AT&T U-Verse Review – Looking at Pricing and Packages

AT&T U-Verse is a fairly new cable product available to some customers served by the giant telecom.  Is U-verse the right choice for you? What about U-Verse in comparison to satellite TV companies like DIRECTV and DISH Network? Here we will consider a few of the answers to these questions in this extensive AT&T U-verse review.

If you’re not familiar with U-verse, it is basically the telephone companies response to big cable TV companies like Comcast, Time Warner cable, and Cox cable. Several years back, these cable TV operators began offering triple-play bundles of service, which include your video, high speed internet, and home phone service all from the same provider. As telephone companies like Verizon and AT&T began to see customers jumping over to the competition. In response, Verizon Fios and AT&T U-verse services were deployed as an answer to cable TV. While expensive to deploy, AT&T U-verse has been fairly successful, with more than a million households signing up for the service.

AT&T U-verse is a fiber to the node technology, meaning the phone company deploys the service to a serving terminal in the neighborhood, then the existing copper lines carry the signal the rest of the way to the customers home. While cheaper than the fiber to the home technology being deployed by Verizon, U-verse can face some limitations if you live far from the serving terminal. Problems in this area generally involve slower speeds when it comes to the U-verse internet service.

When evaluating U-verse, it is important to consider both what you already have as far as satellite TV or cable service, and of course what you want. AT&T certainly wants you to subscribe to all three services in the Uverse bundle, but if you don’t need all of them then you will be wasting money with a triple play package. Of course, the availability of U-verse is not a given, so AT&T will then offer you their home phone with DSL and a DIRECTV deal in addition.

We will first consider the internet and voice pieces of U-verse service, then compare the U-verse TV offer with what is out there from DIRECTV and DISH Network.

AT&T U-verse voiceoffers an unlimited plan for $30 a month or a U-verse voice 250 plan for $25 a month. The unlimited plan of course includes local and Choices long distance calling across the country, plus Canada and Puerto Rico. The AT&T 250 plan offers unlimited local plus 250 minutes of long distance per month. Both plans include a boatload of calling feature as well such as the old standbys like Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, Caller ID, and Three Way Calling. In addition there are several advanced calling features in U-verse Voice, some of which are anonymous Call Rejection, Call Screening, Call Transfer, and Do Not Disturb.

Other cool features of the Uverse voice plan are the battery backup feature, which maintains power to your home phone even during power outages, and the call history feature. Call history displays your recent calls on your television set and/or your personal computer.

AT&T U-verse high speed internet is the second piece of the triple play offering. With U-verse internet, you can expect basically what any high speed internet service gives you, fast downloads combined with wireless home networking. U-verse internet comes in quite a few flavors, briefly outlined here.

AT&T U-verse Express-Up to 1.5 Mbps, starting at $25 a month

U-verse Pro-Up to 3 Mbps, starting at $30 a month

U-verse Elite-Up to 6 Mbps, starts at $35 per month

U-verse Max-Up to 12 Mbps, starting at $55 a month

U-verse Max 18- Up to 18 Mpbs, starting at $65 a month.

Prices quoted here are from the AT&T website, and reflect a la carte pricing. Depending on what combination of services you purchase, you can obviously get a better overall U-verse deal. AT&T also adds in a few extras with the service, such as anti-virus software, Spam guard, firewall software, and of course wireless networking capability.

Now the final piece of the AT&T U-verse package is the cable TV option. U-verse TV offers everything you would normally find with either cable or satellite TV. Full programming lineups, DVR service, HD channels, as well as professional installation are all part of the AT&T video offering. So how does U-verse match up against the traditional cable and satellite companies?

As with any new service, there are bound to be a few bumps along the road. With U-verse, there are of course growing pains as technicians are often expected to install TV service throughout a home, not to mention the high speed internet on the same visit. Most complaints on our DIRECTV vs U-verse comparison have to do with the lengthy installations, and at times difficulty with the U-verse technology working correctly. While people are certainly more apt to air their frustrations when U-verse isn’t working, potential customers do need to keep in mind it is a new service and of course there are difficulties in getting it to work correctly for all customers.

Now when it comes to U-verse packages and pricing, this is where AT&T is very competitive with DIRECTV and DISH Network, and in general beats most cable TV packages.

The first U-verse package is the U100 TV package.  Comparable to either the DIRECTV Choice package or the DISH Network Classic Bronze offer, this bundle will get you all of the basics when it comes to cable.   Up to 120 channels are included here, and pricing starts at $49 per month.

Next up is the U-verse U-200 package.  Here you will find about 220 channels total, of which about 50 are music channels.  U-verse pricing on this package starts in the area of $64 per month.

The U-300 package is next up.  About 290 channels are included here, when you count both audio and video networks.  Stand alone package pricing on this package is in the area of $79 per month.

Finally, the all-inclusive option is called U-verse 450.  Comparable to the DIRECTV Premier package or the DISH Network America’s Everything Pak,  U450 has all of the cable channels you could ever ask for.   Over 360 channels total are included here and pricing starts at $109 per month, and you get all of the premium movie channels like HBO and Starz.

If you opt for the lower priced packages, you can add on movie and sports packs individually.   The Movie package runs $20 per month and has over 30 channels of Starz, Encore, Showtime, the Movie Channel and Flix.   The HBO/Cinemax combination offers 9 channels of each, and runs $20 per month.  A sports pack tier for $10 is also available, adding some of the lesser knows sports networks.

Now beyond the regular programming packages, what else does U-verse offer?  There are certainly advantages to the AT&T U-verse bundled package, as many services can be integrated and can work together throughout your home.  For example, one thing you can do is program your U-verse DVR with either your home computer or your AT&T wireless phone as long as it has internet access.

The U-verse Total Home DVR is an interesting device that takes your home entertainment to another level.  To start with, the U-verse DVR has the capability to record up to four shows at once.  You won’t find that with DIRECTV or DISH Network, where you are limited to two shows at once.   One U-verse DVR is included in any of the above TV packages.  Another great feature with the Total Home DVR is the option to watch recordings from different TV sets in the home.   This give you access to all of your DVR content in every room where you have a TV, and you aren’t restricted to the room where the DVR sits.

The U-verse DVR holds up to 233 hours of SD content, or 65 hours of HD content.  The capacity here is a quite a bit less than the DIRECTV DVR or the DISH Network ViP 722 DVR, so you won’t be able to hold as many movies as you might like.  The Total Home DVR is of course all digital when it comes to picture and sound, and includes features that are standard on DVR devices like parental locks and an on-screen programming guide.  One thing to keep in mind is that there is a $7 fee per month for each additional receiver where you want the full DVR functionality to work.

When it comes to HD, or high definition content, Uverse has really stepped up to the plate in 2008 and 2009.   While not quite to the levels offered by DIRECTV HD or DISH Network Turbo HD, U-verse does now have more than 100 HD channels.   While DISH Network and DIRECTV are both in the 130-140 HD channel range, the number includes pay per view and regional sports networks, so it is somewhat inflated.  AT&T Uverse has taken the same approach as satellite companies when it comes to charging for HD.  There is a $10 fee for HD except on the U-450 package where HD is included in the price.  There is also a HD Premium package which is $5 extra per month, similar to the DISH Network Platinum of the DIRECTV Extra Tier package which offer more HD access.

A final consideration is what kind of U-verse deal can you get as a new customer.  Deals are always out there when it comes to cable and satellite TVproviders, as it makes sense from a business perspective for the company.  Lure in subscribers with a great deal for the first year, then hopefully rake in subscription fees for several years as long as the customer is happy.

Usually, offers like this give the customer a discount during the first year of service, for example DIRECTV offers $21 off of most packages during the first year of service, while DISH Network gives a $25 discount during the first six months.  With AT&T U-verse, they have opted to go a different route, give the customer a fist full of cash in order to make the sale.

The popular promotion running now for a U-verse deal is the $200 cash back offer.  Basically, new customers who order U-verse online can qualify for a $200 check back in the mail if they keep service for at least 30 days.   This offer is good for customers who subscribe to the U200, U300, or the U450 offer.   Currently, the U-verse cash back offer is scheduled to run through September 19, 2009.

Finally, free professional installation is part of the U-verse package as well. One thing to keep in mind is that the technician will be hooking up all of your television sets, your computers, and may also be running new cabling through parts of your home.  Expect a full installation of U-verse to take from 4-6 hours, and stories circulating on the internet even report installations taking all day at times.

AT&T U-verse of course as the new kid on the block faces an uphill battle against incumbents like DISH Network, DIRECTV, and cable companies like Comcast.  Potential subscribers should compare DIRECTV vs U-verse or any other option that may be out there.  But with new technology and strong bundles of service, U-verse aims to be a long term player in the pay television market.

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