CES: SBC's Whitacre announces IP-based services suite

SBC Communications will roll out a suite of network services and products based on IP this year, featuring integrated next-generation TV, high-speed Internet access and VoIP offerings for home users, company Chairman Edward Whitacre said Thursday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

SBC Communications will roll out a suite of network services and products based on IP this year, featuring integrated next-generation TV, high-speed Internet access and VoIP offerings for home users, company Chairman Edward Whitacre said Thursday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"This is the year excitement and dependability finally meet on the same page," Whitacre said, noting that IT companies have for years been promising users that true convergence, with all manner of devices and technologies able to interoperate, was just around the corner.

SBC U-verse, the IP-based suite, represents a "new beginning" for the company in which it is already venturing into the programming side of television. The IPTV component of the suite will provide specialized programming to users offered through content providers that Whitacre didn't name. IPTV, expected out late this year, will be a digital video entertainment service including video on demand, digital video recording with remote access and multimedia interactive program guides.

Besides IPTV, components of U-verse include:

-- Residential VoIP service enabling broadband Internet connectivity for traditional voice calling. The service will be out early this year and will feature a Web-based portal offering call-management features such as "find me" and "do not disturb" features.

-- A home entertainment service integrating satellite TV programming, digital video recording, photo sharing and music through a new set-top box service using the SBC Yahoo interface. Customers who have both the SBC-Dish Network service and DSL service offered through the partnership between SBC and Yahoo will be able to combine communications and entertainment content into one package accessed over TV and stereo.

The SBC-Dish Network satellite TV service will also have new features such as video on demand and new receivers for both high definition and standard definition digital video recording.

-- A package combining the company's VPN services with unlimited access to its FreedomLink WiFi and wireless Edge services aimed at mobile workers. The new package, to be announced soon, will provide software to users allowing them access to high-speed network connections that they can adjust as they change locations. Integration will allow users access to corporate e-mail, data networks and the Internet over laptop computers.

-- Unified communications combining wireless and wireless voice mail, e-mail and faxes into one mailbox. This service is available now, but will be enhanced over the coming months.

Groundwork for the U-verse suite has been laid over recent months, including word earlier this week that SBC and 2Wire formed a joint venture to offer the home entertainment services. Key to the new approach for SBC is its $4 billion Project Lightspeed initiative that will provide fiber to 18 million U.S. households in 13 states by the end of 2007.

Broadband availability is crucial to the services that SBC and other telecommunications and networking companies have planned and along those lines Whitacre announced that SBC surpassed its goal of having 5 million DSL lines in service by the end of last year.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.