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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.

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