AT&T Names Next 11 Metro Areas to Get Gigabit Fiber

AT&T plans to bring gigabit services to 67 metro areas in the US. Image courtesy AT&T.

– Aims for 12.5m Locations in 67 Metro Areas by Mid-2019

By Charles Hall

AT&T is living up to its July 2015 deal with the FCC that allowed it to buy DirecTV.

AT&T said this week it plans deploy its newly named “AT&T Fiber” gigabit broadband service in 11 more metro areas including Gainesville and Panama City, Florida; Columbus, Georgia; Central Kentucky; Lafayette, Louisiana; Biloxi-Gulfport, Mississippi and Northeast Mississippi; Wilmington, North Carolina; Knoxville and Southeastern Tennessee; and Corpus Christi, Texas. None are major metropolitan areas.

AT&T first announced it would begin deploying all-fiber networks three years ago in Austin, Texas on the very day that Google Fiber announced it would deploy Google Fiber in Austin. Since then it has deployed all-fiber in parts of 29 cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco and says it can offer the service to more than 3 million locations. AT&T’s plans to offer gigabit service in 67 metro areas and has promised to have networks up and running in 45 of those by year-end. It has said that by the middle of 2019 it will provide gigabit service to more than 12.5 million locations. The 12.5 million locations was specified in AT&T’s deal with the FCC.

The announcement of AT&T’s deal with the FCC said: “As part of the merger, AT&T-DirecTV will be required to expand its deployment of high-speed, fiber optic broadband Internet access service to 12.5 million customer locations as well as to E-rate eligible schools and libraries. In addition, AT&T-DirecTV is prohibited from using discriminatory practices to disadvantage online video distribution services and will submit its Internet interconnection agreements for Commission review. Finally, AT&T-DirecTV will offer broadband services to low-income consumers at discounted rates.”

There are some who question whether the term “fiber optic broadband” means that AT&T will deploy fiber-to-the-premises or, as BT has defined fiber, as meaning fiber to the neighborhood or to an MDU, but not inside an MDU. AT&T is testing on a broad scale the deployment of fiber to an MDU but using G.fast over existing wires from the optical connection to each residence. G.fast developers say that in time G.fast will be capable of gigabit speeds.

AT&T has the US’ largest copperwire network and knows that after the cablecos, Google Fiber is its next biggest potential rival. It has tried legal means to slow Google Fiber and other third-party fiber service providers. For example, AT&T is suing Google in Nashville and Louisville to try to stop Google Fiber from deploying in those cities.

Google Fiber may be about to come roaring back after a recent slowdown. This week it completed its acquisition of the fixed wireless broadband service Webpass, which already offers gigabit service in several cities. In announcing the completion of the deal, Google Fiber said, “Google Fiber will continue to build out our portfolio of wireless and fiber technologies, to bring super-fast Internet to more people, faster.”

Often overlooked in the more heralded battle between AT&T and Google Fiber are the cablecos’ broadband service, which is far, far faster than any telco’s copperwire broadband and cablecos active plans to offer gigabit service. In a typical location AT&T currently offers a maximum of 18 Mbps while the cableco, Cox, offers 300 Mbps. As a result cablecos have been taking broadband market share away from telcos and now have over 62% market share.

Leichtman Research Group recently said, “While telcos lost more broadband subscribers in 2Q 2016 than in any previous quarter, cable companies added over 550,000 subscribers in the traditionally weak second quarter. Over the past year, cable companies have added about 3.5 million broadband subscribers, while telcos have had net losses of about 500,000 broadband subscribers.”

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