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February 28, 2007

AT&T resumes Microsoft IPTV rollout

Posted by David Hunter at 8:48 PM ET.

Back in January, it was reported that AT&T had suspended it’s IPTV program until some problems with Microsoft software were resolved. Now the partners say everything is back on track:

AT&T Inc.’s push into cable TV is ramping back up after a pause prompted by glitches that the company says have been resolved with key network software upgrades.

Over the past two weeks, AT&T resumed direct mailings and distribution of promotional “door hangers” for the new U-verse television service, the first marketing activities since those efforts were suspended starting in October.

To provide such robust capabilities over the plain copper phone wires connected to most homes, AT&T is using relatively unproven technology known as IPTV, short for Internet Protocol TV. That approach has enabled AT&T to spend only a fraction of the $23 billion Verizon Communications Inc. is investing to rewire half its local phone network with fiber-optic lines all the way to each home.

But because the software, provided largely by Microsoft Corp., has never been deployed on such a large scale, assorted glitches have forced AT&T to repeatedly delay and scale back the service rollout even though the required network upgrade remains on pace.

“We have had our fits and starts, but right now we feel we’re in a pretty good place,” John Stankey, AT&T’s group president for operations support, said in an interview. The deployment of the latest software for the system was completed in early February, he said, stressing that the upgrade addressed many “small annoyances” rather than any one big problem.

The systems are now operating smoothly enough that, “We’re ready to play the game and put numbers on the board,” he said.

Microsoft, which has encountered multiple bumps in its early dominance of the IPTV software market, is “very pleased with the progress we’ve made with AT&T on its software platform” to enable the wider-scale rollout, said spokesman Jim Brady. “These challenges are absolutely behind us.”

The renewed marketing efforts also include a new tactic: door-to-door sales calls, with agents deployed in every neighborhood, began earlier this month.

Sort of like the Avon lady, I guess, only selling Microsoft TV. In any case, the current scorecard reveals that there are:

roughly 7,000 U-verse subscribers, up from 3,000 at the close of 2006, even though AT&T’s network was U-verse-ready in areas with 2.2 million homes at year’s end. By contrast, Verizon had signed up 217,000 homes for FiOS TV by the end of last year, and cable companies lured away hundreds of thousands of AT&T’s phone customers during 2006.

They’re clearly playing catch up. Many more details by following the link.



Filed under AT&T, Coopetition, IPTV, Microsoft, Microsoft TV, Service Providers, Technologies

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