AT&T's WiFi STB gets green light from the FCC

Tools

AT&T's (NYSE: T) desire to get around bad wireline connections in the home network took another step forward as the FCC approved its Cisco ISB7005 AT&T U-Verse WiFi-capable set top box (STB).

Although there have been reports of AT&T trialing other WiFi platforms, including Ruckus, to distribute video throughout the home, AT&T has been an advocate of using HPNA to carry signals over existing coax and phone wiring.

Stephen Froehlich, a senior analyst with IMS Research's Consumer Electronics group, said in a research note that the competitive advantage that AT&T is touting to have over satellite and cable is that the Cisco router leverages a simplified chipset design from Broadcom that can more efficiently compress video streams.

"U-Verse's comparatively low HD video bitrates are allowing them to use a relatively inexpensive 2x2 dual-band 802.11n WiFi radio based on the BRCM4717 for this application," he said, adding that "AT&T can use such a simple design because its HD video is encoded at approximately 5 Mbps compared to 5-8 Mbps for HDTV over satellite and 16 Mbps for HDTV over cable."

AT&T has no plans to abandon HPNA, however. In addition to WiFi, the Cisco ISB7005 includes standard Ethernet and HomePNA wired networking interfaces that's present on other AT&T U-Verse STBs and DVRs.

During the recent Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, Ralph De La Vega, President of mobility and consumer services, confirmed that WiFi would be deployed as a complement versus a replacement HPNA-based wireline technology.

"We'll use a combination of both and there may be some situations where wireless does not work in one house so we don't want to rely on any one technology," De La Vega said.

Since AT&T has yet to make a formal announcement about the new STB, Froehlich said "It is not yet clear if the ISB7005 is intended to be the primary client STB for U-Verse or whether it is meant instead to be used only to save installers from the most time consuming of wire runs" and that "we have not yet seen a multi-room DVR server with WiFi."

AT&T is certainly not alone in its desire to implement WiFi into their IPTV delivery platform in the home. CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) is also considering using wireless to transmit IPTV in its customer's homes. While not announcing any specific plans yet, CenturyLink's Dennis Huber told FierceTelecom that it is also keen on using wireless to simplify the installation process of its Prism IPTV product.  

For more:
- EE Times has this article

Related articles:
AT&T's De La Vega: U-verse bundles continue to drive wireline growth
Assessing the top 10 wireline service providers in Q4 2010
AT&T's Q4 wireline results bolstered by IP-based business, consumer services