AT&T Takes on Google With Fast Fiber Hookups in Austin

AT&T Inc. plans to roll out fiber-optic Internet access in Austin in December that’s 30 times faster than standard broadband, setting the stage for a showdown with Google Inc. in the Texas city.

The 300-megabit-per-second offering will be available in selected areas in Austin, the Dallas-based carrier said today in a statement. Called U-verse with GigaPower, the service will eventually reach speeds of 1 gigabit -- about 100 times faster than standard access.

By introducing 300-megabit access this year, AT&T aims to get a jump on Google’s planned arrival in the area in 2014. The city will be the second metropolitan area to be wired for Google’s high-speed fiber-optic service, following Kansas City. Both companies plan to begin customer installations for their 1-gigabit services by the middle of next year.

AT&T, the largest U.S. phone company, originally announced plans to boost speeds in Austin in April -- the same month Google said it would be expanding there. Google, based in Mountain View, California, is gradually rolling out the service to new cities, bringing fresh competition to existing broadband providers. The project -- called Google Fiber -- is meant to be a showcase for what people can do with dramatically faster Internet speeds.

AT&T has been selling its U-verse fiber-optic network in Austin since 2007. The speedier version will be rolled out using some of the community-canvassing efforts pioneered by Google. Both companies will ask people in Austin to sign up online if they’re interested in service packages, which include Internet and television.

Pricing Plans

AT&T declined to discuss pricing for the new services. In the Kansas City metropolitan area, which straddles the states of Kansas and Missouri, Google charges $70 a month for Internet access at gigabit speeds and $120 with TV programming included.

It makes sense to expand AT&T’s fiber-optic network because installation costs have fallen and sales prospects have improved, Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson told investors at a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. conference last week.

“I fully expect you’ll see us doing multiple markets like this over the next few years,” Stephenson said.

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