Telco TV

AT&T Turns On 'Three-Screen Strategy’

7/07/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

As it morphs itself from phone company to entertainment and communications player, AT&T Inc. is pursuing a “three-screen strategy” that not only bundles services but makes them work together.

The Bell operator says the strategy, which combines computer, cell phone and TV services, is designed to better combat rival cable operators’ service offerings.

An example of the more integrated service is the recently launched AT&T Yahoo! GoMobile application. Available on Nokia 6682 wireless phones through Cingular Wireless, GoMobile lets customers wirelessly access their broadband AT&T Yahoo digital subscriber line features, including e-mail, photos, address book, calendar, instant messaging and Web content. They also can send photos they take on their cell phones to a central Web site and later access those images from a home computer.

Then there is Mobile2Home, a service being tested in Connecticut. It brings a customer’s home wireline phone number into their mobile-phone plan, so any calls between the two won’t be charged to the customer’s bank of wireless minutes.

“It’s kind of like free mobile-to-mobile, only now I’ve added my home phone to that,” said Stephen Bye, executive director for wireless and converged services. That service should enter the product-launch phase in the coming months, Bye added.

The three-screen strategy also tunes in U-verse, AT&T’s fledgling IPTV service that in the past few weeks has expanded from market trial to service rollout in San Antonio. AT&T plans to fuse television with Internet data.

Up until now, telephone companies have concentrated on offering bundles with discounts, but that is just the beginning, according to analyst Matt Davis, director of IDC’s consumer multiplay services program. The question is whether consumers will be convinced to put all their telecom services in AT&T’s basket.

“I think it is really interesting and I think that it shows AT&T is moving in a direction of innovation and tying things together with more than just one simple bill,” Davis said. “But I think the addressable market is still pretty small for it.”

Bye, meanwhile, acknowledged that AT&T’s challenge is to turn the three-screen strategy into meaningful consumer products.

“For us right now, it’s down to execution,” he said. “Stay tuned — I think in the coming months you will begin to see this stuff really come into the market.”

September