Print 26 comment(s) - last by Wwhat.. on Jul 14 at 12:06 AM

A sampling of the Uverse IPTV menu

The AT&T Uverse DVR, which unfortuantely lacks digital outputs
AT&T prepares to one-up broadband and cable TV providers with fiber services

AT&T is planning to roll out television and internet services through Fiber to the Node soon to compete with the likes of not only Verizon's FiOS services, but also with satellite and cable TV/Internet providers and DSL providers.  The service is a two-part package: the first part is a modem for high speed internet, and the second part is a DVR service for IPTV.

The broadband internet service is a bit subdued, with three tiers: the Express package with a downstream bandwidth up to 1.5Mbps, a Pro package which features 3Mbps down, and the Elite option capable of 6Mbps downlink. All tiers have a 1Mbps upload speed and are each targeted at various types of users.  Unfortunately when compared to the 20+ Mbps from FiOS or the experimental markets for 20Mbps Comcast HSI, 6Mbps seems sorely inadequate.

The television service will come packaged with broadband internet and will also come in 3 different packages. The U200+Internet package will start at $69/month and will feature 100+ channels, up to 3 receivers with 1 being a DVR model, 18 digital music channels, and the video-on-demand feature.

The U300+Internet package will feature 150+ channels, up to 3 receivers with 1 DVR, the 18 music channels and video-on-demand, as well as the movie package which contains 30+ premium channels including Starz, Encore, Showtime, The Movie Channel, and FLIX starting at around $89/month.

The top tier, U400+Internet will feature all of the options in the U300 package plus 25+ more channels, 9 HBO channels, 9 Cinemax channels, and the Sports Package which will include various channels with sports programming and will cost customers at least $114/month. An optional fourth receiver can also be added to each package along with a Spanish channel package.

AT&T's IPTV service will utilize a receiver with a built-in DVR from Tatung which will allow 80 hours of recordings on the 80GB hard drive. The service will also support video-on-demand similar to Comcast's On-Demand feature bundled with their cable TV service.  However, AT&T claims there will also be options to configure the DVR from the internet, remotely as well as other neat options (PDF) that haven't been incorporated into Windows MCE or TiVo yet.  Specifically, and perhaps the largest advantage in our opinion, is the ability for the Tatung DVR to broadcast IPTV to other devices on the network -- a feature TiVo and Comcast are working on, but haven't quite perfected yet.  Unfortunately, the Tatung DVR is also completely outclassed when it comes to high fidelity outputs.  The device has no HDMI or DVI capabilities.

Users will still have the option to add any of the premium programming to the first two tiers but they will, of course, pay a premium price. There is no word of high-definition programming on the official website but sources around the internet are saying AT&T will be updating the receivers and services to support high definition programming in the future.

U-verse is starting to roll out in several areas, although the largest test market is currently San Antonio, Texas.

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25Mb/s node to home link
By Doormat on 7/11/2006 7:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
One of the things that the article doesnt point out is that the link from the node to the home is only 25Mb/s. That might sound like a lot now since each SDTV channel is about 2.5Mb/s, plus your data connection. However one HDTV channel is at least 10Mb/s under the most optimal conditions. Watching a sports program is going to need closer to 15-17Mb/s (full stream HDTV is 19.2Mb/s). This is a dead end technology - it can only support one HDTV feed per house. So what happens when people start buying a second LCD HDTV for the bedroom?

For reference, Verizon's FTTP provides something like 4.2Gb/s to your house, most of which is reserved for TV (about 3Gb/s I believe), it can fully support HDTV no problems.

RE: 25Mb/s node to home link
By masher2 on 7/11/2006 8:47:03 PM , Rating: 3
> "One of the things that the article doesnt point out is that the link from the node to the home is only 25Mb/s"

The current bandwidth, yes. However, U-Verse is running on the Project Lightspeed fiber, which, through pair bonding is already running up to 80Mb/s.

RE: 25Mb/s node to home link
By Digobick on 7/11/2006 10:46:29 PM , Rating: 2
Verizon isn't doing IPTV. They send every channel at once to your home (like cable), instead of only the channel that you're watching. Therefore, Verizon needs the extra bandwidth to cram in all their channels.

Also, AT&T is using MPEG-4 compression. Using this compression, they claim that HD signals only use 7-9 Mb/s.

If AT&T can implement VDSL2 (100 Mb/s) within the next couple of years, I think they'll have more than enough bandwidth for TV, Internet, and a VOIP phone.

RE: 25Mb/s node to home link
By Doormat on 7/12/2006 12:11:31 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like to think that they would upgrade to VDSL2, but given the half ass job they're doing now (fiber to the node and not the house), I really dont expect them to come around in a timely matter (or at all) to upgrade. They might have to in 5 years when HDTV demand is huge, but for now they really aren't in competition with my local cable company, and wont be anytime soon.

Picture quality will suck - you take compressed MPEG2, uncompress it, and recompress it as MPEG-4, in real time. Good luck with that. Yea the bandwidth will be less, but I didnt spend $4000 on an HDTV to have horrible PQ.

Verizon is also exploring the switched system, where that 3Gb/s only carries shows people are watching or some mix of of broadcast and switched, instead of all 200+ channels.

RE: 25Mb/s node to home link
By dolcraith on 7/12/2006 3:13:04 AM , Rating: 2
Well, it really doesn't matter for the fiber for the VDSL2 (except for feeding the data to the copper) as this runs on old POTS lines. What really sickens me is that the ADSL2, ADSL2+, SHDSL, etc technologies have been around for a while and yet these network companies (the ones with the actual copper and COs) do not invest and upgrade to better technologies. The DSL companies need to either lay down a lot of fiber (either to the home or the node/neighborhood) to really compete with the cable companies. What would be cool is if there was a company that would run fiber to your neighborhood and get you a connection to the backbone in such a way that the neighborhood would one the fiber....

RE: 25Mb/s node to home link
By masher2 on 7/12/2006 7:44:36 AM , Rating: 3
> "Picture quality will suck..."

Coming from someone whose seen it in action, I can say the picture quality most certainly doesn't suck. It's clearly superior to OTA HDTV, and at least the equal of digital cable HDTV.

RE: 25Mb/s node to home link
By Samus on 7/12/2006 6:03:29 PM , Rating: 2
Coming from someone whose seen it in action, I can say the picture quality most certainly doesn't suck. It's clearly superior to OTA HDTV, and at least the equal of digital cable HDTV.

OTA and Digital Cable HD broadcasts have currently the same bandwidth (assuming the stations for comparison at 1080i) so I don't believe there would be a distinguishable difference in quality.

RE: 25Mb/s node to home link
By sxr7171 on 7/12/2006 3:10:58 AM , Rating: 2
This is just great. Your download will start to go slower because somebody upstairs turned on their TV. I realize cable HDTV isn't as good as HD-DVD or Blu-Ray quality, but why? Why can't they just give us a MPEG-4 20Mbps so I don't have to look at artifacting all day?

RE: 25Mb/s node to home link
By dolcraith on 7/12/2006 3:19:12 AM , Rating: 2
Since this will be done on copper wire the artifacting could be caused by other things than the compression, namely when you pick up an old phone hooked up to the dsl line you can sometimes generate artifacting depending upon when the phone was picked up. Also environmental issues could also cause the artifacting: electric fences, power lines, anything with an electric field.
They will most likely set a max bandwidth for you internet and a a max bandwidth for your TV sevice. The key point that the companies that produce this hardware (Alcatel, Allied Telesyn, etc) is reliability, in that when you turn on that STB or pull down a multigigabyte file, you won't notice any performance hits.

fiber to the node
By The Boston Dangler on 7/12/2006 12:14:18 PM , Rating: 2
They are using FTTN with twisted pair to the house, as a cost effective alternative to FTTH. AT&T has always been a very cheap company since the break-up, and they're leveraging legacy plant and equipment. AT&T already proved they have no idea how to run a cable company. I think it's a lousy comprimise, with neither the bandwidth of cable nor the fiberliciousness of FIOS.

RE: fiber to the node
By masher2 on 7/12/2006 12:40:00 PM , Rating: 3
> "I think it's a lousy comprimise, with neither the bandwidth of cable nor the fiberliciousness of FIOS...."

Actually, AT&Ts FTTN has, with pair bonding and short loops, slightly more bandwidth than Verizon's FiOS. Hopefully, they'll start offering that as an option to customers shortly.

RE: fiber to the node
By Xponential on 7/12/2006 1:33:35 PM , Rating: 2
But right now, FiOS spanks this service when it comes to bandwidth. For what I pay for my Time Warner RoadRunner now, I could get 15Mbps/2Mbps FiOS internet (if only it were available here). It remains to be seen whether or not AT&T will change anything to be able to compete.

RE: fiber to the node
By Homerboy on 7/13/2006 10:27:52 AM , Rating: 2
yeah but you fail to realize that MOST people don't need more than 1MBs download speed. You can't tell the difference between browsing websites on a 1MB live versus a 10MB line.

Uploads can make a difference for people playing/hosting games, sending video emails, pictures etc. But companies like TW just throw fast dloads rates at them and the masses eat it up.

And don't get me started on the price differences. I will HAPPILY take a cut in my dload speed, bump in my upload speed, get MORE TV services and reduce my monhtly bill by $50+....

I'd sign up in a second if this was avaialble in my area.

RE: fiber to the node
By Wwhat on 7/14/2006 12:06:50 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps they need to keep speeds low to enable bush's people to read along all your communication.

By kenferg1 on 7/11/2006 7:57:51 PM , Rating: 2
This is NEW. No composite outputs. Where is the digital out for audio? Nice idea if it was 20Mbs+ and 5Mbs+ upload. Price? About right but needs to be current with A/V and Internet speeds for the future, not last year.

RE: Hehehehehehe
By brystmar on 7/12/2006 12:28:21 PM , Rating: 2
The coaxial and optical digital audio outputs are on the far left side of the unit and are labeled "Digital Audio Out".

I think you mean component video (aka YPrPb, which uses red, green, blue video RCA jacks), not composite (which uses a singular yellow RCA jack). Because it lacks video outputs with bandwith greater than or equal to component video, the device pictured cannot output an HD signal to an HDTV. This has to be either a standaone network streaming video box or an unfinished prototype without HD capabilities.

RE: Hehehehehehe
By brystmar on 7/12/2006 12:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
Oops, didn't see that it wasn't supposed to support HD. Even so, not including a component video output in this day and age is silly.

Why not a-la-carte IPTV?
By ubcz on 7/11/2006 9:11:27 PM , Rating: 2
Whatever happened to a-la-carte TV. Most consumers don't want 100+ channels. My hope was/is that IPTV will provide the option to select the 20 channels I want, nothing more or less. I feel these companies just don't get it. All they end up with is competing on price, the worst scenario to be in; airlines anyone? With IPTV it's time to go beyond the usual channel lineup. For example, I'd like to see international options with selections from most countries.

RE: Why not a-la-carte IPTV?
By Digobick on 7/11/2006 10:51:49 PM , Rating: 2
The FCC acted like they cared about a La Carte earlier this year. In the end, however, they "settled" with the cable companies on a new tier: the Family Plan.

RE: Why not a-la-carte IPTV?
By Knish on 7/11/2006 11:05:29 PM , Rating: 2
And what a joke family plan is too. I watch exactly 7 channels, and I do not want to ever watch the others. I'd actually prefer it that way.

I think it needs to be the media companies that adopt new subscription methods rather than the cable companies. For example, I'd gladly pay for a "history channel premium" or something like that, where I'd get a bundle of history channels like with HBO.

But there's not a snowball's chance in hell any cable company (or satellite, or telco) would do something that benefits an average joe consumer like me.

By DigitalFreak on 7/11/2006 9:39:03 PM , Rating: 2
Notice that there is no HDTV? No thanks. I'll stick with DirecTV and my OTA high def locals.

By Digobick on 7/11/2006 10:37:48 PM , Rating: 2
HDTV is coming this Fall according to AT&T, which likely means sometime early next year.

However, one nice thing about IPTV is that you can have limitless channels to choose from, including HD channels.

By juancferrer on 7/11/2006 11:26:16 PM , Rating: 2
So the price includes iptv AND internet service? Seems too cheap to be true.

RE: internet?
By rrsurfer1 on 7/12/2006 4:28:54 PM , Rating: 2
I know... I dunno what other people think, but if they have this in my area I'm getting it. I'm paying $150 a month through Time Warner for a 7 Mbps connection with less premium channels than the $114 package. I'd switch in a second.

Just do me one favor...
By breethon on 7/11/2006 8:17:54 PM , Rating: 2
Roll it out to my area...we can't get anything but 26k dialup....yeah....we only connect at 26k...grummble! No DSL or Cable!

AT&T Sucks
By Discord on 7/13/2006 12:35:44 PM , Rating: 2
Of course I live in a poorer neighborhood so I'll never see this service. Fricken social Darwinism profiling I tell ya.
Not that the cable company I use is any better.
"Would you like to upgrade your 384k service to 1Mb for only 5 bucks a month?"
"No thanks I'm happy with what I got."
A month later they raise the price anyway and I can't get the faster service now without paying even more. They're all a$$holes and I can't wait till wireless starts pounding their :'s.

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