Iris Dimmick / Rivard Report
More than two years after Google Fiber announced it was bringing its high speed internet service to San Antonio, residents in select neighborhoods can sign up for Fiber 1000 as of Tuesday.
The 1,000 megabits (Mbps) per second service is available to customers living in single-family homes near Westover Hills and around West End Park in the city's far-Westside, according Google Fiber officials.
For a limited time, the company is offering a reduced price. Customers that sign up by Dec. 21 will pay $55 per month compared to the $70-$100 it charges in other markets.
The company did not provide details about future service areas. Residents can find out if their address is included in this first round here. San Antonio is now one of 12 other metro areas across the United States where Google Fiber is available.
The company paused citywide work in San Antonio last year after local residents complained about the size and locations of fiber huts, which act as distribution hubs. Google Fiber removed one located in Haskin Park and will replace it with a much smaller hub.
"The spirit of Google Fiber has always been one of innovation - and we’re honoring that right here in San Antonio,” Tyler Wallis, Google Fiber’s San Antonio city manager said in a news release. "From the way we’re building the Fiber network to our product line-up, we’re simplifying our processes to give our customers what they’ve told us they want - affordable, super fast internet without any unnecessary complications."
To get the entire city connected, Google originally planned on installing 17 huts across the city, but has since announced plans to use new engineering tactics to scale back the need for large network huts.
Google Fiber expects shallow trenching to be the primary method of deployment in San Antonio going forward, a company spokesperson said in an email. This process is a more efficient and less disruptive way to build the Fiber network in San Antonio, they said.
The company has encountered several other challenges as it enters new markets, local industry stakeholders told the Rivard Report.
"To roll out network infrastructure in Bexar County, there are 14 different cities you'd have to work with to get approvals, so it's hard for a new player to enter this market," said Bret Piatt, CEO of Jungle Disk. "This is just for implementing a traditional fiber network."
While Google builds political relationships, it also has to focus on the physical logistics of mass implementation.
"Fiber can be installed more easily in new construction," said Corky Roth, CEO of Jump Fiber, "but can be expensive and requires permitting, especially if it’s retrofitted into older buildings. Micro trenching outside the urban core is less complex to accomplish than in downtown."
Jump Fiber is building a fixed wireless network around the central business district in San Antonio by using technology that enables networks across buildings to transmit high speed internet. It starts with a signal from the tallest building and in San Antonio, that building is the Weston Centre. Jump Fiber installed its first fixed wireless system there on Nov. 1.
Fixed wireless systems act like dedicated fiber networks, but they don't need as many physical connections. It's not a new concept, Roth said, but the technology was refined over the years. Fixed wireless networks don't require the often expensive and arduous process of permitting and associated construction costs that trenching fiber does.
Google Fiber has adopted a hybrid strategy last year after acquiring the wireless internet company Web Pass which uses this similar technology. The fixed wireless company Web Pass provides high speed internet in dense urban centers of cities such as Chicago and Miami.
Google Fiber declined to comment on its strategy for rolling out high speed internet after its acquisition of Web Pass.
Meanwhile, its main competitor AT&T has been installing its own high speed internet "AT&T Internet 1000," to increase its coverage in San Antonio.
In March 2016, Google Fiber confirmed it was moving into two floors of the Rand building on Houston Street. Those offices have remained largely inactive ever since, but several Google Fiber vans appeared in the building's garage on Tuesday. The company declined to provide more details on its local workforce plans.
"Google Fiber has a strong local team overseeing Fiber in San Antonio, as well as vendors and contractors (many local) working on the project, and doesn't share personnel numbers," according to a spokesperson.
"High speeds" for internet access ranges from downloading speeds of less than 1 Mbps to 50 Mbps and uploading speeds anywhere from 0.2 to 6 Mbps (using wireless access on your cell phone) all the way up to 1000 Mbps or 1 gigabit per second speed (when using a fiber network). A useful chart to compare connection speeds can be found here.
“Access to high-speed broadband is a critical piece of creating an economically viable city,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a press release. “I am pleased to see increased investment in high-speed internet throughout the community. This infrastructure is crucial to enhanced economic development and educational opportunities for San Antonians.”