The service, Gigabit Pro, launches in Atlanta to 1.5 million customers. It's a residential product that offers "a symmetrical, 2 Gigabit-per-second, or Gbps, service that will be delivered via a fiber-to-the-home solution," the company stated in a press release. After Atlanta, the company has aggressive plans to expand the ultra-high-speed offering.
"We'll first offer this service in Atlanta and roll it out in additional cities soon with the goal to have it available across the country and available to about 18 million homes by the end of the year," according to a Comcast blog post.
Rolling out Gigabit Pro to Atlanta is part of a bold effort by the company to not only answer Google's service in the cities where the brands compete, but to pre-emptively strike against potential expansion by the search giant. The company does not name Google in either the press release or the blog post, but it's not hard to read between the lines of some comments.
"Our approach is to offer the most comprehensive rollout of multi-gigabit service to the most homes as quickly as possible, not just to certain neighborhoods," said Doug Guthrie, senior vice president of Comcast Cable's Big South Region. "We already provide the fastest speeds to the most homes and businesses in Atlanta, and access to Gigabit Pro will give our customers all the broadband capacity they need to stay ahead of future technologies and innovations."
It's hard to not see the "certain neighborhoods" as a swipe at Google.
What is Comcast doing?
Comcast is looking to defend its turf. The company has 22 million subscribers, and Google's low-cost, high-speed fiber service could be enticing enough to get people to switch. Since the search giant not only offers Internet service, but cable television and even phone service, Fiber could take market share away from Comcast.
However, Google has been slow to roll out Fiber and has no intention of expanding the service aggressively. Instead, Google has taken a methodical approach in working with cities such as Atlanta and Austin, Texas, that role out the welcome mat. That offers Comcast a window to bring comparable (and in this case even faster) service to its customers.
The cable and Internet company has invested heavily in its network, which it touted in the Gigabit Pro launch press release:
Comcast has been doubling the capacity of its network at least every 18 months and, with the introduction of Gigabit Pro, the company has now increased speeds for its subscribers 14 times in the past 13 years. In addition to fast, wired broadband tiers, Xfinity Internet customers have access to the industry's fastest in-home wireless gateway capable of offering up to 700 Mbps Wi-Fi connections.
It's hard to know what's hyperbole and what's real when reading claims like that, but there's no denying Comcast is working on faster Internet service. It's very likely that Google provided the kick in the pants needed for the company to decide that bringing super-fast Internet to its entire customer base was a sensible goal.
Can Comcast beat Google?
Comcast can win this fight because Google does not seem interested in competing. If the company wanted to make Fiber a much more extensive play, then it almost certainly could. Instead, the search leader's policy has generally been to explore new technologies as a way to get the leaders in the field motivated to keep up.
Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai explained the company's philosophy earlier this year in a speech at the Mobile World Congress. He was talking about Google entering the wireless phone business, but he referenced Nexus tablets and offered insight into how the company operates.
"Our goal here is to drive a set of innovations which we think the system should adopt," Pichai said.
Ultimately, Google is not setting out to take over the ISP market with Fiber. It's looking to advance changes it wants the industry to adopt (because in addition to being good for the public, they are good for Google). In this case, that goal has been accomplished. Fiber forced Comcast to act, and those actions should result in 18 million homes getting access to 2 gigabit-per-second Internet service by the end of the year.
Kudos to Google for throwing down the gauntlet, but credit to Comcast for picking it up and running with it.