Grande Communications has pretty grand ambitions for Texas.
Grande Communications , a Texas-based competitive overbuilder with nearly 160,000 broadband and video customers in eight markets across the state, announced Thursday that it will launch Gigabit service in San Antonio early next week. That will make it the first broadband provider to bring 1-Gig service to the large Texas city, beating such rivals as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Google Fiber Inc. that also have designs on the market. (See Grande Communications Plans 1G deployment in San Antonio.)
Grande already offers gigabit service over fiber lines in parts of the Austin market, where it launched service last February before any of the other three providers. The Texas capital has since become the nerve center of the Gigabit Cities movement, with Google Fiber and AT&T both introducing Gigabit service over their fiber networks there as well. Also, TWC is rolling out top downstream speeds of 300 Mbit/s over its hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) plant. (See Austin Apartments Get Grande's Gig.)
The Texas overbuilder said it will start rolling out 1-Gig service over fiber networks in two San Antonio neighborhoods -- Alamo Heights and Terrell Hills -- on March 3. In both sections, Grande will offer its Power 1000 tier for about $65 a month, slightly less than what Google Fiber typically offers.
Matt Rohre, SVP of operations and GM for Grande, said the provider will gauge customer response to its 1-Gig offering in San Antonio before deciding whether to expand its rollout, just as it's done in Austin. "We want to take a very pragmatic approach here," he said. Since launching service in a couple of Austin neighborhoods last February, Grande has expanded its rollout twice. Plans now call for extending 1 Gig service to about 30% of its Austin footprint by the end of the year.
"We're going to continue to expand our 1-Gig footprint in Austin," Rohre said. "We're getting pretty aggressive with the rollouts.
In addition to announcing its 1-Gig plans for San Antonio, Grande unveiled a suite of higher-speed broadband tiers for all of its Texas markets, which include Austin, Dallas, Waco, Corpus Christi, Midland and Odessa, starting March 3. The three new high-speed tiers will be: 200 Mbit/s for about $45 a month, 300 Mbit/s for about $55 a month and 400 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s for about $65 a month. Plus, Grande will offer a 15Mbit/s tier for about $30 a month and a 50Mbit/s tier for about $35 a month.
"We will upgrade our networks throughout Texas to 400 Mbit/s, which is close to four times as fast as our previous highest speeds," Rohre said. "This is our big project for the year, getting out of the gates first [on 400 Mbit/s]." The company is increasing speeds to 400 Mbit/s, rather than 1 Gbit/s, in the sections where it has HFC networks, rather than all-fiber lines.
Rohre said Grande has no plans to hike data speeds up to 1-Gig in any other Texas markets this year. But, he admitted, those plans could change if AT&T, TWC, Google Fiber or some other rival decides to launch Gigabit service in one of its other six markets.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading