AT&T GigaPower Service Looks Good But Has Strings Attached

gigabit-internetI recently noticed that signs for the new AT&T Gigapower service had popped up in a subdivision near where I live. Simply put, GigaPower is the brand name for AT&T’s new gigabit fiber Internet service. Yes, that is 1 Gbps or 1000 Mbps service! In this area, 100 Mbps is tops for residential service and around 200 Mbps is tops for reasonably affordable commercial service (you can currently pay big bucks for fiber service in our area, but that is usually not something most want to pay for). Needless to say, gigabit service would completely change the game in our area when it comes to Internet service. So I started researching AT&T’s GigaPower service to learn more and I found both good news and … let’s say “questionable” news.

Let’s start with the good news. AT&T is offering unbundled 1 Gbps service for $90/month. Now that is certainly higher than most Internet services in our area, but for 1 Gbps service, it is extremely reasonable. Installation and monthly equipment fees are “waived,” as I would expect, since most people don’t like paying for installation or equipment. To be fair, this pricing requires a 12-month commitment, but a one year agreement really isn’t out of line here so that’s not unreasonable in my opinion. Finally, 1 Gbps is the “maximum network service capability,” and “actual customer speeds may vary.” So it will be interesting to see if customers actually get anywhere close to 1 Gbps service, which will be difficult to measure since few services on the Internet could possibly push 1 Gbps of data to an end-user. Still, even if real throughput is only half (which wouldn’t be acceptable but I’m just using it as a frame of reference), 500 Mbps would still be mind-blowinginly fast!


So that’s the good news. Now for the strings. First, AT&T caps GigaPower service Internet usage to 1 TB of data per month and would charge you $10 for each additional 150 GB over 1 TB (up to $100). If you so choose, you can pay an extra $30/month and get an unlimited data allowance or if you bundle U-verse TV service with GigaPower Internet you also get an unlimited data allowance (this bundle requires a 2-year agreement). Now granted, 1TB is an incredible amount of data. So likely most people would not hit that cap. However, people who are willing to pay $90/month for gigabit speed Internet might just be the type of people to eat up that much data, especially if they are cord-cutters and stream a lot of video. Now all that being said, AT&T has announced they will be increasing Internet data caps across all of their services beginning August 21st, 2016. GigaPower users will be allowed unlimited data usage beginning on that date which would eliminate the data cap issues I just wrote about, but at the time of this writing, the 1 TB data cap still exists.

The far more potentially onerous gotcha with AT&T’s GigaPower service is their requirement that you opt-in to a service called “AT&T Internet Preferences.” This service basically allows AT&T to track your web browsing information and target ads according to your interests. If you choose not to participate in AT&T Internet Preferences you will be charged an additional $29/month for your GigaPower Internet service. Now to many people, assuming they even realize what they are opting-in to, this may sound like an invasion of privacy. But it may not be quite so bad. Like most companies, AT&T promises to never sell your personal information to any other companies so really it is just an ad targeting service. If you’ve ever noticed ads popping up for things you were shopping for recently, you already probably get targeted ads when you surf today from Google, Facebook, and other such companies. I personally do not have a problem with targeted ads because I’d much rather see ads that interest me instead of blanket untargeted promotions. This is probably because I’m fairly confident that the technology used does not gather personal information so I feel fairly safe. Yet I think it does set a questionable precedent that your Internet provider will basically charge you if you do not participate in their ad targeting service. Sure, they call it a “discount” but let’s get real. I’d much rather see the “actual” price of the service and then be given the option to discount it if I so choose, instead of being baited with a lower price and then be told that the true price is higher if I don’t choose to participate in an ad targeting service. I have a feeling AT&T will get a lot of pushback from customers as GigaPower begins to see broader deployment, but time will tell. Obviously if you do not like the way AT&T promotes their GigaPower service you must complain so they will get the message.

The final string attached to AT&T’s GigaPower offering is that service areas are very limited – and I do mean VERY limited. From what I’ve read, AT&T is currently only deploying GigaPower to neighborhoods and subdivisions that are already wired with fiber infrastructure. Primarily these are fairly new subdivisions (likely around 10 years old, maybe 15 years on the outside) within certain communities so it is very possible that one neighborhood will get GigaPower service while the next neighborhood over will not. Since many subdivisions do not have fiber infrastructure, they will likely not get GigaPower service for a long time. When I say “long time” it may literally be several years or longer because the cost of laying fiber in a neighborhood is significant. AT&T at this time wants to get to the low-hanging fruit of areas that already have fiber before they invest the capital to lay it in other areas to deploy their GigaPower service. So if you live in a newer subdivision and you are getting GigaPower service, feel free to get excited. However, if you live in an older area, don’t expect to see this service any time soon so temper your expectations. Just because your friends in town are getting GigaPower, doesn’t mean the whole town (or even a good fraction) will be getting it soon. Now that being said, competition from other companies may introduce gigabit services to certain areas so gigabit Internet speeds may still become a reality even if AT&T isn’t providing it.

If you are in an area that has or are getting AT&T GigaPower (or another gigabit service), please comment below if you are planning on getting the service or if you already have it and what your impressions are. Do note that if you are going to get gigabit service of any kind, you must make sure your router can handle the extremely high speeds or else you won’t be getting the full benefit of the service you are paying for. At this time with the limited deployment of gigabit services, there is not a lot of information regarding routers that can truly handle gigabit throughput, so shop carefully.

  • Jim Tippins

    Good report. I have no issue with targeted ads for discounted high speed service. I was in Rockledge, Florida a few weeks ago and saw contractors laying fiber bundles in the Chelsea Park subdivision. I asked a foreman and he said it was AT&T fiber. Hopefully, this will mean Gigapower will be there soon!

  • Yes, I much prefer targeted ads that I have some interest in rather than ads that have no idea what my interests are. But I wish AT&T would be more upfront about this instead of the virtual “bait-and-switch” they are doing now. Likely if AT&T is laying fiber, you’ll see Gigapower soon. Let us know if they do come to your area and if you can get the service.

  • As a follow-up, I met someone who has GigaPower service in my area. They showed me a screenshot of a speed test showing about 950 Mbps on both upload and download with a recent model Apple Airport wireless router using a wired Ethernet connection directly to the router. That is really incredible bandwidth and I hope to be able to do some of my own testing soon.

  • Charles Higginbotham

    I just got Gigapower in Louisville, KY. Our neighborhood is around 10 years old and only had TWC as an option. Once Google threatened to come to Louisville with Fiber, TWC and AT&T both started to squirm. TWC rolled out MAXX (300Mbs) within a few months and AT&T started laying fiber over the summer to a few areas.

    So far, I’m happy with the performance. On, I’m seeing 500-900+ download and 800-900+ upload, depending on the server. I bundled TV service, so I have unlimited data. My family typically uses 300 to 400GB per month, although that spiked to 800GB when we binged Luke Cake in 4k on Netflix. The buffering on Netflix 4k is almost nothing now.

    I’m locked into service for a year but my price is good for two years. That’s a plus since I’m used to calling whichever service every 12 months with an empty threat to cancel.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience and bandwidth tests! Out of curiosity, what kind of router do you have? Have you tested the bandwidth if you plug directly into the GigaPower “modem”?

  • Charles Higginbotham

    I’m currently using a combo of the AT&T device and an Apple Airport Extreme (in bridge/AP mode). My house is not big but it’s hard to get good wifi for some reason. I’m going to experiment with turning off the AT&T wifi and going with a Netgear Nighthawk. As far was wired, I get the same results plugged into the modem as I do with a Netgear switch between.

  • Do you have a newer Airport (“tall” vs the older “flat” model)? If you are using an Airport, you should turn off the AT&T Wi-Fi anyway so that it doesn’t conflict with the Airport’s signal. What kind of walls does your house have (drywall vs plaster vs something else)?

  • Charles Higginbotham

    I found the problem. I had the AP plugged into the same switch with the Uverse IPTV boxes and multicast was causing an issue. Lesson learned..if you are using ethernet for the Uverse TV boxes, use a separate switch and then connect it to one of the four ports on the AT&T gateway (for NVG599). AT&T will try to use 3 or 4 ports on their gateway for the Uverse boxes. You can connect them all to a small 5-port switch and save the other three ports on the gateway.

  • sjcdal

    And what kind of “taxes and fees” are added to the TV/net packages.
    any equipment fees like DirecTV?

  • That’s a good question and I can’t answer since I don’t have the service. I’ll try to talk to someone that does and see if they can answer definitively.

  • punx2000

    I just recently got 1Gbps from AT&T a month ago and now canceiling it. I live in the Sacramento, CA area and though they advertise 1Gbps, you will rarely get that speed. I find that it is inconsistent and unreliable. I get 200-900Mbps but I’d usual get mostly in the 200-500 range. I’ve had two techs come out only to tell me that their line is good and there’s nothing wrong with it. I have fiber to the home and my house is wired with Cat5e. I rarely use WiFi only with the phones.

    They gave me a 5268ac Residential Gateway to “lease” (you get it waived) and you can’t use anything else. You’re stuck with it. I feel that the RG lacks customization so I ended up using my own router and set it up for IP Passthrough. Speeds remained the same but what finally ticked me off is its inconsistencies to play HD content on YouTube for Roku. It takes a while to load and when it finally plays, it’s on 144p or something ludicrous for 1Gbps internet. Even changed the DNS to point to Google’s and disabled IPv6 and that didn’t help at all.

    The good thing about 1Gbps plan is that they don’t have data caps but it’s not worth the price if you’re not getting the speed you paid for. Anyway, that’s my experience with AT&T’s 1Gbps. Going back to 100Mbps plan with a competitor. At least, that speed was consistent and reliable.

  • B Thomp

    Thinking about checking it out. As of now, I maybe get an average of 10mbps. If I’m lucky. And I’ll be paying the same or even less as my current bundle. I just wanted to touch on one thing in your article: “They “promise” never to share/sell your info.” Does that include big brother? Ask Eric Snowden.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience!

  • It certainly is a concern if private companies share data with government agencies without our knowledge. But since we don’t know what we don’t know, unfortunately, it’s hard to factor that in for purposes of a technology review. Let us know if you do sign up for GigaPower and how it works out for you.

  • B Thomp

    Yes I know this is a tech review but I did chuckle a bit pertaining to the promise comment. You can read the documents the aforementioned person released to the public. We do know that these comm companies shared every single Americans phone records with them. And it also touches on several other entries we were not aware previously. Most of us anyways. Why do you think he exiled to Russia, our supposed enemy. Anywho, I’m straying. I Just like my fellow Americans to be informed. My Fiber will be setup tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes. Good day.

  • J King

    I found a pretty good deal. Currently in Houston, Texas AT&T is offering a 1 year promo for $80 a month with unlimited data. (taxes and fees are not included) Surprisingly, after the 1 year promo ends. Your bill will stay $80 a month for as long as you keep the service. AT&T is calling this promo “$39 off Internet for Life” and the Wi-Fi gateway is included in the price. I thought to myself that this sounds to good to be true. Therefore, I decided to speak with multiple chat, 1-800, and local AT&T sale reps and they all confirmed this deal is indeed 100%. I knew about privacy/monitoring policy a while back and that was the only reason why I did not sign up at that time. However, I took a little time to research and found out that the privacy policy no longer applies. AT&T ended the policy literally one month after you wrote the article. (see links below)

    I have decided to sign up for this service and a tech will be out this week to install. I will post results over the weekend.

  • Thanks for the info! I will update the article soon to include this information.

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