U-Verse IPTV

Introduction
I have had Uverse for quite a while now and must say I’m very pleased with it. When I first got the service in Houston the HD quality for the local stations is not as good as Directv though. Since then they have upped the bitrate to the house and it is no longer true that the HD is worse than what I had with Directv. I had U-verse installed primarily for the SD cable channels. I use my OTA receiver and DVRs for local networks because there is not any cable or satellite sources that match the picture quality of OTA. The cable HD channels like ESPN, ESPN2, Discovery, etc are much better and rival TWC, imo.

But on the plus side, the SD channels are far better than Directv and would expect it to be better than TWC on HDTVs also, although each cable system can vary in their quality. I’m sure you will not be disappointed with the quality of the SD channels.

Different U-verse systems will have different results with the reliability of up time. Some systems have been very stable with very few outages and others have reported frequent outages. My location has been, so far, as reliable as my Directv service. With satellite you get rain fade, with U-verse you get U-fade. It seems to coincide with the U-verse trucks here.

IPTV vs Cable or Satellite
IPTV is fundamentally different than the satellite or cable based systems though. No matter how much infrastructure satellite or cable systems add there is always a limit to the channels they can provide due to their bandwidth limitations. The reason is they have to deliver every channel to your STB all of the time. Once every transponder or channel is in use, they are done as far as additional channels are concerned.

IPTV on the other hand operate on video streams. The limit for the number of channels is gone as any STB can ask for any channel to be delivered. The only bandwidth required is what is required for that particular stream. Each TV in the house could require another stream which add up on the bandwidth requirements, but even with 6 STBs the bandwidth required is equivalent to 6 channels, not the 70 channels worth required by satellite to service the same 6 TVs. In fact satellite obviously requires much more than 70 channels worth of bandwidth, but I just used the 70 channels as an illustration.

So in the future, IPTV will be the way to go allowing cable companies much better service coverage without having to increase the infrastructure they have installed now. It is possible that all cable companies will eventually transition to IPTV. Satellite not so much although their video on demand is similar in operation.

This is bleeding edge tech with U-verse and FIOS forging the way, but is probably the future in TV distribution.

The Equipment
The equipment consists of a balun they put in your service box to change from the two wires coming in for your CO line to RG6 coax cable.
V-verse Balun
Balun installed in service box

The coax cable is then run to the Residential Gateway (or RG) which is a modem, video server, switch and router all rolled up into a single package . The RG supplies a hardwired internet connection for your computer as well as wireless internet. There are a total of 4 ports for connection to Ethernet devices, some of which can be receivers.
U-verse RG
Residential Gateway (RG)

There are two methods for connecting the receivers to the system. Probably the most common is to use the RG6 coax connection on the modem. This allows the existing coax to be used in the house that was used for cable or satellite TV. They go around and change out the splitters and reconnect at multi switches as required. I had run all new coax to each remote location, so the installer didn’t have to do anything but hook them up.

The RG6 comes out of the RG into a special diplexer that also has a connection for the service coax and a connection for the remote receivers.
U-Verse Diplexer
U-verse Diplexer

From the receiver connection a splitter is used to feed the other two (in my case) remote mounted receivers. He ran an Ethernet cat5 cable between the modem and the receiver that was in the same room as the RG.
U-verse Splitter
Splitter

The Service
As far as the service goes, you can get up to four video streams and two, yes just two, can be HD. This means the realistic limit for the quantity of TVs watching different programs is 4 with only two of them being HD, again either of the HD programs can be watched on all TVs. They are working on getting more HD streams and we have been told sometime next year… maybe. Also the DVR can record up to the 4 streams as well, but again only one can be HD and if the DVR is recording all four streams, all the TVs can only watch any of the same HD programs that are being recorded. The reason why the 4 stream limit is unlike a cable service that sends every channel to your house, the IPTV service U-verse uses only sends the channel video stream that a box requests. That is why they are able to service TV over basically phone wires which have a lot less capacity than coax cable.
Receiver Front
Receiver Front

Receiver Rear
Receiver Rear

Again, there can only be two HD streams, so if you have three receivers only two of them can watch HD at any given time. If you are watching and recording a HD program in the living room, should you try to tune a third HD channel on another receiver it will warn you about the HD stream being in use. It will also give you the option of interrupting the other receiver, but on at least one occasion when I tried that it locked up the two receivers. This occurred when the system was first installed, but lately interrupting another TV has not been an issue.

I have recorded a HD program and the DVR unit interrupted another receiver that I had left on a HD channel without a problem. That receiver had an on screen message that it had been interrupted. I tuned the affected receiver to a SD channel and it switched as you would expect.

So it seems the best approach may be to put a receiver on a SD channel or turning it off so the HD stream will be available to other receivers without conflict.

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