Grande extends 1 Gbps service into more parts of Austin

Grande Communications, a Texas-based cable overbuilder, is extending its 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) service to all new and existing customers in the West Campus area of Austin.

The service provider's expansion into West Campus is part of Grande's long-term plan to provide fiber-based broadband to all of its customers. Following earlier expansions of the 1 Gbps service in Buda and West Austin, West Campus marks the third FTTP expansion Grande made this year.

What motivated Grande to extend services into West Campus is the growing demand for higher speed bandwidth, particularly from college students who attend the University of Texas.

In addition, Grande has been rolling out the 1 Gbps service to stay ahead of potential threat from Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG), which is also going to offer service in Austin.

"For years we enjoyed the position of being the fastest Internet in town, but then here comes Google, which said they would launch Gigabit services in Austin," said Matt Rohre, senior vice president of operations and general manager for Grande Communications, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "This meant we had to decide to continue to either leverage our cable modem platform and compete at the best speeds you can compete at with DOCSIS 3.0 without having DOCSIS 3.1 available to anyone for the next several years or we could leverage our deep fiber network and roll out a fiber-based product that we could provide Gigabit services on."

Although it is seeing strong uptake for the 1 Gbps service where it offers it today, Grande is still enhancing its existing traditional HFC and DOCSIS-based network. In delivering its 100, 75, and 50 Mbps data tiers, the service provider is focused on ensuring customers get the speeds they pay for.  

"Uptake has been strong and we have been pleased with the response," Rohre said. "I think it also adds another level of credibility to all our other data speeds because 1 Gig is not for everyone since there are plenty of people that are just fine with our 50 Mbps, 110 Mbps, or 75 Mbps products."

Rohre added that while they have a range of high-speed data products today, Grande wants to make sure that when a large part of its customer base wants 1 Gbps speeds, they will be ready to deliver that service.

"We want to make sure that for those folks who demand that type of Internet service and feel like they have a use for that much bandwidth, which not many people truly do," Rohre said. "People are going to grow into that and we want to be there from the beginning." 

Today, Power 1000 service is available in West Campus, Buda and Austin, including parts of Tarrytown, Old Enfield, Pemberton Heights, Bryker Woods, Belmont, Oakmont Heights and Rosedale.

In February, Grande launched its Power 1000 1 Gbps service for $64.99, beating both AT&T (NYSE: T) and Google Fiber (NASDAQ: GOOG) to the punch.

AT&T, which has since launched its GigaPower service in Austin, offers its service for $70 a month if customers agree to have their Internet activity tracked by the telco. Google Fiber, meanwhile, plans to start rolling out its own 1 Gbps service sometime later this year.

Besides the price, Grande hopes to differentiate itself from its competitors by not sharing its customers' personal information or track online activity. It also doesn't require customers to sign a contract or be limited by bandwidth usage caps. Finally, Grande says it will offer customers a money-back guarantee during the first month of service.

Having the right customer premise equipment (CPE) is also key element in delivering a good experience for each customer.

"We will provide customers a router and we guarantee 1 Gbps of service to the back of that router wherever we place that inside your home," Rohre said. "From there there are so many variables on the wireless side of the business, but there's no wireless technology that's going to reliably provide you 1 Gig of service." 

For more:
- see the release

Special report: Gigabit Wars: The best prices for 1 Gbps service from ILECs, MSOs and municipal providers

Related articles:
AT&T, Google will face challenge from Grande's $65 1 Gbps offer in Austin
AT&T to roll out Austin 1 Gbps FTTH service in mid-2014, but pricing not revealed
Google Fiber comes to Austin, mayor announces
SEC filing: Grande has potential buyer

This article was updated on Nov. 23 with more information from Grande Communications.