AT&T Inc. says it will begin offering ultrafast home Internet service, aimed at customers with online demands such as downloading videos and teleconferencing, in the Milwaukee area in 2016.
Milwaukee will be one of 38 metro markets to receive the gigabit service to homes, apartments and small businesses next year, AT&T said Monday.
The GigaPower service will give customers a 1-gigabit per second broadband connection, which is about 50 times faster than what many people have at home.
That’s enough speed to download 25 songs in a second, a TV show in less than three seconds or a high-definition movie in 36 seconds.
Milwaukee will be AT&T’s first GigaPower city in Wisconsin, although the company currently offers gigabit speeds to large businesses, office buildings and business parks in the metro area.
The company did not disclose the specific time frame for the rollout next year and did not identify which neighborhoods will receive the service. It also did not announce a price, but GigaPower in some cities costs about $120 a month.
“As we get closer to the product launch, we will make people more aware of the details,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin.
People who work from home and have to move large amounts of data could benefit from the high-speed service, as could someone who plays a lot of video games or downloads movies.
Physicians could view X-rays and other medical images from their home computers with no delays, and telecommuters could videoconference from home without buffering or glitches.
“Basically any application that’s available today, no matter what it is, will just operate tons faster on this network,” VanderSanden said.
AT&T launched its first GigaPower network in Austin, Texas, about two years ago. Its ultrafast service is now available in about 20 metro markets, and Monday’s announcement was for Milwaukee and 37 other cities in 2016.
On a GigaPower network, you can watch and record up to six high-definition programs at the same time.
“What we are seeing in mobile and fixed Internet (service) is customers are also producing more content than ever before and are pushing that content to the cloud, over social networks, engaging in video conferencing and more,” AT&T said.
The technology depends on fiber-optic cable, rather than copper wire, that can handle large amounts of data at high speeds.
AT&T’s strategy has been to introduce GigaPower in metropolitan areas first, although many other communities also have a fiber network suitable for gigabit speeds.
“Today, our fiber generally gets to within 3,500 feet of most customers’ homes or businesses. This (GigaPower) will extend the fiber from that point to the home or business,” VanderSanden said.
Locations where AT&T’s U-verse video service is available could, technically, handle the new ultrafast connection.
“Our deployment decisions involve several factors, such as assessing technical network issues, listening to all communities, and learning the amount of consumer demand,” the company said. “We will follow the demand for high Internet speeds and determine where there are solid investment cases and receptive policies.”
Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications offer gigabit speeds to businesses but not homes in Wisconsin.
However, some of the most rural communities in the state have gigabit service from other providers, including TDS Telecom, based in Madison.
Middleton, Waunakee, Verona, Black Earth and Cross Plains were scheduled to become gigabit towns in late 2014. Sparsely populated Madeline Island, in Lake Superior, has the service, along with some nearby mainland communities also served by Norvado Wireless, based in Cable.
Many of the smaller communities benefit from a cooperative-like network, formed years ago, where broadband providers tap into a fiber pipeline from Minneapolis and Chicago.
In Milwaukee, the AT&T announcement was praised by civic and business leaders.
“This type of service, and this kind of speed, are increasingly expectations that people have. It’s really a must-have if we are going to continue to attract and retain the talent that we need in the region,” said Julie Granger, vice president of communications for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
“High-speed Internet connections are improving virtually every aspect of our lives — from education to health care, to employment opportunities to public safety,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement.