AT&T -- after more than three years of planning and development with Microsoft -- this week will finally let U-verse TV subscribers use the software giant's Xbox 360 gaming console to access the IPTV service for a one-time hookup and installation fee.
The ability to use Xbox 360s to access U-verse TV will be available Oct. 15. AT&T will charge U-verse customers $99 to enable the feature, and existing customers also must pay an additional $55 for a service technician to set it up. Microsoft first outlined the feature in January 2007.
The telco also is launching three smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform, from LG, HTC and Samsung. Starting next month, U-verse TV customers with Windows Phone 7 devices will be able to access mobile TV content as part of their subscriptions. Currently, U-verse TV subscribers can use an iPhone app to download full
TV episodes -- over Wi-Fi only -- initially
from 52 TV shows through content-licensing deals with Disney-ABC
Television Group, Discovery Communications and PBS.
In addition, for Windows Phone 7 customers who don't live in areas where they can get U-verse TV, AT&T also will offer a $9.99 per month standalone U-verse Mobile plan, which marks the company's first U-verse service to be available nationwide.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 carries a retail price of $299. To hook up an Xbox to U-verse TV, an AT&T technician is required to visit the customers to load the necessary software on the game console. The tech must also connect a HomePNA adapter between the Xbox and the wall outlet, and make sure the outlet where the Xbox is connected is "U-verse-ready."
While subscribers are required to have at least one U-verse TV set-top, AT&T will not charge a monthly rental fee for the use of the Xbox as a secondary receiver.
Using the Xbox 360 as a U-verse receiver, customers will be able to receive chat and game invitations from friends through Xbox Live while watching live TV and switch from game to TV mode without switching video inputs on the TV. The feature also will let U-verse TV subs manage and play back DVR recordings and access interactive apps, the program guide and the video-on-demand service.
"Now you can get our award-winning U-verse services on your big screen TV, online, on your mobile phone, and integrated with your Xbox 360," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer with AT&T's Mobility and Consumer Markets division. "Our IPTV strategy is putting AT&T at the forefront by delivering U-verse content where you want it."
In August, Canadian telco Telus began offering subscribers of its Optik TV service the option to use a Microsoft Xbox 360 game console as a secondary set-top box, the first North American provider to do so. Telus charges a $5 (Canadian) monthly fee to use an Xbox 360 as a set-top box.
AT&T is Microsoft's biggest customer for the Mediaroom IPTV software platform. At CES 2010 in January, the software company demonstrated Mediaroom 2.0, which is designed to deliver TV services to a broad range of devices, including Windows 7 PCs, Macs and smartphones.