SBC Announces Initiative for Integrated Services

Jan 6, 2005  •  Post A Comment

SBC CEO Ed Whitacre promised that 2005 will be the year that convergence truly happens, thanks to the SBC Project Lightspeed $4 billion initiative to roll out advanced video service over an Internet-protocol TV network that will enable networking among the home phone, cellphone, television and other devices.

He introduced the name and details of the new service during a speech Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The service will be called U-Verse, a play on the concept of “bringing the universe to you,” he said. “We will offer a suite of fully integrated services over our new fiber network … using the power of the Internet to truly achieve the convergence of voice, video and data.”

SBC is testing the technology now and expects to introduce the U-Verse suite of services toward the end of the year. The service will allow consumers to access and interact with content across set-top boxes, wireless and wireline phones, PDAs and wireless hot spots.

The IPTV infrastructure enables video-on-demand, digital video recorders, a rich program guide and picture-in-picture capability. One of the gee-whiz features of an IPTV network is that a consumer can program a home DVR from an office computer or a mobile phone, for instance. “With U-Verse, if you are running late, you can use your cellphone to tell your DVR to record a show you might have missed,” he said.

An IPTV network also allows consumers to choose shows, edit shows, select camera angles during sporting events and retrieve information form the Internet while watching TV. In addition, the service allows consumers to have only one inbox and one address book for the cellphone, the computer and the home phone, he said.

“Convergence seems like the weather,” he said. “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does much about it. That’s why we are here today. 2005 is the year SBC will deliver.”

SBC plans to install another 40,000 miles of fiber this year for the new network. The network will enable bandwidth that is four times faster than today’s broadband speeds, he said. Within three years, about 18 million households will have access to the network.

Mr. Whitacre acknowledged that Thursday’s announcement isn’t the first time a telephone company has talked about a new world of video entertainment. “But this time is different,” he said. “Quite simply, the timing is right. We aren’t ahead of the headlights. We aren’t rushing into anything. The alignment of technology, software and digital networks is finally here.”