The pressure is mounting on incumbent operators to step up to plate with its broadband services – as Google Fiber announced that it was in early discussions with 34 cities in 9 metro areas around the United States to explore what it would take to bring a new fiber-optic network to their community.
Google plans, as early as next week, to send teams to these potential cities to meet with city officials and begin the two-part planning process.
Part 1: Provide checklist to cities to help make them fiber-ready – including providing information for planning and construction as well as being the permitting process
Part 2: Begin detailed city study: Google Fiber will begin the cost and timeline analysis which includes topology assessment, housing density and condition of local infrastructure.
Each of these markets is home to either major universities or high-tech industry. In the case of Salt Lake City – Google Fiber will likely take advantage of the UTOPIA Network which is in place to 14 communities within the area.
Google Fiber plans to announce the next city (or cities) by the end of 2014.
So what’s the Impact of this announcement?
The competitive pressure is on! Although, nearly every incumbent operator has essentially blown off Google Fiber as a competitor – but clearly they are keeping an eye on activity – as was evidenced by AT&T matching Google Fiber in Austin, TX for 1Gig services last year.
If you look at the competitive environment in the potential cities – you see that AT&T and Comcast (including the future acquired TWC properties) will be impacted the most – as they both serve the majority of the potential cities.
For AT&T, we could see a possible shift in strategy away from FTTN towards FTTH, particularly in key markets such as Atlanta and Charlotte. For Comcast, the pressure will be on pricing. Yes they can offer 105Mbps across all of their markets – but can people afford to buy it?
Developing the Blueprint for FTTH
Another key impact is the knowledge gained from these deployments – which has been instrumental to other communities as they plan, build and market their networks. Understanding what is required to make the business case (% of customers, ARPU, OPEX) before building is critical to success and clearly the pre-registration process is proving to be a key element being adopted by other providers.
Be Careful of Overcommitment
The big concern right now is overcommitment on the part of Google Fiber. Although they have not provided any updates on the status of Kansas City – they appear to be behind schedule on the original build. Additionally, it appears that the process of assessing Austin is taking significantly longer than expected. Yes, Provo is off the ground, but they didn’t have to do much – which is why I suspect they will choose cities with ALOT of available infrastructure for their next city.
Drumming Up Consumer Excitement…and Frustration
Judging by the comments on articles, twitter and Facebook after this recent announcement demand for Google Fiber is far greater than I believe most of these operators have anticipated.
Dissatisfaction with the quality and price of their current services has consumers grasping for an alternative – and who can argue with $120/month for 1Gb connectivity and 200+ HD channels – no incumbent operator can even come close to offering this type of package.
It is unlikely that Google will ever become a major operator on the scale of AT&T, Verizon or Comcast – but they are a disruptor and a catalyst for change and their impact will likely be far and wide – from more innovation in pricing and packaging to the improved quality of broadband.
According to Netflix, Google Fiber offers the best streaming experience during primetime and with 28 million streaming customers – it would behoove broadband operators to provide a good experience for Netflix because that translates into a happy customer and one that is less likely to churn.
Undoubtedly, Google Fiber is making waves in the U.S. market. But they are also illustrating what can be done and how to do it.