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Video services

Should I Switch to U-verse?

8:35 AM -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s U-verse has arrived in my neighborhood to challenge my local cable kingpin, Charter Communications Inc. . What should I do?



Both AT&T and Charter have ramped up marketing lately and I've taken a quick look at all the mailers, phone bill inserts, etc. I've dutifully called each company's sales lines to make sure I understand what's what. Frankly, it's a coin flip:

Table 1: Cable vs. U-verse: A Simplistic Guide
AT&T's U-verse Charter Cable Advantage
DVR hardware Can record up to 4 standard def. channels. Slick user-interface (UI) on the channel guide. Easy-to-use remote. Can search programming by topic, actor, etc. Can record up to two channels at a time. Has a 1970s-era User-interface (UI) on the channel guide. Crowded IR remote has too many buttons and no range. Channel guide has no search capability at all. AT&T
HD choices Has Food Network & NFL Network in HD. All premium channels like HBO are available in HD. Doesn't carry the NFL Network. Offers one HD channel per premium network. AT&T
Extra features Can program DVR from a PC or mobile phone. Free login for AT&T hotspots. None. AT&T
Mobile discount Combined billing available plus $4 a month off AT&T cellular bill. None. AT&T
Hassle factor Looking at a half-day, roughly, for system installation. None. Already have the service. Charter
Top Internet speed Up to 10 Mbit/s Up to 16 Mbit/s Charter
Phone service Not available via U-verse in my area. Basic AT&T phone line, after tax, runs about $50 a month. Easy to add to existing Charter account. Costs $30 a month for unlimited local and long-distance. Charter
HD capacity Can watch or record one HD program at a time. Can record two HD streams at a time while watching a third. Charter
Commitment No contract. No contract. Even
Big offer Gives $100 to $200 cash back on any order; Gives one month of TV service free. Gives a $50 gas card when ordering two services; Intro price for top-tier TV package is $99 per month for 6 months. Even
List price $149 per month for top-tier TV and 6 Mbit/s Internet package. $132.98 per month for top-tier TV and 5 Mbit/s Internet Even
VOD choices "Same as cable", according to customer service reps. Hundreds of free programs and movies, in addition to a healthy selection of standard-def, paid movie choices. Even
Spouse's opinion Hates changing providers. Hates having to learn new gadgets. Hates the remote, UI, and DVR. Loves the Internet speed. Even
Source: AT&T and Charter customer service reps. Assorted direct mail pieces.


I am curious to see how good the AT&T service really is, even though, like Charter's service, the U-verse variant offered around here lacks a whole-home DVR, which I think is a killer feature.

Also disappointing is that AT&T is selling U-verse around here absent the ability to bundle the U-verse phone service. Still, I'm tempted to try it out to see if the picture quality claims check out in a real world (old house) scenario.

What would you do if you were me? Take the poll before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 23, and I'll let the results weigh heavily on my decision.

— Phil Harvey, The Editor, Light Reading

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grunt 12/5/2012 | 3:40:38 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? Perhaps try both for a while - have LR pick up the tab.
I know if and when U-verse or Fios come my way I will sign up - being part of this industry - feels like we have an obligation to try these different products out.
grunt 12/5/2012 | 3:40:38 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? Perhaps try both for a while - have LR pick up the tab.
I know if and when U-verse or Fios come my way I will sign up - being part of this industry - feels like we have an obligation to try these different products out.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:40:37 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? T is offering u-verse in my neighborhood. There is no improvement in internet access speeds so no reason to switch for that. If I were to switch video providers away from comcast I'd probably pick DBS. When they pitched the product at a town hall meeting the folks said they weren't really interested in it but would like to see T finish wiring up the neighborhood with DSL. Lots of folks still don't have internet access via DSL as the cost is too high due to the CO being so far away and many people living in hard to reach locations.
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:40:37 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? Great points. I have some real concerns about the DSL reach thing.

AT&T has tried (years ago) to reach my house with DSL before, but they weren't able to get a good enough signal. U-verse, though, requires the techs to pre-certify the copper, so I'm sure it's all been checked.

Still a bit of a worry, though.

ph
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:40:37 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? I dunno. I'll ask, but considering that I had to walk to New Orleans for The Cable Show, I'm not terribly optimistic.

:)
mgardner750 12/5/2012 | 3:40:36 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? I switched to U-Verse from Direct TV (with HD and TIVO) last July. I had a lot of problems initially, mostly with the DVR. After my free frist month I almost switched back.

I have fiber to the home in my neighborhood in Richardson Tx.

The SD picture quality is very good, better than DirectTV or cable. The HD quality is about the same as DirectTV on my equipment. Results vary on HD quality.

There are some features you haven't mentioned. You can view photographs off a website affiacted with Yahoo. With Mediashare you can watch content off a computer. You can play several Yahoo games like Chess.

Uverse is currently rolling out 2 simulatenous HD channels. It was underway in 3 states (Mo, Wi, Ga) but not yet in Texas.

They keep promising the whole house DVR. They are saying it will be deployed Q3.

While I might sound like a UVerse salesmen, it wouldn't take much to get me to switch back to DirectTV. I stay because in my situation it is cheaper than DirectTV plus another broadband connection and SD picture quality.
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:40:36 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? I couldn't decide, so I flipped a coin, and the coin flip put me in the minority. I'll never trust money again.

More seriously: for my wife, the DVR means everything. But she wants a standalone appliance, not anything tied to a service. A remotely programmable DVR, though ... that'd be a dream come true.

It would be a tough choice but just might swing our household towards U-verse.

This is all hypothetical, considering U-verse won't get to my neighborhood until about 2297.
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:40:35 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? re "More seriously: for my wife, the DVR means everything. But she wants a standalone appliance, not anything tied to a service. A remotely programmable DVR, though ... that'd be a dream come true."

TIVO is remotely programmable. The missing piece is whole home broadcasting. That can accomplished via an adjustable channel RF modulator typically used for CCTV.
Greenbone 12/5/2012 | 3:40:35 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? ...ask both providers if their video signals are encoded in Mpeg3 or Mpeg4. If either or both are in Mpeg3, ask when they plan to upgrade.

I've seen the comparison side by side (comcast uses Mpeg3, DishNetwork uses Mpeg4) and if picture quality is important to you, go with whichever service is using - or will soon use - Mpeg4.

This also assumes you have an HD display (capable of 1080p or i).

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:40:34 PM
re: Should I Switch to U-verse? Can you send me a link to one? Is there a way to make the U-verse product a whole home DVR, even if it's a DIY deal?
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