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AT&T Speeds Up U-verse Visits

8:30 PM -- The nationwide average installation time for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s U-verse services has dropped by a little more than half an hour in 12 months. And it may have dropped even more since the start of 2009.

The carrier, responding to an inquiry made for this story, recently said that, as of the end of 4Q08, "the average installation time for U-verse is about 5.2 hours nationwide." That's 0.6 hours fewer per install, on average, than the data Light Reading had from December 2007.

Back then, AT&T's survey data showed that its newer technicians (those with less than three months experience) were taking an average of 6.4 hours to complete a typical U-verse installation. (See The U-verse Experiment. ) But more experienced techs were completing installations in about 5.3 hours -- so together they were average 5.8 hours nationwide.

AT&T said back in Dec. 2007 that its target rate for installations was "under five hours."

Five hours still seems like a long time, but let's not forget how complex some installations can become. A consumer may have multiple TVs, dodgy wiring, or a weak signal from the VRAD (video-ready access device -- the neighborhood node).

The weak signal thing is, by itself, quite a mystery to unravel. Installation techs tell me that AT&T's network in suburban Texas is rife with undocumented bridge taps, faulty location databases, and other problems that come from using a decades-old copper infrastructure to reach that last few feet to the customer. And the techs usually don't know about these problems (indeed, they are undocumented) until they show up to turn on U-verse.

Against that backdrop, AT&T's progress is certainly worthy of a raised glass. It's also worth noting that AT&T is usually delivering at least two services per visit. By comparison, DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), which is focused just on satellite television, says it averages 3.5 hours per install, nationwide.

— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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