Early IPTV Uses Only a Little of Its Fat Pipe

Illustration by Stuart Bradford.
Illustration: Stuart Bradford
Real IPTV is arriving in a growing number of areas around the country, delivered by fiber-optic cables that have enough bandwidth to eventually show--and let you interact with--nearly any programming you can imagine. But the first versions of the future of TV--Verizon's FiOS and AT&T's U-verse--are relatively tame copies of what you're used to from cable providers like Comcast or satellite companies like Dish Networks.

Both FiOS and U-verse offer better picture quality and usability than standard cable, but they aren't living up to their potential for interactivity and a wide breadth of programming--yet. The prices--around $100 for a well-equipped package including HD programming, DVR, and super-high-speed Internet access--match up well with cable, so despite our disappointment in the limited ambitions of these IPTV services, we think you should seriously consider subscribing if one is available in your area.

Verizon's FiOS TV has signed up almost half a million TV subscribers in 11 Cities since the service was launched in September 2005. The company expects to have between 3 million and 4 million TV customers by 2010. AT&T's U-verse service started in June 2006 with only a few thousand TV customers, but by midyear it had nearly 40,000 subscribers. According to AT&T, U-verse is available in 21 markets in seven states, and 600 new U-verse customers are being added every day.

To take a close look at both services, PC World spent a couple of afternoons watching and experimenting with FiOS TV and U-verse on the couches of relatively new subscribers to the services. Here's what we discovered.

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