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AT&T's U-verse gets 24Mbps downloads

AT&T is now offering 24Mbps broadband service throughout its U-verse territory, but competitors are trumping it with 100Mbps service.

AT&T has made its fastest tier of broadband service, which tops out at 24 megabits per second, available throughout its U-verse territory, the company said Monday.

In December, AT&T started offering the 24Mbps download and 3Mbps upload service available in three markets, Austin, San Antonio, and St. Louis. The service, which costs $65 a month as part of a bundle, is now available throughout AT&T's 120-market U-verse footprint in 22 states, the company said.

Unlike Verizon Communications, which has been upgrading its infrastructure with fiber directly to customers' homes, AT&T chose a less expensive upgrade path. The company's U-verse network consists of new fiber upgrades to the network node or neighborhood. And the network architecture calls for using existing cable connections to deliver service to homes and businesses.

Broadband breakdown
Here's a comparison of U.S. ISPs' premiere broadband offerings, from the slowest and least expensive to the fastest and most expensive.
Broadband providers Slowest, cheapest Fastest, priciest Plans for 100 Mbps?
AT&T U-verse 3Mbps download/1Mbps upload, $35 24Mbps download/3Mbps upload, $65 No
Cablevision 15Mbps download/2Mbps upload, $50 101Mbps download/15Mbps upload, $100 Yes
Comcast 12Mbps/2Mbps, $43 50Mbps/10Mbps, $100 Yes
Cox 1Mbps/256Kbps, $23 50Mbps/5Mbps, $90 to $145* Yes
Time Warner Cable 10Mbps/512Kbps, $43 50Mbps/5Mbps, $100 No
Verizon Fios 15 Mbps/5Mbps, $50 with phone service or $55 without phone service 50Mbps/20Mbps, $140 with phone service or $145 without phone service Yes
*Price varies by promotion.
Source: CNET research

What this means is that AT&T's fastest network is still constrained in what's known as the last mile. Some customers who live close to the central office may experience faster Internet speeds, but in general, customers get rates up to 24Mbps. While this is likely plenty of bandwidth for most customers, it pales in comparison to offers from Verizon and cable competitors.

Today, most of AT&T's cable competitors are offering at least 50Mbps download services with plans to go to 100Mbps soon. Cablevision, which offers service predominately in Verizon's territory and not AT&T's territory, offers 100Mbps downloads now. But competitors, such as Comcast and Cox Communications, which do compete with AT&T in various markets, are offering 50Mbps downloads today and have plans to bump their service offering to 100Mbps in the near future.

Cable operators are achieving these faster speeds thanks to upgrades to their networks using a technology called Docsis 3.0, which allows them to bond channels together for more capacity. By the end of 2010 most cable operators will have fully upgraded their networks to this technology, which will allow them to deliver faster and faster Internet speeds.

Meanwhile, AT&T will continue to squeeze as much capacity out of its network infrastructure as possible.