarters" when it sees services come on the market that can take advantage of those higher speeds. At the same time, Wilderotter accused potential Portland rival Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) of offering consumers what they don't need and causing confusion and hype.

Google Fiber has cited Portland as a potential site for its 1 Gbps FTTP service. In June, the City Council voted 5-0 to approve a franchise agreement, but the service provider has yet to make a formal announcement about if and when it will actually provide service in the city.Google Fiber may be considering Oregon as a potential stop in their FTTP plans, but Anderson said they are trying to tell local residents is that they already have a network in place that can support 1 Gbps today.

"The key message we're taking out is that our network is already here and we're ready to deploy and we're not like Google which has to build an entire network from scratch," said Trent Anderson, Vice President and General Manager of Oregon for Frontier, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "We're starting in our largest Central Office and we have a fully baked plan to take us to multiple Central Offices, but we feel like we have done a thorough job looking at the market because no one has these speeds today."

In building out the 1 Gbps service, Frontier will leverage the existing FiOS fiber facilities it acquired when it purchased Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) rural lines in 2010. Today, it offers up to 100 Mbps speeds in its FiOS footprint, which includes Beaverton, Forest Grove, Gresham, Hillsboro, McMinnville, Newberg, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville.

Anderson said the debut of the 1 Gbps speed is part of a broader two-phase initiative it took in Oregon to upgrade all of its existing FiOS network offerings.

"In phase one, we changed our speeds on FiOS and took was what the high end and top end and made that the bottom," Anderson said. "We went from a 15 and 35 type of arrangement to now a 30, 50 and 100 Mbps and put that across our entire footprint, which covers the majority of everything around the metro area in Oregon and Southwest Washington."  

Anderson added that "we had better than expected results, especially at the 50, while 100 Mbps is about 30 days from where I thought it would be, but this past month it was really popular and coming in at double what it did the first month."

For phase two, Frontier targeted Beaverton, Oregon, one of the state's largest metro area and the home to Nike, multiple Intel facilities, and a large community of teleworkers. The service provider, which says passes 26,000 homes, is now offering 500 Mbps and 1 Gbps for residential users.  

Both of the new speed tiers are competitively priced: 500/50 Mbps is $169.99, while the 1 Gbps/100 Mbps for $219.99 a month. Both of these tiers include a 3-year price protection plan and no install fees.

While Frontier is on board with getting 1 Gbps to the homes it serves, the next question is how to support the multitude of devices over the home network via higher speed Wi-Fi access points.

The service provider is currently testing Wi-Fi routers in its labs that are capable of delivering 700 Mbps and higher speeds.

"I was in a home the other day watching an install where this family had 14 devices going into a wireless router and that's the next wave," Anderson said. "If you can great bandwidth to the home, but if you constrict it wirelessly and make people not have the ability to use all of their devices over one access point that's going to be the next point to solve."

And while residential services are a key focus, Frontier has built their Oregon's backbone network to be more responsive to the needs of their business customers.

Over the past three years, Frontier has put $128 million into Oregon alone, including the installation of 17 MPLS switches—something that Anderson says provides greater network efficiencies and better QoS for each customer.

"We have really disaggregated that and put it out as close to the customer so we get quality of service as soon as possible with 17 switches out there as close to the customer as possible," Anderson said. "I think that's key not just for this FiOS situation and opportunity, but on the business side of this it's huge when we sit down with a customer and say your traffic has gone a half mile and it's on an MPLS switch and out of here."

Oregon is just one market where Frontier is launching a 1 Gbps service. The service provider is also offering a 1 Gbps fiber-based service in Durham, N.C., targeting a mix of residential and business customers.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Frontier's Wilderotter says Google Fiber is driving hype, customer confusion
Frontier steps into the 1 Gig broadband game in Durham, N.C.
Frontier's Jureller: We like acquisitions that help us scale

This article was updated on Oct. 29 with additional information from Frontier.