Everybody knows AT&T. Once commonly known as Ma Bell, it was America’s great monopoly provider of land line local and long distance telephone service since shortly after the invention of the telephone until 1982, when a fed- eral court ordered the company’s breakup. With the long distance market opened to competition, and with cell phones beginning to displace land lines, AT&T had to revamp its business model dramatically to stay alive.
In the mid-2000s, Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC), one of the “Baby Bells” created by the breakup of Ma Bell, bought AT&T and took on its name In 2004, AT&T announced that it would build a fiber-optic cable network, and that it would enter the market for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). In 2005, it launched a beta test of its fiber- optic cable system in San Antonio. In June of 2006, AT&T’s inaugurated its new fiber-optic cable TV service in San Antonio, and in January of 2008, the company named it “U-Verse”. Near the end of 2008, AT&T offered it in Birming- ham, Alabama. The following year, AT&T expanded the service to Chicago, Indianapolis, Hartford, San Francisco, and a few smaller cities in their vicinities. By late 2010, U-Verse was available in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orlando, Dallas, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City.
By the end of 2011, AT&T U-Verse was available to more than 30 million households in the United States.
While developing its fiber-optic cable TV business, AT&T was moving aggressively into the broadband internet and internet-enabled phone markets. From 2004, the telecom giant had planned to offer bundled services, incorporating a “triple-play”: cable TV, broadband internet, and voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) phone service from a single provider.
In January 2008, AT&T debuted U-Verse Voice in Detroit. In November of 2008, AT&T launched an 18 megabit per second internet service called Max 18, later to be called Max Plus, and 24 MB/S Max Turbo the following year. In Au- gust of 2013, AT&T launched a 45 MB/S internet service called Power. On October 1, 2013, AT&T announced that it had had begun to offer “GigaPower”, 300 MB/S internet service that would later be increased to 1 Gigabit, to select neighborhoods in Austin. GigaPower is now available in Dallas and Fort Worth, and will soon be rolled out in San Antonio, Houston, Kansas City, Nashville, Miami, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro (NC).
In the third quarter of 2012, AT&T U-Verse had 4.3 million fiber-optic cable TV customers, 2.7 million U-Verse Voice customers, and 7.1 million broadband internet customers. The actual number of U-Verse customers at the time was lower than the total of these three categories, since many customers bundled cable TV with phone or internet ser- vice.
What makes AT&T U-Verse different from other cable TV companies is its commitment to using the most advanced signal transmission technologies. Having come late to the cable TV market, it is not burdened with the stranded cost of laying hundreds or thousands of miles of copper-wire cable. The legacy cable TV companies, having spent huge sums of money on what is now a dated technology, feel obligated to use it, and have enormous amounts of capital tied up in it, which has retarded their motivation and ability to use more advanced cable systems. By contrast, AT&T U-Verse has been all digital from the beginning, with the fiber-optic lines delivering much sharper picture and sound than copper wire could. Other cable companies are upgrading their lines, but will take time to catch up to U- Verse fiber-optic cable in signal quality or capacity.
Advantages of using AT&T U-Verse: Its technological edge has enabled AT&T U-Verse to offer more channels than any other cable or satellite TV provider, up to 510 channels with its premium service. Its fiber-optic technology is more reliable, and delivers better picture and sound, than traditional copper-wire coaxial cable does.
In a few markets, AT&T offers a gigabit-speed internet service, the fastest residential internet service available from any provider. AT&T U-Verse internet service is available in several speeds, and is generally faster and more reliable than competing services. With an optional Wireless Gateway, you can connect up to ten devices to the internet.
Because AT&T U-Verse provides its TV, Voice, and internet services over the same digital fiber-optic cables, it is eas- ier to bundle your services through AT&T than through most other cable providers, Bundling can save you time, and can reduce your total bill.
Disadvantages of using AT&T U-Verse: Because AT&T U-Verse fiber-optic lines are often incompatible with exist- ing home wiring, and because new wiring may be needed, installation can take as long as eight hours. In some cas- es, it can take multiple visits.
AT&T U-Verse costs slightly more than some competing cable and satellite TV companies for similar channel pack- ages.
AT&T’s record for customer service is somewhat spotty, though considerable better than it was a few years ago. The U-Verse equipment and fiber-optic lines are reliable, and you’re unlikely to experience many service outages, if any. If you do need to contact AT&T’s customer service department, though, you may be on hold for a while.
AT&T offers several TV channel packages, so you should be able to find one that suits your budget and interests. For qualifying customers, AT&T will discount the regular monthly rates for the first year of service. For HD and DVR equipment, or for connecting multiple TVs, AT&T will add nominal fees to your monthly bills.
U-Verse Basic: This is the entry-level U-Verse TV package. It includes up to 60 channels, including your local sta- tions, WGN America, Baby TV, Weather on Demand, AT&T U-Verse Movies, and AT&T U-Verse Sports. If you just want clear reception for your local stations and a few others, and you’re on a tight budget, this may be the U-Verse channel package for you.
U-Verse Family: With the U-Verse Family package, you will get more than 140 channels, including everything in the Basic package plus Animal Planet, Bloomberg TV, National Geographic, Disney, The Weather Channel, Nickelodeon, QVC, CMT, History, TBN, Daystar, and more than 30 Music Choice channels.
U-200: This is the minimum U-Verse package we recommend if you want to get the most out of cable TV. With the U-200 package, you’ll get more than 300 channels, including everything in the U-Verse Family package plus TNT, BBC America, AMC, A&E, Discovery, TBS, BET, FX, SyFy, Turner Classic Movies, Sundance, MTV, RFD TV, Independent Film Channel, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN, more than 20 Fox Regional Sports Channels, and more than 50 music channels.
U-300: This is the most popular U-Verse channel package. With U-300, you get more than 390 channels, including everything in the U-200 package plus Fox News, Logo, The Movie Channel , 10 Starz channels, up to 12 Showtime channels, and 9 Encore Movie Channels.
U-450: This is one of the most comprehensive channel packages offered by any satellite or cable TV provider. With U-450, you’ll get more than 470 channels, including everything in the U-300 package plus up to 12 Cinemax chan- nels, up to 15 HBO channels, and many more movie and regional sports channels in HD.
AT&T offers several U-Verse internet packages, so you should be able to find one that suits your budget and the way you use the web. With its fiber-optic technology, AT&T is able to offer more speed levels with greater reliability than most competitors can offer. If you bundle your U-Verse internet service with AT&T U-Verse TV or phone service, you can get steep discounts on the combination.
Pro: With AT&T U-Verse Pro internet service, your download speeds will be up to 3 megabits per second (3MB/S). This is enough for checking e-mail or light web-surfing, but if you download many videos or large data files, you probably will want more speed.
Elite: For a difference of only $5.00 per month, you can get double the speed available with the U-Verse Pro inter- net service. With the Elite service, you will have a top download speed of 6 MB/S.
Max Plus: This is the service you need for connecting multiple devices to the web, or frequent downloading of videos or large data files, or for other data-intensive applications. With Max Plus, you will get a top download speed of 18 MB/S.
Power: With a top download speed of 45 MB/S, this is the U-Verse internet service you need for multiple player interactive gaming, operating a home business, heavy use of video or other data-intensive applications, or having more than six devices connected to the web at the same time.
GigaPower: For Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth, AT&T offers its U-Verse GigaPower service, with a top download speed of a whopping 300 MB/S, which will be upgraded to 1 GB/S in September 2014 in Austin, and early in 2015 in other markets. AT&T plans to offer GigaPower soon in San Jose, Miami, San Antonio, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, St. Louis, Nashville, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh-Durham, and Greensboro (NC).
In many rural and suburban areas, AT&T does not offer U-Verse service. In these areas, DSL may be the fastest and most reliable internet service available.
Basic: With a top download speed of 768 kilobytes per second (KB/S), AT&T’s Basic DSL service is adequate for checking e-mail and social media, and for light web surfing. For heavy web surfing, downloading videos, or for other data-intensive applications, we recommend getting a faster service.
Pro: With AT&T’s Pro DSL service, you will get a top download speed of 3 MB/S
In many areas, AT&T offers Dial-Up internet service with a free customized browser, built-in instant messaging, nearly unlimited e-mail storage, and ten e-mail addresses.
Dial-up internet service is low in price, but it is so slow and unreliable that we can’t recommend it. We believe you’ll be happier paying the extra money for a faster alternative.
AT&T can trace its lineage to Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone and founded the original Bell Tele- phone Company. For much of its history, AT&T was the largest telephone company in the world. Since the original AT&T was broken up by court order in 1984, its component companies, the “Baby Bells”, took the lead in offering new phone services such as call waiting and call forwarding. Today’s AT&T carries on this practice. With your AT&T U-Verse home phone service, you can customize your service or manage your account online. With U-Verse Voice digital phone service, you can reach voice mail by hitting *98 from your home number. If you combine U-Verse TV with U-Verse Voice, you can track your call history on channel 9900, which will display the last 100 calls, noting which ones were missed or answered.
With all AT&T U-Verse home phone plans, you get free call blocking, call forwarding, call waiting, caller I D, call waiting I D, exclusive call forwarding, three-way calling, anonymous call rejection, busy call forwarding, call history, call screening, caller I D blocking, click to call, directory assistance blocking, Do Not Disturb, international call blocking, Locate Me, no answer call forwarding, safe call forwarding, sub accounts, and AT&T U-Verse SM messag- ing.
AT&T offers optional home phone features for small additional charges: second line, call trace, operator assistance, directory assistance, additional published listings, non-published numbers, and non-listed numbers.
Voice 200: With AT&T’s U-Verse calling plan, you get 200 minutes per month for one low monthly rate. You can place your calls anytime to any destination in the U.S. or its territories: Puerto Rico, Guam/Northern Marianas Is- lands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you exceed the 200 minute limit, your additional airtime will be billed at 7 cents per minute.
Voice Unlimited: For a difference of just $10.00 per month, you can upgrade from the Voice 200 plan to the Voice Unlimited plan. With Voice Unlimited, you can place unlimited calls to any destination in Canada or the U.S. and its territories: Puerto Rico, Guam/Northern Marianas Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Voice International & Mexico: For just $5.00 per month, you can upgrade from the Voice Unlimited plan to the U- Verse Voice International and Mexico plan. With Voice International & Mexico, you can place unlimited calls to any destination in Canada, Mexico, or the U.S. and its territories: Puerto Rico, Guam/Northern Marianas Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
With AT&T U-Verse, you can get your TV, internet, and phone services over the same fiber-optic lines. This not only insures a clear and reliable signal, it means you can save money and time by bundling your services on a single bill. If you bundle your U-Verse services, AT&T will discount your overall monthly fee for the combination.