In an ongoing industry race to feed the nation’s insatiable hunger for ultra-fast broadband service, AT&T said Monday that it planned to expand the availability of its gigabit Internet service to residential and small businesses in the Little Rock, Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas metropolitan areas.
“It is super-fast,” AT&T spokeswoman Anita Smith said of the expansion of the telecom giant’s “GigaPower” service in Arkansas. “We are excited to bring this service to Arkansas to our customers across the state.”
The rollout of the new Internet, which Smith proudly claims will be the fastest broadband connection in Arkansas, is part of AT&T’s nationwide expansion of the service to 38 additional metros across the U.S. The service is now available to 56 metro areas across AT&T’s vast fiber optic network.
“Our residential customers and small businesses have asked for the latest technologies and AT&T is delivering,” said Ed Drilling, president of AT&T Arkansas. “The AT&T GigaPower network facilitates a new wave of creativity and innovation through enhanced opportunities for education, health, research and small business growth. While excited about introducing AT&T GigaPower to Arkansas, we will continue to invest heavily in fiber and broadband networks throughout the state.”
Smith would not divulge the approximate dates the service will be available in Little Rock, Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas, but she said the launch date typically takes place within a year of announced plans.
According to Smith, the new service will provide internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, which will allow AT&T users to almost instantly download online movies, music, games and more. For example, customers will be able to download 25 online songs in less than a second, a TV show in three seconds or your favorite HD movie in less than 36 seconds, she said.
AT&T first launched its gigabit Internet service in Austin, Texas, nearly two years ago. This launch led to a major expansion in multiple metros beginning in 2014, and AT&T said it expects to more than double availability by the end of 2016. Ultimately, the Dallas-based telecom and wireless giant said it hopes to provide the 100% fiber network to more than 14 million residential and commercial locations across the U.S.
THE RACE IS ON, COMPETITION FIERCE
AT&T’s announcement is part of the ongoing race to market between cable operators, Internet providers, wireless firms, telecoms and a growing list of tech companies and niche player’s to satisfy the public’s growing quest for the fastest available gigabit-level internet connections, which are 100 times faster than the average Internet speed today.
In May, Cox Communications was the first to announce that it is actively deploying fiber optic infrastructure in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Virginia to bring its “G1GABLAST” to customers in those states. The service launched in parts of Northwest Arkansas in the fall, and Cox has said that its residential gigabit service will be available in all of its markets by the end of 2016.
Cox, which provides Internet service to the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas markets, already offers residential gigabit connections in parts of Phoenix, Ariz., Orange County, Calif.; Omaha, Neb., and Las Vegas. The company has been deploying multi-gigabit speeds to businesses for more than 10 years.
Earlier this year, Comcast announced plans to unveil its 2-gig Internet service in Atlanta and other communities across the South, but not Arkansas. The nation’s largest cable and Internet provider, said it is now testing a “scalable, national” 1-gig technology service, and expects to begin rolling it out in early 2016.
When fully deployed by 2018, Comcast said almost every customer in the company’s nationwide service area will be able to receive gigabit speeds over its existing fiber network. In Arkansas, where the cable giant recently announced plans to institute data caps for some high-use Internet customers, the fastest connections available to most residential customers is 150 mbps (Millions of bits per second).
Telecom giant CenturyLink offers gigabit service to some residential and business customers in selected markets, but not in Arkansas. Tony Thomas, CEO of Windstream Communications Inc., told investors at a recent conference that the Little Rock telecom giant plans to begin gigabit broadband trials later this month in a few larger markets.
FIBER ‘ON FIRE’
AT&T, Cox and Comcast have been ramping up their gigabit expansion plans since Google fiber launched its one gigabit service in Kansas City in July 2012 for $80 a month. Since that time, Google expanded the service to Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah in April 2013, and subsequent expansions in 2014 and 2015 to Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio.
Two years ago, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called for at least one gigabit communities in all 50 states by 2015 to meet the “Gigabit City Challenge,” which he said would accelerate gigabit communities nationwide through the creation of a critical mass of markets and innovation hubs with ultra-fast Internet speeds.
According to the FCC, speeds of one gigabit per second are approximately 100 times faster than the average fixed high-speed Internet connection. At gigabit speeds, connections can handle multiple streams of large-format, high-definition content like online video calls, movies, and immersive educational experiences. Networks cease to be hurdles to applications, so it no longer matters whether medical data, high-definition video, or online services are in the same building or miles away across the state.
Gigabit communities across the U.S. are spurring innovators to create new businesses and industries, spark connectivity among citizens and services, and incentivize investment in high-tech industries, The FCC say. Today, approximately 50 communities in 14 states are served by ultra-high-speed fiber Internet providers, according to the Fiber to the Home Council (FTTH).
In a recent FTTH survey, gigabit-level fiber deployments in the United States grew 13% in 2015. The group expected fiber to the home deployment to grow steadily over the next five years.
“Fiber’s on fire in the U.S.,” said Heather Burnett Gold, President of the FTTH Council. “Now, nearly one fifth of the world’s fiber connections are here in the United States. Offering faster speeds and better reliability, fiber sells itself.”