By Andy Owens
Published Sept 20, 2010
AT&T began rolling out a new convergence technology today across the Charleston area, hoping to compete with cable companies by bundling an all-in-one package of services.
After seeing telephone market share going to cable companies, AT&T decided to compete with cable’s core product. AT&T’s U-verse, which rolled out earlier in Columbia and Greenville, is now available in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties.
The company’s partnership with DirecTV already allowed AT&T to offer TV content through a satellite receiver.
U-verse is mostly directed at a consumer market, said Bob Sellman, AT&T’s director of home solutions for the Carolinas. But the service includes some tools for businesspeople, and AT&T plans to add features directed at businesses in the future.
Sellman said the company is leveraging its existing phone lines, boosted by investments in fiber optics, to keep U-verse in what amounts to a closed-circuit data stream. Because it’s not competing with public Internet traffic, the company can maintain quality control and higher speeds.
“The service is not dependent on the public Internet at all. It gives us a lot of flexibility,” Sellman said during a visit at AT&T’s store in West Ashley.
U-verse offers TV, Internet and phone service, depending on the package, and has built-in digital video recording capability. The service has customizable tools that enable the use of multiple televisions.
“We think this is a platform where we can combine all of our services,” Sellman said.
A home doesn’t have to have fiber-optic cabling to use U-verse, which is transmitted over fiber as well as copper telephone wire. The fiber-optic cabling delivers big chunks of data near a telephone transmission line that can carry large quantities of data over smaller distances.
Users can also manage U-verse through applications for iPhone and soon for BlackBerry. Sellman said mobile phone users also can download content to take with them on business trips.
“On your way out of town, download a couple of programs, get on your plane, and you have entertainment,” Sellman said.
In addition, Sellman demonstrated the company’s Yellowpages directory in terms of its integration with U-verse.
“At some point, we’ll sell our own local advertising,” he said.
Sellman said U-verse delivers only what users request, which cuts down on bandwidth requirements. AT&T also will deliver updates through the U-verse system, much like updating a smart phone’s software via data transmission, as features are added and upgraded and in response to user requests.
“I can’t emphasize enough this is a forward-looking program,” Sellman said. “We’re just at a beginning.”