10 Dec How AT&T is out-building Google Fiber
When it comes to broadband competition, this week has been a big one. AT&T on Monday announced plans to expand its high-speed fiber service, known as GigaPower, to some three-dozen new markets, including Detroit, Memphis and San Francisco. A day later, Google Fiber said it was weighing whether to bring its own ultra-fast broadband to Chicago and Los Angeles.
These are exciting developments for the Internet, not least because for millions of Americans, it may mean finally getting access to gigabit speeds. That’s roughly equivalent to 1,000 Mbps, fast enough to download a full HD movie in about seven seconds. That tremendous capacity will become even more important as we connect more smart, data-hungry devices to the Web. (What it’ll cost is another matter; AT&T has vowed to set prices that are “competitive” for each market.)
But this week’s announcements aren’t just an ordinary broadband milestone. Consider this: The number of cities where Google Fiber has actually been switched on can be counted on your fingers, whereas AT&T GigaPower is already up and running in some 20 metropolitan areas. Where many of Google’s prospective expansions are still in the discussion phase, AT&T has made concrete — though critics might say “limited” — investments in many more markets.
“We’re not just announcing candidate cities,” said Jim Cicconi, a senior policy exec at AT&T. “We’ve made the decision, we’re investing the capital. We’re going in.”
In short, AT&T is out-building Google Fiber. That’s a sign of a broader shift in the industry. What we’re seeing now is Google’s early lead in the fiber race being eaten away by AT&T’s traditional advantage in building networks. Though Google deserves much of the credit for jump-starting the competition in the first place, not to mention blazing a trail for AT&T in important ways, AT&T is on pace to beat Google to many cities in America. And this is why.