AT&T limited its options when it decided not to go with FTTH for its IP triple play platform, U-verse. They chose VDSL instead, presumably to save cost over a more expensive FTTH build. There are valid arguments on both sides of the debate as to whether AT&T’s strategy was the right move. One down side to the decision though, is their limited options for increased performance.

Take their recent decision to go with pair bonding. This technology allows AT&T to leverage two copper pairs (instead of a single pair) to deliver triple play services, increasing bandwidth capacity and/or reach for the distance and capacity challenged DSL powered U-verse platform. Therein lies the rub – AT&T has to choose either distance gains or increase in bandwidth capabilities, when in reality they need both.

Apparently AT&T has chosen the former – increase in distance and reach for the U-verse platform via pair bonding over increasing broadband speed for eligible U-verse customers (both current and potential). AT&T previously hinted that speed increases were being seriously studied for their pair bonding strategy. But last week, they confirmed increasing the reach of U-verse was the priority for pair bonding.  Apparently getting video to more customers is more important than increasing bandwidth speeds to existing customers.

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It’s an interesting decision, given that most U-verse subscribers will max out with 18 Mbps for broadband speed, although a select number of customers who are within reach of their neighborhood VRADs will get access to 24 Mbps. Given the rising DOCSIS 3.0 competition posed by cable companies who are routinely offering 50 Mbps tiers and also approaching 100 Mbps options, does AT&T’s decision make sense?

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4 thoughts on “AT&T Chooses Video, Reach over Faster Broadband

  1. Using VDSL2 with vectoring will allow speeds in the range of several hundred Mbps in the near future. Bonding and vectoring will allow copper based networks to be very competitive for many years to come. AT&T's decision makes a lot of sense from a business case perspective.

    1. I wish I could say you ended up being right. It's late 2018 now, and AT&T still has not deployed or even mentioned any intentions of using vectoring in their VDSL2 service areas. I'm very lucky that they built the VRAD (node) close to my home when U-verse (as it was known back then, AT&T Internet now) came to our town. So I have always been able to get the current highest VDSL2 speed package. I went from 45/8 Mbps at install to 75/20 and now 100/20.

      They did end up increasing speed tiers to 25/5, 50/10, 75/20, and 100/20 Mbps packages. To get "Internet 100" though your copper loop length has to be 1,200 feet or less, luckily at a little over 800 feet I'm good. But I feel very confident AT&T is done investing in any more upgrades for FTTN VDSL2 service. Sadly a lot of the line cards in use in many VRADs, including the one I'm connected to actually support vectoring but its highly unlikely it will ever be enabled.

      AT&T is wisely IMO more interested in getting fiber to the home service areas increased esp since they gain 40 percent plus on average market share in areas where they do have FTTH. It's not totally impossible but I'd def be surprised if we get bumped to FTTH by whenever in 2019 AT&T plans to start slowing down the fiber roll out.

      1. Just wanted to say the only actual service level upgrade they have done that did enable the max speed of 100/20 was going from 8Mhz signal to 17 Mhz. That combined with line bonding got them to at best 100 Mbps over a maximum of 1,200 feet of copper (two pairs bonded of course)

  2. Sadly – U-Verse is a totally inferior video offering – AT&T actually degrades the local community channels and does not offer comparable service to cable or FiOS. Local PEG channels are only offered via a channel 99 menu which disables the functionality of the channels – no DVR recording function, no switching directly between channels, no SAP, etc… it's a pathetic excuse for local channels really.

    By giving local community channels such dismal carriage – AT&T has crippled the U-verse product and made it non-competitive for any viewers who value localism. This makes no sense from a "business case perspective" – pathetic loser position for at&t!

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