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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

AT&T U-verse cuts the coax, goes wireless in-home

Pretty soon, new AT&T U-verse subscribers won’t have to go through the hassle of having their entire home re-wired with coaxial cable when they sign up for the pay TV service. Instead, all they’ll need is a residential gateway and a set of thin-client wireless receivers to deliver live and on-demand TV throughout the home.

Starting Oct. 31, U-verse customers can order the new wireless receiver, which can be placed anywhere throughout the home or even outside, as long as it’s within Wi-Fi range. By hooking up the wireless receiver, users will no longer have to connect the TV’s set-top box to a coax connection, meaning they have the flexibility to move TVs around the house or to switch out the wireless receiver to rooms that aren’t used as much.

TVs hooked up to the wireless receivers will get all the same features that are available through more traditional wired set-top boxes, such as access to on-demand titles and whole-home DVR functionality. Subscribers are also able to pause a piece of programming and pick up watching it in any other room in the house.

More importantly, the wireless receiver will reduce the need for AT&T technicians to run coaxial cable throughout subscriber homes. That means an easier set-up process for new subscribers, and could drastically reduce the time it takes to get users set up and ready. Existing customers can also request the new wireless receivers, which they can put around the house thanks to a self-install kit.
The news follows a trend of pay TV operators introducing more IP-enabled services and devices. Verizon and Comcast, for instance, have both announced plans to make their content available through the Microsoft Xbox game console, which AT&T subscribers can already use as a set-top box. Comcast and Time Warner Cable are also building TV apps for connected TVs. And any number of operators — including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and others have rolled out iPad apps that let users stream live or on-demand videos.

While AT&T has always delivered IP-based TV services, these examples show how it and other service providers can use streaming video to deliver new user experiences to users. While today the wireless streams are being delivered exclusively to U-verse receivers, we can imagine AT&T building apps for connected devices that could alleviate the need for the device. In the meantime, however, AT&T’s new wireless receivers are available for a one-time fee of $49, plus a $7 per month receiver rental fee.