AT&T U-verse is the brand name for a group of services provided over Internet Protocol (IP), including television service, Internet access, and voice telephone service.
Unlike traditional offerings from U.S. cable companies, video is delivered over IP from the head end to the consumer's set-top box. U-verse uses H.264
) encoding which compresses video more efficiently than the traditional MPEG-2
. Broadcast channels are distributed via IP multicast
, allowing a single stream (channel) to be sent to any number of recipients. The system is also designed for individual unicasts for video on demand, central time shifting
, start over services and other programs desired by only one home at that particular time. The set-top box does not have a conventional tuner, but is an IP multicast client which joins the IP multicast group corresponding to the stream ("channel") desired. In the IP multicast model, only the streams the customer uses are sent. The customer's connection need not have the capacity to carry all available channels simultaneously.
The customer's premises are served primarily by VDSL from large fiber fed neighborhood boxes, known as VRADs. In newer developments, U-verse may also be deployed over FTTP. The network was designed for speeds of 20-25 megabits down, 1 to 3 megabits up, with the majority of the bandwidth devoted to the TV programming. These speeds are generally reliable within from the neighborhood gateway, though AT&T has announced they will bond two pairs of wires to extend those speeds to . Homes closer than that can receive higher speeds downstream, possibly 40-50 megabits up to . AT&T has local facilities (cross connects) within of most homes, some of which already are fed by fiber. Inside the customer's home the new services are carried over Ethernet or a HomePNA home CATV network.
Voice over IP
In some areas, AT&T offers a VoIP service which they call "AT&T U-verse Voice". It is available in two package options:
- AT&T U-verse Voice 1000
- AT&T U-verse Voice Unlimited
U-verse Voice provides calling within the U.S. and to Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Marianas. U-verse Voice 1000 provides 1000 minutes and 7¢ per minute thereafter. U-verse Voice Unlimited provides unlimited minutes.
In June 2004, AT&T announced Project Lightspeed. Alcatel-Lucent
was named as the Systems Integrator for Project Lightspeed. AT&T originally planned to reach nearly 18 million homes by the end of 2007, a target not likely to be met until early 2009. U-verse will also be available to a limited number of homes in the old BellSouth region. AT&T has not announced whether they would offer faster 50-100 megabit symmetric service to the 1.5M homes announced by BellSouth before the purchase. BellSouth had already invested in fiber to the curb, so the higher speeds would require little additional investment. Some parts of San Antonio, Texas offered SD TV commercial service in June 2006 with 30 HD channels available to some in December, although limited to a single channel per household. AT&T has announced they will offer two HD channels to a home, which will allow watching one channel while recording a second. As of the end of July 2008 many U-Verse customers finally have the two HD channel offering. The standard definition packages currently offer as many as 400 channels. Pricing varies widely, with "special offers" changing rapidly. The channel lineup and pricing of AT&T U-verse is similar to most cable and satellite systems. There may, of course, be differences between a local cable provider and the AT&T U-verse selection. For a listing in a specific area, consult the U-verse channel lineup
Voice over IP is available in only some U-Verse areas in July, 2008.