Welcome to the Gigabit Age

Google’s entrance into the high-speed internet market signaled a change in American expectations. For the first time, ubiquitous gigabit speeds became thought as a possibility and not just a dream. We had entered the Gigabit Age. Service providers who planned on bringing 1 gigabit speeds to market on their own terms, now had customers that clamored for ever faster speeds. Almost immediately a trend started to emerge, what we call the Gigaboom.  As gigabit Internet came to a market, competitors were quick to match those speeds causing a proliferation of gigabit providers across a market within a few short years. We’ll take a look at this trend, using the high-profile case of Google as an example, and show that what the Gigabit Age proves most of all is that competition and innovation is alive and well in telecom.

The Nashville Example

In February of 2014 news broke that Nashville was on Google’s short list to deploy its high-speed Internet and TV service, and in April of 2016, Google activated service for its first customers. Between Google’s first announcement and today three other providers introduced gigabit speeds across the metropolitan area. In all, Google, TDS, AT&T U-verse, and Comcast offer gigabit speeds in Nashville. Nashville had just experienced a Gigaboom – within just two years four service providers offered gigabit speeds across the market when previously none existed.

Nashville's Gigabit Timeline

When There is One, More Will Follow

The Gigaboom is predicated on the bedrock of capitalism – that continuous competitive pressure will lead to action. Nashville is just one example of this principle at work. When we look at Austin, we see a similar timeline. In April 2013, Google announced plans to deploy its Internet and TV service. Following closely behind, Grande Communications (February 2014) and AT&T U-verse (August 2014) launched gigabit speed plans in the metro. Today, there are five (5!) gigabit providers in Austin.

Nashville’s and Austin’s Gigabooms are not unique. The presence of one gigabit speed provider in a market usually means more are on the way. Of the 166 metropolitan areas with 1 Gbps speed or higher, 56 have more than one gigabit provider. And of those 56, more than half have at least three options.

Competition Driving the Gigaboom

Google’s fiber power-play as seen in Nashville and Austin are primary examples of how the telecommunications industry is still driven by competitive forces.  When gigabit speeds come to a market, natural competitive pressure will cause other incumbent providers to increase their speeds in response, no matter how small the initial offering is.

As demand and government requests continue to rise for faster Internet speeds, we can expect to see more markets with gigabit service. Comcast’s and Cox’s announcement of the advanced DOCSIS 3.1 technology should accelerate this process. And as new markets get gigabit speeds, we can expect Gigabooms to follow. This is great news for customers, regulators, and service providers alike.


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