AT&T: IPTV Software Slowed Rollout


AT&T blamed the slower-than-expected rollout of its U-verse TV service in part on the need to “make enhancements” to the Internet-protocol-TV software provided by Microsoft.

This week AT&T confirmed it would offer U-verse TV in 11 metro areas by the end of 2006 -- four shy of the goal it set in October. Earlier in the year, AT&T had been even more optimistic, telling Wall Street it expected to launch in 15 to 20 markets.

Asked why it missed the 15-market goal, AT&T responded in a statement Thursday: “We revised the number of markets to make enhancements to our IPTV software and other systems based on some key learnings in our initial markets … We want to ensure we’re doing everything possible to meet and exceed customers’ expectations.”

AT&T spokesman Brad Mays would not disclose details of what “enhancements” were required.

The telco is using Microsoft’s IPTV Edition software to provide key functions for U-verse TV, including an interactive program guide, video-on-demand, digital-video recording services and high-definition video.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Brady said the company would not comment on AT&T’s specific launch plans.

SBC Communications, which acquired AT&T and assumed its name, began working with Microsoft on the IPTV project in 2004. The companies at the time said the deal would be worth more than $400 million over 10 years. SBC originally planned to launch commercial service in “late 2005”; in fact, U-verse TV first became available in June 2006 in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Verizon Communications, which is using a different version of Microsoft’s TV platform software, took over more of the development work for its set-top box software after it became “frustrated with delays and technical glitches with Microsoft’s technology,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal in September. Microsoft said Verizon always had a stated strategy for “extensive” in-house development of its set-top software.

AT&T said it remains “on track” to be able to offer U-verse TV to 19 million living units by the end of 2008. As of Sept. 30, AT&T reported having a total of 3,000 U-verse TV subscribers, all in San Antonio.

U-verse TV, according to AT&T, is currently available in limited areas in or around San Antonio, Houston, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., New Haven, Conn., Stamford, Conn., Hartford, Conn., Indianapolis, Anderson, Ind., Bloomington, Ind., and Muncie, Ind.