AT&T has trouble with Microsoft TV software

MS IPTV issues forced delays in the service's rollout in Europe and the U.S., 'fine tuning' still needed to smooth out communication between the platform and set-top boxes

Like several other operators deploying Microsoft's Internet television software, AT&T has encountered some technical glitches -- but isn't saying specifically what they are.

AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre conceded in a conference call to analysts last week that the U.S. network operator had experienced some technical problems in the launch of its new IPTV (Internet Protocol television) service, which caused a series of delays.

In the webcast conference call, Whitacre said the delays and difficulties were not related to the company's fiber-to-the-node network architecture, which "is performing better than anticipated," but rather to "software programming." He provided no further details.

A company spokesman also declined to comment on the software problems.

AT&T is one of more than 15 network operators in the U.S. and Europe deploying Microsoft TV IPTV Edition software. Several of them, including Swisscom and Deutsche Telekom, have experienced technical hiccups with the platform, forcing them to delay commercial service.

But the two European operators have been able to overcome their technical issues to offer service.

Some insight into the technical issues AT&T has experienced with the Microsoft IPTV platform came from the network operator's CFO, Rick Linder, who was on the same analyst call. Linder referred to the operator's current work on the IPTV platform as "fine-tuning." He said changes were still necessary to improve how the platform communicates with the set-top boxes and how it utilizes the databases for functions such as scheduling and managing DVD recordings.

Communication between the IPTV platform and set-top boxes is a core function of the new Internet TV service.

In an earlier interview, Ed Graczyk, director of marketing in the Microsoft TV unit, said that there are many "pieces to the big IPTV puzzle" and that Microsoft TV IPTV Edition software is one of them. Not only must Microsoft deal with the individual requirements of network operators; the company must also work closely with suppliers of set-top boxes, encoders, and other components, he added

"No network is the same," Graczyk said, "and many of our operator customers request enhancements to differentiate their service."

AT&T declined to say whether or not it had requested any enhancements.

By the end of 2006, the operator rolled out service to 11 markets, four fewer than planned, according to the spokesman. It defines a market as a metropolitan statistical area, he said.

AT&T plans to have connected 8 million homes by the end of 2007 and a total of 19 million by the end of next year, the spokesman said.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.