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What is AT&T's GigaPower?

The race to be the fastest Internet provider is on, and AT&T is making a big move. The carrier has launched its blazing GigaPower fiber-optic Internet service in 38 new markets, bringing its total footprint to 56 metro areas served.

According to AT&T, GigaPower will enable Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. That means you could potentially be able to download an HD movie in less than 36 seconds or a TV show in 3 seconds over your home or office's Wi-Fi.

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Of course, actual speeds could be slower, since those claims are for maximum network capability rates. Other factors, such as, "site traffic, content provider server capacity, internal network management factors, customer device capabilities and use of other U-Verse services," could affect performance, according to an AT&T statement.

GigaPower uses a 100 percent fiber-optic network, which is lighter, more flexible and more capable of handling increased speeds than traditional copper wires, making it faster than dial-up, DSL or cable.

AT&T's promised speeds are faster than Verizon's all-fiber-optic Fios Internet connection, which gets up to 500 Mbps "in some areas," according to Verizon's website. On Verizon, a 5GB movie will download in minutes - slower than the 36 seconds promised by AT&T. Both estimates are based on maximum connection speeds.

To access AT&T GigaPower, you'll need to be in one of the market areas served, and sign up for one of the qualifying plans that start at $110 a month. You'll also have to be on a computer equipped with an Intel Core i5 CPU or better, run Window Vista, 7 or 8 or Mac OS 10.6 and have compatible network adapters or wired Ethernet connections.