AT&T Plans Ambitious Expansions

As I've said before, it's sometimes a Good Thing™ to let news age for a bit before writing about it. Not only does it let the story develop a bit more fully, but you also get a much better idea of the big picture. Take for example the plans that AT&T has for expanding their reach within and beyond former SBC and BellSouth territories.

First up is a juicy rumor that AT&T might decide to buy out EchoStar. Despite the rollout of U-Verse, adoption rates for their TV service have been low and EchoStar has been having a tough time competing with DirecTV for satellite customers. It'd provide AT&T with television reach in areas without U-Verse and give them a large client base to convert over to the wireline service when it becomes available.

AT&T also has big plans for Chicago. After some fierce battles with local towns, AT&T managed to buy off persuade legislators to support state-wide franchising, effectively sidestepping the requirements of each city. Universal service was pretty much flushed down the tubes with that bills and cities are still fighting hard to keep AT&T out or force them to not cherry-pick their towns for service. (Hey Utah legislators? Keep this in mind the next time you decide to push state-wide franchising in our state, m-kay?) With this new-found lack of oversight freedom, AT&T plans to roll out U-Verse by February of 2008. While BellSouth territories haven't yet seen U-Verse, AT&T has stated plans to start rolling out the service in Atlanta.

You can also expect AT&T to start rolling out "naked" DSL (DSL without a landline) by the end of the year. Rumor has it that this will run about $20/month. If you live in an AT&T area and are just too impatient to wait, you can try this trick to get dry loop DSL for as little as $24/month. The real question is how much runaround will this incur. Consumers are still having trouble getting the fabled $10 DSL package from AT&T despite the FCC mandates of the SBC-BellSouth merger.

So what does all this mean for Utah? I fully expect that AT&T will try making a push into Qwest territories before too long. If they buy EchoStar, that puts them into direct competition with DirecTV, Qwest's source of TV programming. They could also make a push into broadband over power lines (BPL) or WiMax and heavily market their CallVantage VoIP product to offer a cobbled-together triple play. What makes me think this? Maybe it has something to do with AT&T deciding to drop UTOPIA earlier this year. After all, if they're going to compete, you can bet it isn't going to be on some kind of even terms. 

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