AT&T To Squeeze Four HD Streams Into U-verse TV Homes

AT&T will let U-verse TV customers access up to four high-definition channels simultaneously by the end of the year, thanks to a combination of DSL upgrades and improvements in MPEG-4 compression.

Until now, AT&T has allowed customers of the IPTV service to access a maximum of three HD channels at once, because of bandwidth constraints.

John Stankey, president and CEO of the AT&T Operations division, made the announcement at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment investor conference Thursday.

"We've moved from four standard-definition streams at the onset [when U-verse TV launched in 2006] to at the end of this year introducing four HD streams in a household," he said.

Also, by the end of this year, U-verse TV customers will be able to use trick-play controls to pause and rewind live TV from any television in the house, Stankey said.

The U-verse business is on track to bring in $4 billion in revenue for 2010, he added. AT&T added 209,000 subscribers in the second quarter -- more than 70% of the net adds among multichannel video distributors, according to Stankey. As of June 30, AT&T counted 2.5 million U-verse TV customers.

The increase in HD streams per household also will let most U-verse TV customers record three HD shows and one SD show at the same time with a whole-home DVR. The upgrade is rolling out on "a market-by-market basis to new and existing customers over the next several months," an AT&T spokeswoman said.

According to AT&T, it is able to deliver four HD channels simultaneously because it has over time delivered higher downstream bandwidth and has improved the compression efficiencies it is able to achieve with MPEG-4.