Take that, Google: AT&T ups the ante with plans for its own Austin gigabit network

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Updated throughout at 2:12 p.m. PT with comments from AT&T.

AT&T plans to build a gigabit network in Austin, Texas according to a company release Tuesday. On any day this would be big news, but Google just announced its own plans to build a fiber to the home, gigabit network in the Texas capital. Looks like Google’s plans to tweak the incumbent broadband players is working — at least at the press release level.

Google’s Kevin Lo said earlier today that the Google network won’t be available until mid-2014 and it’s unclear when AT&T’s network will be rolled out. Larry Solomon, a spokesman confirmed that AT&T’ plans to build a fiber-to-the-home network to “homes and buildings” in Austin. However, the timing depends on how soon AT&T can work with city and state officials to roll out service in a manner similar to how Google rolls out broadband in Kansas City.

In Kansas City Google deploys service in areas where a certain percentage of homeowners have already committed to taking the service. This helps it save money on deployment, because it can avoid building out to areas where interest is low and because it can deploy “in bulk” to neighborhoods when it goes out to dig trenches and connect homes.

Currently AT&T provides a fiber to the node product called U-verse that offers speeds of up to 24 Mbps down. However, as Google expanded in Kansas City, it received some concessions around permitting that the incumbents later complained about.

As a result, both Time Warner Cable and AT&T were granted similar benefits in Kansas City. However, in Austin, the agreements that Google has signed with the City of Austin are no different than the ones that AT&T and Time Warner have signed according to Laura Morrison, an Austin city councilwoman. Yet, AT&T in its release of the gigabit network seems to imply otherwise. From the release:

Today, AT&T announced that in conjunction with its previously announced Project VIP expansion of broadband access, it is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic infrastructure in Austin, Texas, capable of delivering speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. AT&T’s expanded fiber plans in Austin anticipate it will be granted the same terms and conditions as Google on issues such as geographic scope of offerings, rights of way, permitting, state licenses and any investment incentives. This expanded investment is not expected to materially alter AT&T’s anticipated 2013 capital expenditures.

When asked about AT&T’s plans, Google’s Lo responded “We think that Gigabit speeds are the future of the Web, and we believe that choice and competition are ultimately better for users.” This is good because aT&T’s Solomon says that AT&T plans to offer “competitive” rates on a gigabit and that it plans to bundle existing AT&T services with broadband packages. Solomon was vague on timing, since AT&T needs to work with the city to ensure it can build out the way it wants to.

As an Austin resident and broadband lover, I’m ecstatic that I might soon have not one, but two gigabit capable networks. Of course, with so little known about the cost, timing or the locations of either Google’s or AT&T’s network, I’ll wait to get out my party hat.

Updated at 12:01 PT to reflect incorrect information on the AT&T plans. Updated again at 12:27 PT after AT&T clarified further that it is planning a fiber to the home network.

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