Video services

The U-verse Experiment

8:45 AM -- With nothing to lose, except my wife's patience, I agreed to give AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s U-verse service a try following a rather convincing blog poll that ran last week.

The install happened Thursday morning and, in about four man-hours, I was all hooked up with the new service -- and that even included a few lost minutes while the technicians were figuring out why the signal quality was, at first, so poor at my house. That kind of installation time is damn good, but not typical. More on that later.

First, here are three things that helped make the installation go quickly with my 2-TV, 2-PC setup:

  • Cable care. By testing the existing coax on my house and reusing it, the AT&T tech saved himself a couple hours worth of stringing wire. Thank you, HomePNA.
  • Gateway heaven. The 2Wire 3800HGV is a pretty kick-ass little device. It's holding up the whole system, so when it was switched on and connected, adding the set-tops and configuring the computers was a snap. Contrast that with having to buy and set up a modem and router, each with its own software to install.
  • No New NID Needed. Most U-verse installations don't require new hardware on the outside of the house, and that helps. The technician simply adds some bits to the inside of an existing network interface device (NID), runs a coax line out of the bottom, and hooks it into the home's existing cable.
Here are some photos related to the U-verse installation:

Grandpa NID

Finally, a few more points about my U-verse experience so far:

What's the difference?
My standard def picture looks better with U-verse. The HD picture is about the same. Charter Communications Inc. , it should be noted, has improved its HD quality significantly in the past year or so, and they do still have the fastest Internet speeds in my neighborhood. My data connection with U-verse is slower downstream, but faster upstream.

Cable can fight back
Industry analyst Kermit Ross categorizes the cable vs. telco war as a "street fight," and he's right. AT&T has been selling U-verse door-to-door in some places. All the same, the company can't reach everyone in a big neighborhood like mine, because a lot of the houses are too far away from the video-ready access device (VRAD). Given that reality, and the fact that AT&T can't match cable's Internet speeds over 10 Mbit/s, there is some room for them to punch back when U-verse comes to town.

Installation situation
The latest data AT&T has on U-verse installation times comes from December. That data shows that AT&T's newer technicians (those with less than three months experience) are completing installations at an average of 6.4 hours. Experienced techs are completing installations in about 5.3 hours. The company says its target rate for installations is "under five hours."

My installation took the main technician three hours, tops. But because he had to rely on someone else who was checking the VRAD and locating and removing bridge taps, I'm adding on an hour, assuming that most field techs won't always have a helper nearby. Still, all said, the installation was smooth, painless, and completely worry-free.

— Phil Harvey, Editor, Light Reading

getmeouttahere 12/5/2012 | 4:16:07 PM
re: The U-verse Experiment

That Network Interface Device is from the late 90's - early 00's.  I suppose you could have been being sarcastic... that's hard to tell from a person's writing (Hence the need for a sarcasm punctuation mark!) 

"The 2Wire 3800HGV is a pretty kick-ass little device."

-Let me assure you that the 3800HGV is not a kick-ass device, nor is it little.  AT&T has had nothing but problems with 2Wire products since day one.  I am willing to bet that your 3800 has been replaced at least once since this article was posted.  2Wire is a half-assed networking equipment manufacturer.  New U-Verse single pair installs are now utilizing the 3801HGV which has numerous problems (The internal HPNA adapter being the primary.).

Raymond McConville 12/5/2012 | 3:39:53 PM
re: The U-verse Experiment Did you watch the back to back episodes of Saved By the Bell after taking the photo of the U-verse guide UI?
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:39:52 PM
re: The U-verse Experiment Sure did. Nothing funnier than watching Elizabeth Berkley try to act.
19sean96 12/5/2012 | 3:39:41 PM
re: The U-verse Experiment Hi Phil,

I am glad you are enjoying your new ATT U-Verse product. I am a Site Operations Manager for ATT U-Verse and would love to know if anything on how you like it and if you would be interested in actually seeing one of our facilities and seeing how the signal actually reaches your residents. If interested please contact me at [email protected] Hope to hear from you soon

Sean D. Arning
ajay_s 12/5/2012 | 3:36:23 PM
re: The U-verse Experiment 1. AT&T pushing U-Verse door to door in Cupertino. Quite aggressive. They then wanted to get it in before June 30, I guess someone, somewhere wanted to meet some quarterly objective....
2. Tech was quite knowledgeable, in my case he had to string a new cable, and was not able to use the existing co-ax. He in fact also had to change the 50 ft of so wire from the NID to the pole.
3. Service is decent, about comparable to Dish in picture quality. Except in occasionally I am seeing some HDCP errors between TV and box...
4. VOD is similar to what I had from Comcast two years ago and DVR, simular to that from DISH. nothing too great in the service itself.
5. 2 wire box, pretty cool. Is IPv6 compatible.
6. channel switching time is fine..
7. att billing department cannot confirm they will give me all the goodies ($200 rebate, bundling discounts) that the door to door sales person promised...
8. at&t customer service manager was supposed to call 4 days ago. still waiting :(.
9. but am getting IP-TV :)
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