Baby bell says U-verse now serves 2 million users....
Back in July you might remember that we reported
on rumors that AT&T was busy cooking up a faster U-Verse tier that was supposed to drop before the end of August. A little behind the rumored schedule, AT&T directed our attention this morning to an announcement that the company is launching a 24 Mbps tier
. Known as "AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet Max Turbo" to its friends, the new 24 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream (higher than rumors suggested) tier is launching today in Austin, San Antonio and St. Louis markets. The pricing of the new tier, straight from the horse's mouth:
AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet Max Turbo is available to eligible residential customers for $65 a month, under current promotional offers, as part of a bundle with AT&T U-verse TV. Professional standard installation is included for new U-verse TV customers, and current U-verse Internet customers can upgrade their package at any time without additional installation costs or appointments. New residential U-verse customers who bundle U-verse TV (U200 or higher), U-verse Internet (Pro or higher) with Wireless 450 (or higher) or U-verse Voice Unlimited will receive $200 back.
The faster speeds come with a new 32Mbps/5Mbps gateway profile that supports the higher speed and
supposedly three simultaneous HD streams. Of course as we've explored
far more frequently than AT&T would like, AT&T's decision to milk copper instead of moving to fiber means that distance limitations remain a thorn in AT&T's side. It's going to become more so as cable companies increasingly migrate to DOCSIS 3.0 and begin offering 50 Mbps (and in some cases 101 or 105 Mbps) tiers. No, not everybody needs that kind of bandwidth, but being unable to offer it will put AT&T at a marketing disadvantage.
Some U-Verse customer gateways sync at 100Mbps, but at 1,400 feet from the VRAD. 25Mbps sometime works well at distances of 3,000 feet, but issues arise closer to and beyond 5,000 feet. Many users are further than 3,000 feet -- and with AT&T now offering additional HD streams, things had been getting pinched. As such, AT&T is playing a constant balancing act involving compression and real time balancing of bandwidth versus HD demand. Last fall, AT&T changed their TOS
to "manage customer expectations" in terms of getting fully advertised bandwidth and all HD capacity at the same time.
AT&T continues to tinker with the idea of bonded VDSL to help with these constraints, an idea which should allow the carrier to offer faster speeds at shorter loop lengths sometime in 2010. To offer bonded VDSL, AT&T will need to assign two DSLAM ports to each customer, and deploy a special residential gateway outside the house that can terminate two pairs -- assuming they're available. Bonded VDSL has been repeatedly delayed, but vendors insist
that initial problems with chipsets have been resolved.
As an additional note, AT&T says they've now passed 2 million users with the U-Verse service.