AT&T has become the first major Bay Area broadband provider to widely offer gigabit service targeted at consumers. Many suspect the looming threat of Google Fiber offering service to the area accelerated the move by AT&T.
(TNS) -- Residents of San Francisco, San Jose and four other Bay Area cities can now take their broadband service into the Giga Age.
AT&T announced late Monday it has expanded the reach of its GigaPower service. As of Tuesday morning, people who in live in parts of Santa Clara, San Ramon, Mountain View and Dublin -- as well as the Bay Area's two biggest cities -- will be able to sign up for the Internet service, which offers download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.
Streaming video services like Netflix "are making this a more in-demand product," said Marc Blakeman, AT&T's vice president for external affairs. "We're finding a lot more interest."
With the launch, AT&T is the first major Bay Area broadband provider to widely offer gigabit service targeted at consumers. Comcast offers gigabit service to some of its local customers, but requires them to have special equipment to get it. Google has announced plans to bring Google Fiber, its gigabit service, to San Francisco and is considering bringing it to San Jose, but doesn't offer service in either location yet.
The threat of Google Fiber has spurred AT&T, Comcast and other traditional broadband providers to upgrade their networks and offer gigabit service sooner than they might otherwise have done, said Bill Menezes, an analyst who covers communications services for Gartner, a tech research firm. They're also trying to get ahead of consumer demand, he said.
The move to gigabit broadband represents a marked increase in the upload and download speeds previously available to Bay Area residents, particular to AT&T customers. The fastest service AT&T offers through U-Verse, its older broadband service, is 75 megabits per second. But that's only the download speed -- uploads are limited to a pedestrian 8 megabits per second -- and even that service is only available to a select number of customers in certain parts of the area.
Most consumers don't yet need gigabit service, Menezes said. But that will likely change over time with new applications and additional devices added to the network.
"You don't need a gig if you've got a couple and kids streaming Netflix," he said. But you may in the future "if you continue to add other things."
Like Google Fiber, AT&T's GigaPower service relies on fiber optic lines that carry signals all the way to residents' homes. In order to provide gigabit service, AT&T has to first string the fiber lines on utility poles or dig up city streets and lay them underground.
AT&T began offering its gigabit service in the Bay Area last year, when it launched GigaPower in Cupertino. It announced in December that it would be expanding to additional cities in the Bay Area.
Among the cities AT&T said then it would expand to this year is Oakland. That city didn't make the cut for Tuesday's launch, but GigaPower service there will "definitely be coming later this year," said Leland Kim, an AT&T spokesman.
AT&T officials declined to say which neighborhoods in San Francisco, San Jose and the other GigaPower cities will now have access to the service, citing "competitive" reasons. They also declined to say exactly how many households in particular cities now can sign up for the service.
The company is offering GigaPower at tens of thousands of locations in the Bay Area, Kim said. AT&T plans to triple that amount by the end of the year, he said.
Company officials advised residents in cities where it is offering GigaPower to check with the AT&T website to see if the service is available at their houses.
As part of the expansion, AT&T is cutting the price of GigaPower from what it initially charged for the service in Cupertino. Residents can now sign up for stand-alone gigabit Internet service for $70 a month on a one-year contract. AT&T is offering a "triple play" package of broadband, landline phone service and pay TV for $129 a month.
Previously in Cupertino, AT&T charged $110 a month for stand-alone GigaPower Internet access and $180 a month for the triple play. All those prices assume that customers agree to allow AT&T to track their Web surfing habits for the purpose of delivering targeted ads. The company charges $29 a month more at each level of service for customers who opt out of the tracking.
©2016 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.