20060703

AT&T U-Verse 1 - better than chapter 11

Born again AT&T introduced its U-verse concept at the 2005 CES, with the ambition of covering 18M homes by the end of 2008. FTTH IPTV services only started late last month in 5,000 homes in San Antonio, TX with the help of Verizon's FiOS network.
This offer would look rather disappointing to Korean eyes and wallets : no more than 6 megs, up to $120 per month for a wireless bundle... but hey that's a start and ain't that much competition in SBC's 13-state-wide kingdom, so let early adopters finance innovation.

AT&T already rules in SBCland with 7.4M ADSL lines, but they intend to reach 100% in broadband coverage thanks to various fibers in urban areas, satellite broadband in rural areas (Project Lightspeed is supposed to reach 5.5M low-income households by the end of 2009), and fixed wireless (WiMAX a top pick) to fill the blanks.

The first 13 states before the whole country... this state of the AT&T-SBC union address should resonate as a warning to competing superpowers : we're not only focusing on homeland security ; we're also preparing preemptive strikes everywhere. But the old Texan way : we don't want to make it sound like an aggression, so no need to add "bring it on".

I also find rather clever their partnership with Yahoo! and Verizon Wireless "for a generation of tech-savvy consumers who rely on the Internet and wireless phones as their primary communications tools" (to wit : the smart ones who are leaving the incumbent - a speechless and voiceless carrier). AT&T position themselves as a central integrator of services : we help you subscribe to AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet, and to Verizon Wireless as well if you need a wireless service, but you can still chose AT&T for voice services at home. Beyond the usual "free" LLO services (Call Waiting, Three-Way Calling, Call Forwarding...), the AT&T CallVantage package proposes well marketed bonuses :
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Call Logs (with "click to dial")
- Do Not Disturb (only emergency calls pass through)
- Personal Conferencing (10 people overall)
- Locate Me (when you're away from home, incoming calls track you by ringing up to five phones all at once or one right after the other)
- Web-Based Voice Mail (AT&T just couldn't not include it in such an offer)

Why is it so interesting ? I'm not sure it will work, but it's neither some double-stage VoIP thing like Skype, nor an ugly plug-in like Vonage's latest USB gizmo. It's a truly operated service from a genuine operator or better, a Virtual Network Operator on its own network. It's both a win-back and a win-period approach, an attempt to sublimate voice services and fully give them their value back. I wish it weren't that expensive and I wish it could go beyond fixed and mobile, and even beyond the now traditional homezone concept.



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