Broadband is making big news these days, and major players are doing all they can to grab headlines, such as AT&T’s announcement that 24 Mbps U-verse service is now available in all markets that AT&T serves. From the standpoint of consumers, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these sorts of announcements; in fact, these kinds of announcements are music to the ears of any broadband fanatic. Expanding broadband networks and faster speeds are two things that will please any broadband junkie.
Why The Roll-out Now?
The big question that most customers might have is why is AT&T upgrading to full 24 Mbps in all markets even while they are continuing to expand? The answer may have to do with the waves that Google has been making with its gigabit fiber optic plans and/or the fact that the fact that the FCC recently set new milestones for broadband growth in the U.S. These two items have been burning up the headlines, and AT&T might just be trying to capitalize on the publicity. Will that matter to customers who previously had no 24 Mbps option? Probably not.
Another Possible Reason For the Upgrade
The FCC’s 100 Mbps by 2020 standard may have something to do with the sweeping U-verse upgrades on a more fundamental level. One possible explanation for the network-wide upgrade is the fact that if AT&T wants to hit the 100 Mbps target by 2020, they will need to start selling upgrades as soon and as often as they can. For example, if a 10 Mbps connection sells for $XY a month today, it certainly will not sell for anything approaching that once 100 Mbps becomes the nationwide de facto standard. Making smaller steps between 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps over the next 8 or so years allows AT&T and other vendors to start selling their services to customers who previously did not see the value proposition quite clearly. After all, 10 Mbps for $XY today might not appeal to a large audience, but at half that price more than twice the people will be interested. Supply and demand is a wonderful thing, as consumers end up with faster broadband connections at better prices.
U-Verse is More Than a Broadband Service
Of course, U-verse is far more than a broadband service; it offers seamless integration of digital television complete with some of the most amazing DVR features around and even throws in digital telephone service for good measure. These features work together to create a seamless user experience that has to be seen to be believed. As the downstream speeds continue to increase, it will be interesting to see where AT&T takes its digital cable and telephone services.
What’s The Upstream Speed?
While 24 Mbps downstream speeds are impressive, the one thing that holds AT&T’s U-verse system back for a select few is the 3 Mbps upstream speeds. 3 Mbps upstream speeds are perfectly fine for residential use, but web developers and/or artists that do a lot of uploading from their home offices might need to look into something else. Additionally, online backups might not be as fast using 3 Mbps of upstream speeds. Other than these few small caveats, there is really not much reason to be worried about a 3 Mbps upstream speed.
Fiber Is Still the Future
The best news about AT&T’s rollout of 24 Mbps from one side of their U-verse network to the other is the fact that it is almost a sure bet that this indicates that AT&T has fiber running very close to the homes and offices in every single market it services. This means that AT&T can systematically upgrade to FTTH (Fiber To The Home) over time, and that means that the company is probably in a very good position to challenge Verizon and their FiOS network in terms of speed. When will this happen? That is unclear, but it is certain that fiber is the way of the future and that metal wires are essentially on their last proverbial leg.
Will AT&T be able to squeeze more than 24 Mbps out of their metal wire connections? They actually already do that right now, but that overhead is used for delivering IPTV streams and handling VOIP services. Whether or not there is any more usable headroom is debatable, but it would seem logical to speculate that there might be one or two small incremental upgrades left in the old metal wire U-verse before a full fiber optic overhaul is in order. Hopefully that process will begin soon, but there is no official word on the subject.
Going with fiber optics directly to the property promises easier and less expensive upgrades in the future, and that has to be part of AT&T’s long-term goal. Verizon already has a serious lead on AT&T because they are presently delivering blazing fast FTTH connections, but AT&T’s network is simply huge. If AT&T can convert to fiber in the next year or two, they may be able to surpass Verizon’s lead in the FTTH service arena.