U.S. telephone giant SBC Communications is one step closer to offering cable television to the 18 million households in its coverage area. The company announced a $195 million contract with Scientific-Atlanta Thursday to provide a video operations center and regional hubs for the new service. Under the brand name, U-verse, the SBC’s television rollout is set to launch in 2006 after field trials begin later this year.
The company is seeking the so-called “triple play,” where a telecommunications company offers voice, data and video in one bundled package. Local telephone companies like SBC have been losing business to cable TV companies, which have added telephone and Internet services in recent years.
In a slew of recent deals, SBC is looking to stop that trend. Within the past six months it has signed alliances with various technology firms to build out a fiber network to the home strategy. For instance, SBC has a $1.7 billion deal with Alcatel to build out its fiber optic network and a 10-year, $400 million, pact with Microsoft to license its IPTV technology to allow multi-channel television to steam over its Internet backbone.
In most of the U.S. only cable TV companies like Comcast have been able to offer the “triple play” of voice, video and data services. But traditional phone companies like SBC and Verizon have been upgrading their copper wire telephone networks to fiber optic. SBC says it plans to spend billions of dollars to overhaul its telecommunications network, saying the aging and brittle copper wires which were originally laid in the early 1900s do not have enough bandwidth to allow television capability.