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AT&T Promises U-Verse Users 75-100 Mbps
Predictions Seem Overly Optimistic, Upstream Speed Not Mentioned
by Karl Bode 12:34PM Tuesday Jan 08 2013
For a company whose U-Verse fiber to the node broadband service has consistently under-performed in the battle against cable, AT&T executives were very confident in future U-Verse speed claims while speaking at their developer conference this week at CES. AT&T recently announced that they'd be expanding their U-Verse footprint from 24.5 million homes to 33 million, though the company used some fuzzy math to make the expansion seem much larger than it was.

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The company has also suggested some existing U-Verse customers would be getting speeds "up to 75 Mbps" this year. Speaking at CES, Senior Executive Vice President of AT&T Technology and Network Operations (and former CTO) John Donovan offered some more detail on the speed upgrades.

"With our plant technology advancements, 90 percent of our U-verse customer locations will have the capability to receive what we project to be 75 Mbps -- and 75 percent will have the capability to receive up to 100 Mbps,' insisted Donovan. "Almost 80 percent of the IP DSLAM customer locations will have the capability to receive 45 Mbps, with about half of those having the capability to receive up to 75 Mbps."

Donovan's predictions seem optimistic. To obtain anywhere close to these kinds of speeds users will need to have quality copper lines, be in a position to use bonded lines, and enjoy shorter loop lengths (around 2,000 feet or less from the VRAD). Suggesting that 80-90% of U-Verse customers will meet that criteria seems like a Yoga-grade stretch. Also note Donovan fails to even mention upstream speeds.

It's still unclear specifically which markets will see the upgrades, or what kind of upstream speeds users can expect. Despite the CES fireworks, AT&T (like Verizon) is by and large hanging up on wired networks, and is willing to allow tens-of-millions of un-upgraded DSL customers to flee to cable. While AT&T and Verizon work to gut the regulations governing their landline networks, the lion's share of their attention remains fixed on higher-growth wireless services.

Most current U-Verse markets see top speeds of 24 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream if they're fortunate. Those speeds have failed to keep pace with cable DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades, which have pushed cable speeds in many areas well past the 100 Mbps mark. We've reached the point where Comcast is now using fiber to the home to deliver speeds of 305 Mbps. AT&T, who also imposes caps and overages on their fixed line broadband services, is dramatically falling behind and the company hopes nobody has noticed.

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