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AT&T Zeroes In on 1M U-verse Subs

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is about to make good on a prediction that it will end the year with more than 1 million U-verse subscribers. The company expects to surpass that milestone by the middle of next week, AT&T-Operations president and CEO John Stankey said this morning at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.

"We are getting greater than 10 percent penetration within one year when we begin marketing [U-verse] to a customer base," Stankey said.

AT&T expects its U-verse network to pass about 17 million so-called living units by year-end.

Stankey also touched on planned enhancements, such as an expanded high-definition lineup and greater HD streaming capacity, meant to separate U-verse from the TV offerings of cable operators.

AT&T expects to start offering more than 100 linear HD channels by the middle of next week, putting U-verse in line with, and in some cases ahead of, its cable rivals. Thanks to some improved video compression capabilities, AT&T can deliver two live HD streams into a home and support up to three streams of recorded content via its whole-home DVR. (See AT&T Launches Whole-Home DVR.)

At this point, no one is screaming for AT&T to add a third HD stream, or, at least, service reps aren't complaining to the company brass that they can't sell U-verse without that capability. Still, AT&T appears to be heading in that direction.

"We have got a clear line of sight for three HD streams, given the direction on compression," Stankey said, noting that AT&T is already conducting such tests in lab settings.

AT&T also plans to embed more Internet-like capabilities in the U-verse video platform, but Stankey didn't detail what the company has in mind.

Capex questions
Stankey also addressed, but did not really provide an answer for, some of the lingering capital expense-related questions at AT&T, which just announced some serious belt tightening. (See Sizing Up AT&T's Cuts (and Chops) and AT&T to Cut 12,000 Jobs .)

He reiterated that AT&T's 2009 capex will be lower than this year's, and he pointed out two projects that will be among those getting the most love next year: access-network bandwidth and the wireless network.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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