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U-verse Wishlist

Phil Harvey
7/31/2008

6:00 AM -- As AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) closes in on delivering its U-verse service to 1 million customers this year, it's time to chime in with some suggested improvements to make the service even harder to give up when cable companies start really dropping their prices and becoming more competitive.

Here are my top five ways to make U-verse a little more unleaveable:

HD VOD
AT&T doesn't have any high-definition content available for rent via its video-on-demand (VOD) service. I think the fact that has escaped many is that there is a lot of "widescreen" content available. But after some checking, AT&T has confirmed that all of its "widescreen" content is simply standard-definition fare served up in a more theatrical, 16:9 aspect ratio.

Having HD movies and TV shows on tap makes it harder for folks to spend money elsewhere. By being a video provider, AT&T isn't just competing with cable companies, its competition for a consumer's time and money now includes movie theaters, libraries, Blockbuster, Netflix, and sleep. Besides, more and better VOD choices keep consumers happy with their DVRs longer; the more expansive a TV provider's VOD library, the less hard drive space consumers need to occupy with recorded programs.

More pipe, please
AT&T is able to provide 25 Mbit/s to homes within about 3,000 feet of its video-ready access devices (VRADs), or neighborhood nodes. The carrier allocates up to 10 Mbit/s of that for Internet and data use. What happens to the balance of that pipe when the DVR's not recording and all the TVs are off? Well, nothing. And I don't think there's any good technical reason why folks can't use the remainder of the 25 Mbit/s pipe -- save a little voice overhead for those homes with VOIP service -- when a home's video services are at rest.

AT&T now offers four different flavors of its U-verse Internet service. Why? Maybe it revels in its ability to confuse customer service agents and print reams of mail offering "data upgrades" to everyone who isn't buying its 10 Mbit/s service.

What if, instead, AT&T offered one simple plan (up to 20 Mbit/s of variable, downstream bandwidth; up to 1.5 Mbit/s of upstream bandwidth) for one low price ($40 a month)? That would leave 5 Mbit/s of overhead and would make consumers think twice about defecting to cable.

U-verse Voice
U-verse TV and Internet bundles are available in 13 states, but did you know that fewer than 20 cities in only nine states have U-verse Voice, AT&T's residential VOIP service? The need to go VOIP is more urgent than ever as the economy is accelerating the rate at which people are giving up their traditional home phone lines. VOIP service is cheaper to provide and less expensive to consumers, too. But, for AT&T, going VOIP could mean using fewer big phone switches in its central offices. The savings in electricity, cooling and, in some cases, real estate, there could help offset the enormous expense it has to shoulder by outfitting its neighborhood nodes with U-verse equipment.

Sharing is caring
I'm looking forward to AT&T's whole home DVR (WHDVR) service, but the rest of the world -- at least Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s FiOS customers, some Charter Cable customers, and some Dish Network customers, to name a few million -- already have access to such a luxury. What a rare few, if any, have is the ability to share digital media files across a home network, without having to add another device to their homes.

Here's how I define media sharing: If a device, any device, runs on batteries or electricity and has a way to store digital files, I should be able to see when it shows up in my home network, view its contents on my TV, and either play or view those digital files via my living room entertainment center or move them to some other digital device on my home network.

If its lab work is any indicator, AT&T is not too far away from making this a reality. But is AT&T really going to do this, or is it hoping a third-party will do the dirty work? It's a fair question because I can see a carrier not wanting to live the nightmare of having consumers calling with support questions about why they can't find that song they just moved from their PC to their iPod via the TV remote.

Raise a ruckus
AT&T should seriously consider using a WiFi TV distribution system, like the one made by Ruckus Wireless, to interconnect set-tops and home gateways in its U-verse homes. A lot of people don't understand what 802.11n is, how it works, nor how well it handles HDTV streaming. That's why they put on their foil hats and fret about where to move their microwave ovens to avoid wrecking a good TV signal.

From carrier deployments worldwide, we know that older WiFi technologies handled standard-def TV signals with ease in a wide variety of home network deployments. The same will most likely happen with 802.11n gear, but it won't be a cure-all. At the very least, AT&T should identify an "ideal home" scenario for 802.11n gear and make use of cable-free networking whenever possible.

Of course, none of these ideas, by themselves, will make AT&T a fortune, but it won't lose them any customers, either. And those two things are almost of equal importance, in the wacky world of IPTV.

— Phil Harvey, The Editor, Light Reading

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"Ill" Duce
12/5/2012 | 3:35:36 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
I was actually referring to the Ondemand for regular television channels. I have family in KC and they can get Ondemand for BBC, etc. with lots of shows and episodes. U-verse has a ton of MTV crap, but little else.
"Ill" Duce
12/5/2012 | 3:35:36 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
As a Plano resident and U-verse owner I have to agree. Another thing is that U-verse OnDemand offerings suck! I assume this becuase the DBS offerings suck, but still.


DCITDave
DCITDave
12/5/2012 | 3:35:36 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
re: On Demand, I think they have a pretty wide offering, mostly competitive with cable. But I will note it doesn't seem to refresh nearly as often as it should. Each week it should be obvious that a lot of stuff has changed (as it would if I were making the trip to Blockbuster) and that's not always the case.
Raymond McConville
Raymond McConville
12/5/2012 | 3:35:35 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
AT&T said over a year ago that they planned on doing HD VOD but offered no timetable. http://www.lightreading.com/do...
DCITDave
DCITDave
12/5/2012 | 3:35:35 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
I'd love to get BBC stuff on demand. I think all AT&T offers is some select CBS stuff (owned by MTV/VIacom, so that explains it).

The odd thing is, the CBS stuff that's available on demand are the same four shows that rerun over and over again.

What we all really want is a networked DVR, but of course those are illegal or something.
mgardner750
mgardner750
12/5/2012 | 3:35:34 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
I couldn't get ATT VOIP with my UVerse.

I saw TMobile offered VOIP of $10/mth and switched at the end of June. So far it works great with UVerse for a lot less.

The voice quality may not be quite as good as POTS but is better than a normal cell call.

You can even keep your old home phone number with the TMO service.
ipcentric
ipcentric
12/5/2012 | 3:34:17 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
U-verse STBs do not have have timer feature to turn on automatically. DVR is good for recording and viewing at a later time.
grunt
grunt
12/5/2012 | 3:34:13 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
I sent this to Phil, who asked me to post it on his blog message board. I hope this isnt a trap :)

-------------------------------
I am not a big fan of all the English rules etc..
I also have no desire to be uppity or a jerk about this.
However, in a professionally written and published format you might want to know of a rule governing the use of less and fewer.
(I noticed this in your article 'U-verse Wishlist')

I was harassed by a Stanford grad about this once and it has since been incorporated into all my documentsGǪ

->




There is an official difference in usage between 'less' and 'fewer'. Fewer is when you can count the thing and less is when you can't.

e.g.1:
I wish we had fewer gallons of milk in the refrigerator so we could fit our Twinkies in. (note it is 'gallons' which can be counted - We might have 10 gallons, and want to have 2)

e.g.2:
I wish we had less milk in the refrigerator so we could fit our Twinkies in. (in this case it is not 'gallons' but just 'milk' I donGÇÖt have 10 milk I have milk , and thus 'less')
grunt
grunt
12/5/2012 | 3:34:13 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
I sent this to Phil, who asked me to post it on his blog message board. I hope this isnt a trap :)

-------------------------------
I am not a big fan of all the English rules etc..
I also have no desire to be uppity or a jerk about this.
However, in a professionally written and published format you might want to know of a rule governing the use of less and fewer.
(I noticed this in your article 'U-verse Wishlist')

I was harassed by a Stanford grad about this once and it has since been incorporated into all my documentsGǪ

->




There is an official difference in usage between 'less' and 'fewer'. Fewer is when you can count the thing and less is when you can't.

e.g.1:
I wish we had fewer gallons of milk in the refrigerator so we could fit our Twinkies in. (note it is 'gallons' which can be counted - We might have 10 gallons, and want to have 2)

e.g.2:
I wish we had less milk in the refrigerator so we could fit our Twinkies in. (in this case it is not 'gallons' but just 'milk' I donGÇÖt have 10 milk I have milk , and thus 'less')
MMQoS
MMQoS
12/5/2012 | 3:34:10 PM
re: U-verse Wishlist
AT&T offers their customers here in California a 3 month trial. I'm 6 weeks into that trial and very disappointed with a fundamental issue of uVerse. The HD video quality is sub-standard. It shows all of the classic signs of over compression with fuzzy edges, sepia coloring and pixlization I'm sure as a result of the decision not to offer FTTH. I have dark fiber running out of my home to the SBC junction point but they could not offer me that service (no PON). My eval criteria on a real 1080i LCD screen have been the Beijing Olympics and where the problems show up best (worst?)is beach volleyball.
I have seen FiOS TV and uVerse doesn't match up but since I am not in Verizon territory I'll have to switch to satellite.
So Phil IMHO AT&T has a lot improvement needed just in IP Linear Broadcast.
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