NEW YORK (Reuters) - AT&T Inc plans to start speeding up its Internet service in Austin, Texas, in December, to defend itself against a planned ultra high-speed Internet and television service to be launched by Google Inc in the same city next year.

Texas' capital city, with a population of 840,000, has a reputation as a high-tech industry hub.

After Google said in April that it would bring a service of 1 gigabit-per-second to Austin users, AT&T followed with a promise to match the offer if it obtained the same regulatory terms granted to Google by local authorities.

AT&T said on Tuesday that it would start by offering a 300 megabits-per-second service in December, and that by mid-2014 the speed would increase to up to 1 gigabit per second. It said this would allow users to download an entire high-definition movie in less than 2 minutes.

The AT&T service promised for December is almost seven times faster than AT&T's fastest existing home broadband offering.

Google had initially billed its first "Google Fiber" broadband offer, launched in Kansas City, Missouri, last year, as a test project to spur development of new Web services and technology.

But it has since suggested that high-speed Internet could be a viable business for the company, causing traditional broadband rivals such as AT&T to prepare a response.

AT&T's chief executive, Randall Stephenson, told investors at a conference on September 24 that AT&T was working on the Austin project and that he expected the company to do "multiple markets like this over the next few years."

AT&T said it will reach "tens of thousands of customer locations" in Austin and the surrounding areas this year with its new speeds and will expand to more neighborhoods in 2014.

Google's Fiber service, which the company says provides Internet speeds 100 times faster than today's average broadband service, will be available in Austin by mid-2014. Google began offering Fiber in Kansas City in late 2012 and will make the service available in Provo, Utah, by the end of this year.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco; editing by Matthew Lewis)

 

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