AT&T's Wireless IPTV Set-Top Cleared For Takeoff

The Federal Communications Commission has approved an IPTV set-top designed by Cisco Systems for AT&T's U-verse TV service that receives video over a home wireless Wi-Fi connection.

AT&T declined to comment about its rollout plans for the Cisco set-top, dubbed the ISB7005. Documents pertaining to the device, approved March 3, are available on the FCC's website here.

The Cisco ISB7005 supports the 802.11n wireless standard, which provides a maximum data rate of up to 300 Megabits per second but will drop down to 6 Mbps depending on interference. The set-top also includes Ethernet and HomePNA wired network interfaces, which are standard on AT&T's other U-verse boxes.

AT&T is able to use Wi-Fi to distribute HD video within the home because the telco encodes its signals more efficiently than satellite or cable providers, according to IMS Research senior analyst Stephen Froehlich, who pointed out the FCC's approval in a research note Thursday. U-verse TV delivers HD in MPEG-4 at approximately 5 Mbps, compared with 5 to 8 Mbps for satellite and 16 Mbps for cable (which uses MPEG-2), he said.

"It is not yet clear if the ISB7005 is intended to be the primary client [set-top box] for U-verse or whether it is meant instead to be used only to save installers from the most time consuming of wire runs," Froehlich noted.

AT&T had 2.99 million U-verse TV subscribers at the end of 2010.