Fiber OpticsCable companies are getting in on the gigabit network trend, as announcements from two cable operators this week illustrate. Grande Communications beat AT&T and Google Fiber to the punch in making gigabit service available in Austin, Texas. And Comporium said it will launch gigabit service to a new business park in Rock Hill, S.C. by this summer.

“We wanted to stay ahead of AT&T as they come out with 300-megabit service,” said Grande President Matt Murphy in an interview. AT&T ultimately plans to offer gigabit service in parts of Austin but started its network upgrade by offering 300 Mbps service in certain neighborhoods late last year. Google is also planning an Austin gigabit network.

Grande’s gigabit offering will be available in some of the same neighborhoods where AT&T launched the 300 Mbps service. Grande will charge $64.99 per month for gigabit service and will not require a contract commitment. The price decreases if people also buy video and voice services from Grande. AT&T’s 300 Mbps service costs between $70 and $100 monthly.

Grande originally launched triple-play service in parts of Texas 15 years ago in competition with incumbent cable companies.

Gigabit Offerings Do Not Use HFC
Many cable companies offer gigabit data connections to business customers using Carrier Ethernet infrastructure. But residential gigabit offerings from cable companies are quite unusual.

One cableco that offers such services is GCI Communications, which announced its residential gigabit offering in Anchorage, Alaska in December. GCI’s offering is based on DOCSIS 3.0 and hybrid-fiber coax (HFC) network infrastructure.

But that’s not the approach that Grande or Comporium are using.

Grande has deployed a mixture of fiber-to-the-curb and fiber-to-the-home in Austin but is rolling the gigabit service out only in FTTH areas, Murphy said.

Comporium’s release states that its offering uses “all-fiber delivery.” That could mean Carrier Ethernet or fiber-to-the-premises but the company appears to be referencing FTTP as it notes that it believes there are less than two dozen gigabit communities in the U.S. at this time. (Carrier Ethernet gigabit service is available more widely than that.)

UPDATE February 13: A Comporium representative confirmed that the company’s Rock Hill offering will be GPON-based.

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