Ma Bell is stepping up the marketing of its wireless service even as America’s first landline phone company prepares to compete with a cable company and power provider to entertain Chattanoogans in their homes.
“When people think of AT&T, they think of that old rotary dial phone on the kitchen wall,” said Gregg Morton, president of AT&T Tennessee. “And we’ve gone from that old rotary dial phone on the kitchen wall to the iPhone ... We’re not just the old telephone company anymore.”
AT&T is investing $400 million in Tennessee to offer its Internet-based video service called U-verse sometime within the next 42 months, Mr. Morton said Wednesday in a meeting with editors and reporters at the Times Free Press.
The company now is upgrading its landline networks to include U-verse, a fiber-based system that will be offered to about 30 percent of AT&T’s landline customers, he said.
Once nicknamed Ma Bell, AT&T has invested more than $3 billion in Tennessee over the past decade on wireless and landline communications networks, company officials have said.
The 3G wireless network is the fastest such system in the world, said Steve Sitton, AT&T president of Southeast Wireless Operations. It allows wireless users with a 3G-capable device such as an iPhone to do tasks such as viewing videos or filming video and sending it to someone else, tasks that once were the domain of computers.
U-verse and the 3G wireless network will help AT&T battle with Comcast and EPB, Mr. Morton said. Comcast already offers cable, Internet and landline phone services while EPB is in the process of offering Internet, landline and video services.
EPB President and CEO Harold DePriest said last week that U-verse would have limited bandwidth and that he doubted AT&T would be a major factor in Chattanooga.
The wireless 3G network offers typical downlink speeds from 700 Kbps to 1.7 Mbps. Using a speed enhancement feature, 3G can offer uplink speeds of between 500 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps.
But Mr. Morton said his company will be aggressive in competing with EPB on pricing and packaging. AT&T has the added benefit of offering wireless service, which neither EPB nor Comcast offers, he said.
EPB and Comcast officials quickly responded to Mr. Morton’s statement.
“Fiber is the next generation in broadband and a superior product to anything on the market today,” EPB Vice President of Telecommunications Katie Espeseth said in a statement. “We welcome the competition to Chattanooga and we believe that the more options available, the better for customers.”
Comcast uses “superior technology” to serve customers, said Laurie J. Shipley, the company’s government affairs manager.
“Comcast helps make consumers’ digital lifestyles simpler, faster and better by using our superior technology and powerful network so they can enjoy content when they want it and where they want it,” she said.
Because of the competition, Mr. Morton declined to say when in the next 42 months that AT&T would roll out U-verse. AT&T traditionally does well in suburban and rural markets, so the rollout will include those areas, he said.
Video: AT&T to bring video service to areaAt a Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board meeting Wednesday, Gregg Morton, president of AT&T Tennessee, and Steve Sitton, regional president of AT&T Southeast Wireless Operations, discussed their company's $400 million investment in video technology in Tennessee.