Defying Google Fiber’s leadership and AT&T’s emergence in the nascent market, Comcast is throwing its cable into the high-speed Internet ring. In fact, Comcast will offer the fastest Internet in Atlanta, the first stop in its new rollout.
The company will start rolling out its Gigabit Pro residential Internet service that offers symmetrical 2 gigabits-per-second speeds over fiber in more cities soon, said Marcien Jenckes, executive vice president of Consumer Services at Comcast Cable. By the end of the year, Gigabit Pro should be in about 18 million homes, offering speeds at least double of anything else in the industry to date.
“Gigabit Pro is a professional-grade residential fiber-to-the-home solution that leverages our fiber network to deliver 2 Gbps upload and download speeds,” said Jenckes. “We’ve spent a decade building a national fiber backbone across 145,000 route miles of fiber. This new service will be available to customers that are within close proximity to our fiber network.”
What Will it Cost?
AT&T started delivering U-verse with GigaPower, along with more advanced TV services and features, in December 2013 at 1 Gbps. Initially reaching tens of thousands of customers in the Austin area, the company pushed into Kansas City, Missouri earlier this year, still at 1 Gbps. That’s half the speed Comcast is offering. Comcast didn’t reveal pricing or exact timing. AT&T and Google, meanwhile, are battling it out on the 1 Gbps front.
Here’s what we know about the current competitive landscape in terms of pricing: AT&T offers more for the same price, but there appears to be a catch. The GigaPower service cost $79 a month, which is on par with Google Fiber. But AT&T has some fine-print charges.
In its disclaimers, AT&T makes it clear that, “U-verse with AT&T GigaPower Premier offer is available with agreement from customers to participate in AT&T Internet Preferences. AT&T may use Web browsing information, like the search terms entered and the Web pages visited, to provide customers with relevant offers and ads tailored to their interests.”
Consumers who opt out of the program pay an additional $29 a month. By contrast, Google claims it does not track users' browsing histories or offer different pricing paradigms based on privacy options. Again, no word from Comcast on its policy just yet.
How Cable TV Providers Compete
We caught up with Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, to get his thoughts on Comcast joining the high-speed Internet race that Google Fiber has so far lead, with smaller companies joining the fray.
“The speed is impressive, however I don't think the vast majority of customers will ever use it -- at least not in the next couple years,” Kagan said. “This should be very valuable to one slice of the pie who needs very fast speeds. However, even the one gigabit speeds are faster than the vast majority of customers will ever need.”
Although this move gives Comcast bragging rights, Kagan said this is just part of an ongoing evolution in the high-speed Internet service race. In other words, Comcast is not the first to market but it is finding its place on the radar screen with Gigabit Pro.
“Remember, traditional cable television service is shrinking. Customers are finding alternatives like satellite and AT&T and Verizon and Century Link IPTV, as well as all of the newcomers like Amazon.com, Netflix, Hulu and the rest,” Kagan said. “So the cable television industry needs to have a solid stake in this race. They're doing that through this ultra high-speed Internet push.”