Thursday, July 5, 2007

What about U-verse?

A friend asked me for comments about "AT&T's U-verse IPTV service", for an article he's writing. Soon, I was asking myself "which comments does he want?" So I sent him all of these, plus a few that don't merit repeating here.

It took a lot of pent-up frustration, not to mention a lot of guts, for AT&T to get up in front of investors, the industry, God and everyone else, to admit delays and blame its platform vendor for its woes, as "AT&T's former CEO Ed Whitacre did this past January".

But don't cry for AT&T, Argentina, because U-verse is just part of the interesting portfolio of converged services that AT&T is building. At the June 2007 NXTcomm conference, AT&T launched " Video Share", which allows (guess what) consumers to share videos between mobile phones without interrupting calls; in three test markets. They also have HomeZone, a satellite TV service augmented by the Internet, and they partner with MobiTV to send video the PC, and Akimbo for VOD. Oh, yes, AT&T is also a reseller for this little company that makes jewelry - Apple I think they're called?

The cynic in me says AT&T is doing all of this to hedge their bets for "when" U-verse fails (See my July 6 blog entry, which I had initially published here), but in reality, it's because AT&T wants to do what telecom operators going back to AT&T v1.0 have always done: provide a like range of services to all subscribers; and if one access network can't do it, use another.

A very interesting competitive dynamic is emerging, where in many larger and midsized markets, you'll have the local cable TV operator, one or more direct-broadcast satellite ops (like Sky, Dish or ExpressVu), over-the-air/digital terrestrial TV and one or more IPTV providers.

In large to mid-sized markets, the IPTV competitors will be AT&T and/or Verizon and/or the local ILEC and maybe even the local municipality. In small to mid-sized markets, the local IOC may see competition from Verizon or AT&T. In rural areas, it will remain the IOC vs the non-Telco competitors; maybe even the county PUD or a consortium of suburban communities.

But then, cutting a big gaping red swath through all of them is Internet TV, to anyone that has broadband access. Internet TV will be the interesting wild card in all of this, as some incumbents embrace it, others try to limit and manage it, and still others ignore it as if it didn't exist (to their peril).

(c) Steven C Hawley
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