AT&T's U-verse Gets Ready for Ruckus
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is attempting an end-around on one of its U-verse service's biggest bugaboos: shoddy home wiring.
The carrier is about to start consumer field trials of its U-verse service using Ruckus Wireless Inc. gear to deliver HD IPTV streams over standard WiFi throughout the home, Light Reading has learned. The drive for AT&T, sources say, is to find ways to shave minutes, maybe hours, off some new customer installations by using 802.11n wireless connections instead of coaxial cable as the home's main video distribution medium.
There is a precedent of big carriers using WiFi to deliver IPTV in the home. (See Who Makes What: Telco Home Gateways.) Ruckus customers for WiFi IPTV distribution include Telia Company , Belgacom SA (Euronext: BELG), and Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN), to name a few. But this is interesting because it's AT&T's first reported use of something other than a wired connection in its U-verse homes, and it involves the new version of Ruckus's equipment, the MediaFlex 7000, which was designed to handle HDTV.
Ruckus says its 802.11n equipment can ensure the transmission of 30 Mbit/s to 50 Mbit/s of guaranteed throughput for streaming video throughout a typical 2,500 square-foot to 3,000 square-foot (230 square meter) home. (See Ruckus Raises 802.11n Stakes.) The MediaFlex 7000 device manual says it can support four to six MPEG-4 HDTV IPTV streams running at 10 Mbit/s each.
In Light Reading's test of Ruckus's gear last year in a real AT&T U-verse home, Ruckus performed well. That, of course, was just one case study, and deploying AT&T's U-verse has, in practice, been an exercise in finding just the right homes, with just the right wiring, at just the right distance from an AT&T VRAD. (See Raising a Ruckus With U-verse.) So the Ruckus solution won't be a catch-all solution, but analysts agree any help with speed of service is probably a good thing.
It's a hassle for customers to add new home wiring, says Heavy Reading analyst Adi Kishore. "That means moving furniture and hammering stuff into the wall," he says, all of which adds precious minutes to already hours-long installation times. "Most U.S. homes do not have Ethernet already installed, so AT&T has been using HPNA-over-coax to avoid new wiring. But sometimes the coax is old, or just poorly installed and can be a problem."
"The basic objective is zero-touch configuration," says Graham Finnie, Heavy Reading's chief analyst. He notes that every customer service call after the fact eats away at a carrier's profit margins in an already price-sensitive field. So fast install times are great, but adding WiFi video distribution had better not add to AT&T's support burden.
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