AT&T U-verse mobile video services raise the bar with Wi-Fi downloads

AT&T U-verse integrated its mobile video services into its U-Verse TV package using an iPhone app to enable users to download content via Wi-Fi, a move that steps up the competition, according to Stratecast's Mike Jude.

AT&T rolled out an improved iPhone mobile video services option, the U-verse Mobile App, that enables customers to download and watch popular TV content on their iPhones.

AT&T has addressed mobile video deficiencies by integrating the mobile device into the overall video service package.

Mike Jude
Program Manager
Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan

Unlike competing offerings, AT&T's U-verse service conforms to the results of a Stratecast consumer preference survey that shows consumers define their communication value perception primarily within the constraints of price, features and integration.

While mobile video services have been available for some time, most offerings are expensive. When the cost of the additional data usage is factored in, it provides relatively limited functionality and virtually no integration with fixed communication offerings.

AT&T has addressed previous mobile video deficiencies by integrating the mobile device into the overall AT&T U-verse video service package. Through this iPhone application, consumers can not only control their home DVRs and access their U-verse programming directories, they can download content for consumption on the go.

Mobile video services enabled over Wi-Fi addresses problems

Although the download feature is enabled over Wi-Fi, this approach avoids two complaints generally associated with mobile video services: quality of service (QoS) and the high cost of data. Using a Wi-Fi connection, content can be downloaded for review without exceeding data volume limitations. In addition, while mobile viewing is typically fraught with the dreaded disconnects that can occur when one cell site hands the connection off to another, content download avoids this and enables a higher quality picture as well.

AT&T's mobile video offering also addresses a slightly more thorny issue -- the iPhone experience. While offering the iPhone has been a significant market advantage for AT&T, its ability to consume data has placed AT&T's network under a spotlight. Just a few subscribers can drive cell sites into conniption fits as they view live streaming video. So it was clear that for the iPhone to live up to its potential, it needed a way to display high quality video on the go, without the constraints imposed by saturated wireless networks.

AT&T U-verse service zeroes in on mobile video consumption habits

AT&T has adroitly addressed this issue by recognizing an important characteristic of mobile video: it hardly ever needs to be in real time. Most users who consume mobile video are looking for one of two things:

  • Very high-quality continuous viewing
  • Intermittent low-quality viewing.

Watching Gone with the Wind is a good example. It is unlikely that you would walk down the street watching the movie streaming live from a website. But if you were parked in a hotel room for an evening, you might settle in with the film.

Walking down the street, you might communicate with someone over a two-way video link, but the quality and data rate of the link wouldn't need to be substantial. In the hotel room, however, you would probably simply use a Wi-Fi connection to obtain the movie, since it would be convenient and quick.

Of course, one could argue that AT&T U-verse Mobile is simply a way of side-stepping network issues; turning a necessity into a virtue. Yet the U-verse Mobile application provides real mobility integration into the U-verse service universe. Indications from Stratecast research are that this will resonate well with consumers, providing a reason for AT&T's customers to maintain their U-verse service, and potentially convincing some people to switch to AT&T U-verse.

Stratecast expects that there will be a quick market reaction to U-verse Mobile In particular, Verizon, armed with its Droid devices, may respond quickly. AT&T's advantage, however, is that the new application wasn't released in isolation. It is the result of some substantial investments in service infrastructure as well as substantial attention to consumer consumption dynamics. AT&T's challenge will be to continue this process of service innovation through the continued service improvements and feature additions.

About the author: Mike Jude is a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan in charge of the consumer communication services practice. He brings 30 years of experience in technology management in manufacturing, wide-area network design, intellectual property management and public policy. Jude holds degrees in electrical engineering and engineering management and a Ph.D. in decision analysis. He is co-author of The Case for Virtual Business Processes: Reduce Costs, Improve Efficiencies and Focus on Your Core Business, Cisco Press, 2003.

This was last published in September 2010

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