Basking Ridge, N.J. -- AT&T Corp. wants to be your
total information company, and that was never more evident than at a recent press
demonstration of its voice, video and high-speed Internet services over cable plant at the
company's headquarters here last week.
Although much of the technology has been in existence for
some time, AT&T was understandably excited about its ability to transmit
telecommunications services over the network of Tele-Communications Inc., its $48 billion
AT&T has set up a demonstration room within its
headquarters to show trade press, company executives, industry analysts, stock analysts
and just about anybody else who would listen just how easy it is to transmit voice and
data over the Internet.
Using a Cablevision Systems Corp. headend in Piscataway,
N.J., the demonstration room represented a real-time hookup to the future, as AT&T
sees it with TCI. The small room also showed for the first time the path of communications
through both AT&T's and TCI's networks to the customer premises.
The way that it will be set up is relatively simple. As
expected, telephony information will be transmitted via AT&T's nationwide network to
Class 5 digital-telephone switches, while video and high-speed Internet will come from
TCI's Headend in the Sky platform. Both modes of information will travel from their
sources to cable headends and, ultimately, to network-termination boxes at customers'
Separate boxes tied into customers' home power sources will
supply power for telephony. Each power box will have a battery backup that is constantly
recharged and, in case of a power blackout, that will power the telephones in the house
for up to eight hours. However, if blackouts last longer, the customer is pretty much out
AT&T considered powering telephony through coaxial
cable -- like Cox Communications Inc. does with its telephony service -- but it decided
that the cost was too high to justify it.
Marty Davidson, technical-support manager for AT&T
Labs, said powering telephony through coax could come at a later date, depending on
customer take-rates. However, he would not reveal what those take-rates would have to be.
AT&T is currently conducting a "friendly
trial" with TCI and AT&T employees in Fremont, Calif. Once the company collects
all of the necessary data and the AT&T-TCI merger is complete, the service will be
rolled out in the San Francisco Bay area.
Davidson declined to say where future rollouts will be.
However, since TCI plant would need to be upgraded to at least 750 megahertz to handle
telephony, high-speed data and cable, it is likely that those markets that are already
upgraded to 750 MHz would be the first to introduce the service.
Additional telephony services -- such as "Universal
Messaging Service," which combines voice mail, fax and e-mail, all of which can be
read to the user over the phone via a text-to-voice translation system -- would be
available in the future, Davidson said.