Grande Communications is living proof that Google's launch of ultra-high-speed broadband services has accelerated competition in the broadband sector.
"In all honesty, Google was a bit of a wakeup call for us," says Matt Rohre, Senior Vice President of Operations and General Manager for Grande Communications , referring to Google Fiber Inc. 's targeting of the Austin region for a gigabit network buildout. "We had the position as the fastest network in town. When someone comes in and threatens that, you have to make a decision."
Grande's decision was to evolve its network faster than it had originally planned, to become the first gigabit service provider in the region by making 1Gbit/s service available to about 20% of its market. Meanwhile, Austin has become a hotbed of sorts in the Gigabit Cities race, with Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) targeting the area in addition to Google. (See AT&T Grows Gigabit Goals and TWC Speeds Along With Speed Hikes.)
In the rapidly developing Gigabit Cities sector, Austin is likely to be closely watched to see if the promise of gigabit networks can actually support multiple competitive operators over the long term.
None of that worries a regional player like Grande, however, because even as more competitors breathe down its neck, the operator has the advantage of being both already established and Austin-based. And, Rohre says, Austin is the kind of market that can support multiple gigabit offerings.
"This is ground zero of the Internet wars," he says. "For a city like Austin that's such a tech hub, having access to multiple providers that can provide service at that level is obviously important. We've been providing fiber-based Internet access for years, and we've seen a strong response to the gigabit product in the marketplace."
The only thing that does worry Grande, Rohre says, is customer education -- and in an increasingly crowded competitive market, customer confusion. Grande can deliver 1Gbit/s connections into homes and connect to routers, he says, but what happens beyond that point can vary based on devices, home construction and wireless card speeds inside the premises.
"That's actually a pretty big challenge for all of us," Rohre says. "Customers can define that experience based on their wireless experience in the home, and there is so much of that we can't control."
— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading