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AT&T launches IPTV in second market

Called AT&T U-verse, company's Internet Protocol TV rolls out in Houston; other launches due by end of year.

AT&T is moving forward with its Internet Protocol television rollout as it begins offering the service in a second city.

On Thursday, the company announced it has launched the service, called AT&T U-verse, in Houston. This is the second market where U-verse services are commercially available. The company debuted the service in June in San Antonio. AT&T has said publicly it plans to expand U-verse to 15 to 20 markets by the end of 2006.

AT&T and Verizon Communications have spent billions of dollars upgrading their networks with fiber-optic cabling so that they can offer more services to better compete with cable operators. Cable companies such as Comcast, Time Warner and Cablevision are offering what's been called a triple play of services--a service bundle that includes broadband, video and telephony.

Cable operators have used discounted pricing on these bundles to lure traditional telephony customers away from the phone companies. So far the strategy has worked well as cable companies have been reporting record subscriber growth over the past few quarters.

Currently, AT&T is offering only two services in its bundle: high-speed Internet and television. Pricing of the U-verse package starts at $44 per month, and it goes as high as $129 per month, depending on the selected programming and the speed of the Internet package. A company spokeswoman said AT&T plans to add voice over IP to its service package at a later date.

AT&T U-verse customers in Houston will have access to the same service offered to customers in San Antonio, which includes , remote access to a digital video recorder via the Web, which allows customers to schedule recordings using their AT&T Yahoo Internet account, and the ability to record up to four programs at once on their DVR.

AT&T's U-Verse service is available only in limited areas of Houston, but AT&T said it plans to expand availability on an ongoing bases.