Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com
Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Business

AT&T launches ultra-fast Internet network in Charlotte, Meck County

By Katherine Peralta and Athena Cao

kperalta@charlotteobserver.com

June 15, 2015 10:39 AM

AT&T on Monday launched its super-fast Internet service in parts of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, ratcheting up competition with rivals Time Warner Cable and Google Fiber.

The new service, called U-verse with AT&T GigaPower, offers speeds up to 100 times faster than typical Internet services, the company said. It allows a user to download 25 songs in one second. But not all neighborhoods are eligible yet for the service.

“This is about entertainment, education, health ... a variety of services here,” AT&T’s North Carolina President Venessa Harrison announced at the Charlotte Chamber Monday. She was joined by Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter.

AT&T is rolling out the service ahead of rivals who are also rushing to provide faster speeds to customers using Internet connections for everything from streaming videos to playing games.

Be the first to know.

No one covers what is happening in our community better than we do. And with a digital subscription, you'll never miss a local story.

Google has told the city it plans to start this month laying fiber for its network and to start construction on the huts that will serve as a key part of the network’s infrastructure, said Phil Reiger, assistant director of Charlotte’s Department of Transportation. The city is ironing out the final details on leases for 15 of the locations that will be on city property.

Google has said it’s likely 18 months away from serving its first customers but the service won’t be widely available right away, Reiger said.

A Google Fiber spokeswoman said Monday that the company is working with the city to design its fiber network and expects to provide an update on construction in Charlotte soon.

Another telecom competitor, Time Warner Cable, also plans to bring faster Internet speeds and improved television services to local customers through a new “TWC Maxx” service starting this summer.

Residents and small businesses interested in AT&T’s one-gigabit-per-second Internet service can check their eligibility online at att.com/gigapower. A company spokesman would not define the coverage area or comment on when it will be available for the entire city.

Ultra-fast Internet requires the connection between a carrier’s central switching office and the customer’s home or office to be entirely fiber-optic.

For neighborhoods eligible for U-verse service, fiber lines had already been laid between AT&T’s central office and neighborhood servers. Once the carrier updates those servers and runs fiber all the way to individual households or businesses, the Internet speed will be able to increase to a gigabit per second. AT&T will provide cables compatible with the fiber in the installation process if necessary, the company said.

AT&T has recently been ramping up its preparations for the launch of its new network in the state. Last week, the company named Joe Giarmo as its GigaPower market manager for the Charlotte area. And earlier this year, the company said it was hiring 100 full-time technicians in North Carolina, including 10 in Charlotte, to help develop the super-fast service.

AT&T already started rolling out GigaPower in parts of the Triangle area in late 2014, including Raleigh and Chapel Hill, and has said it plans to launch the service in Durham and Greensboro, too.

Estimated monthly cost of a gigabit connection from Google Fiber is at $70 and TV access for about $60 more.

At the check-stand on the corner of Trade and Tryon streets Monday afternoon, Al McElroy found out his Archdale-area home is eligible for GigaPower.

“It’s all a question of who gets here first,” McElroy said, adding that he had been waiting for Google Fiber. But with AT&T GigaPower now available, he said, the wait is over.

McElroy pays $69 a month for AT&T’s 45-megabit Internet plan and is ready to upgrade to the 1,000-megabit Internet with one more dollar a month.

“It’s a no-brainer,” McElroy said.

Rick Rothacker contributed.

Pricing for AT&T’s gigabit-Internet packages

▪  U-verse High Speed Internet Premier: Internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second starting at about $70 a month

▪ U-verse High Speed Internet Premier plus TV: Internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second and qualifying TV service starting at $120 a month

▪ U-verse High Speed Internet Premier plus TV and voice: Internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second with qualifying TV service and unlimited U-verse voice starting at $150 a month