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Ting Mobile follows Google into gigabit-broadband biz

The success of Google Fiber has inspired Ting, which offers a low-cost mobile phone service, to get into the gigabit-broadband market.

Typical upload and download speeds on Google's fiber service range between 800-900Mbps with an Ethernet hard line plugged in, and around 150Mbps using indoor Wi-Fi access connected to Fiber. Now Ting is entering the market. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

Discount-wireless provider Ting Mobile is following Google's lead in taking on traditional telecom and cable companies with a fiber-based gigabit-capable broadband service.

Ting announced Tuesday that it plans to buy Blue Ridge InternetWorks, a small Internet service provider in Charlottesville, Vir., that has already begun building a fiber-based broadband network. Ting plans to use the 35 miles of fiber network and expand it to offer gigabit speed broadband in the sub-$100 price range to residents throughout the college town, CEO Eliot Noss said in an interview.

The plan is similar to what Google has accomplished with Google Fiber, which the search giant announced in 2010. Google was the first company to build a fiber broadband network and offer download and upload speeds of 1Gbps for less than $100 a month, finally making ultrahigh-speed broadband affordable to average consumers. Google Fiber came first to Kansas City and has been expanded to Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas, with plans to build fiber networks in additional markets.

While several cities had already begun building fiber networks before Google came on the scene, Google's presence has kick-started a movement to get higher-speed access at lower prices to more Americans. Since Google Fiber was launched, broadband competitor AT&T has also launched 1Gbps service on its fiber network in Austin, Texas, with plans to expand the service to other markets. AT&T is also offering the 1Gbps service for less than $100 a month in some markets.

Smaller operators have also begun building fiber broadband networks to offer gigabit Internet access. In 2013, regional wireless carrier C Spire announced plans for its 1Gbps fiber network in Mississippi. Like Google, C Spire will offer the ultrahigh-speed service at more-affordable prices. This idea of offering high-speed access at lower prices is key to spurring adoption of these 1Gbps services throughout the country, which politicians and business leaders say is essential to spurring job growth and improving the US' standings in the global broadband rankings.

Noss admitted that Google served as an inspiration for Ting's expansion into the fixed-broadband market.

"We had been looking at this market for a while," he said. "And Google helped confirm our belief that this was a good business opportunity."

He said Ting is in an even better position than Google to take advantage of this market opportunity. Ting, which resells Sprint wireless service, has built its business around offering customers a low-cost alternative to contract wireless service from larger service providers, with an emphasis on offering strong customer support and service.

"Google's primary business is search," he said. "Ours is serving customers, so this fits really well with what we do."

Noss said the company plans to complete its deal with Blue Ridge InternetWorks early next year and will announce pricing and other details of the gigabit broadband service then. He also said Ting plans to offer similar services in other cities. And he anticipates announcing at least one other deal next year, with more deals to follow later.

"Internet access in the US is fairly broken," Noss said. "And we see an opportunity to take what we already do really well in mobile to the fixed-broadband market."