A Look Back at U-verse

7:00 AM With more updates on the horizon, we reminisce about the good, the bad, and the ugly from AT&T’s foray into IPTV

Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

May 25, 2010

3 Min Read
A Look Back at U-verse

7:00 AM -- In June 2006, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) began rolling out its IPTV networks, powered by Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)’s Mediaroom platform, across the US, starting in its headquarter city of San Antonio. Since then, the service has been rolled out to more than 60 cities. (See U-verse Hits Gulf Coast, AT&T Bundles U-Verse, Wireless , U-verse Launched in Memphis, and U-verse Goes Greenville.)

AT&T began moving from infrastructure to features in November 2006, unveiling its high-definition lineup, Web remote access to its DVR app, and the ability to record four programs at once on DVR. Mobile remote access to DVR came in April 2007.

Throughout 2007, AT&T, as well as most IPTV providers, struggled with issues of technical integration, criticism over its fiber-to-the-node strategy, and challenges inking content deals. AT&T individually signed 150 contracts in its first year and a half. (See TelcoTV: IPTV No Longer Risky for Telcos.)

It wasn't until September 2007 that AT&T began experimenting with widgets, introducing AT&T U-bar, its customizable app interface; Yellowpages.com on the TV; and a Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) games app for its U-verse homes.

The feature parade continued throughout 2008, with software updates to enable Flickr picture sharing, Yahoo sports fantasy football on the TV, and an interactive NBC Olympics app.

AT&T introduced total-home DVR in September 2008 and completed its rollout just two months later in November. (See AT&T Completes Total Home Rollout.)

In December, it cracked the 1 million U-verse TV customer milestone and topped JD Power's survey on customer satisfaction. (See AT&T Wireline: Shifting the Mix, AT&T Posts Q4, and U-verse, FiOS Top JD Power Survey.)

In January 2009, AT&T tempered expectations, given the harsh economy. It said it would focus on selling services to its user base of 17 million living units rather than target new regions. It also delayed its deadline of passing 30 million units to 2011, instead of 2010 as initially planned. (See Video Battle Lines Are Being Drawn.)

AT&T has stuck to this features strategy for the past two years. The service provider introduced college basketball and Masters golf apps, an on-demand top picks app, and mosaic view and media sharing widgets. On-demand video and caller ID on the TV came in December 2009. (See U-verse Adds Mosaics, Media Sharing, AT&T Adds More U-Verse Perks, AT&T Outlines U-verse Upgrades, and AT&T Intros iPhone Apps for Remote U-Verse & Navigator .)

AT&T was also able to decrease its installation time in May 2009, down from its average of 5.8 hours to only 5.2. (See AT&T Speeds Up U-verse Visits and The U-verse Experiment.)

By December 2009, AT&T had reached another milestone -- 2 million customers served by U-verse. On its latest earnings report last month, the carrier reported 2.3 million U-verse subs, up 231,000 from the previous quarter. AT&T also said that more than 75 percent of these customers are subscribing to a triple-play or quadruple-play bundle. (See AT&T Stays Mum on Tiered Mobile Data Pricing and AT&T Posts Q1.)

Earlier this month, AT&T rebranded its online portal U-verse Online and let users synch it with their TV service, manage their DVR, and receive programming information. (See AT&T Launches U-verse Online .)

Over the weekend, AT&T announced plans for enhancements to its DVR service and Yellow Pages interactive TV app. The updates let U-verse customers place calls directly from the YP.com local search app, and tell the DVR how many of a TV series to keep and prioritize between TV series being recorded. (See AT&T Upgrades U-Verse DVR.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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