I admit it, im a geek. I love anything dealing with radio and television signals in, and if its a new technology that I don't have then I got to have it. In my house I have all kinds of gizmos to help me pick up radio and TV signals, from police scanners to (of course) satellite receivers.
Imagine my excitement when I saw AT&T workers in my neighborhood installing "
" units, when I asked what they were doing they told me they were getting ready to launch a new cable system that was fiber based and was an IPTV based service. They said it was going to be available by the end of the year (2006) and they were not kidding!
Shortly before the close of 2006 a press release came out saying that service was now available in my area. I had my wife call up and order it. She opted for the
which is basically everything (but the internationals) and because we already had a great internet connection in out house from
COX (15 MB Cable Modem Service
) we opted not to get AT&T's 1.5MB service. A date was set for my install I was excited and searched the internet for reviews of the service and more information a well but really did not find anything but a site called
and even that site didn't really give me the information I was looking for. So I had to wait a few days for my install.
Install day came and I got a call from the installer who told me that I was one of the first customers getting installed and he had some trainees he would like to bring and work on my job, I had no problem with that. He said great they would see me at 9:00am.
At exactly 9:00am 2 AT&T Vans pulled in front of my house. One of them being a AT&T U Verse Van . the got out and came up and said hi to me, came in and saw where I wanted everything install then formed a game plan and got to work.
The told me they came out to the house the day before to check out the site and were wondering what all the satellite dishes and cable was for. I explained everything to them and they seemed to actually enjoy the fact that I was knowledgable about the technology and product.
They then went to work on my Telephone NID Box (Network Interface Device) which was a mess. Since I do not have AT&T as my local telephone company, my phone company COX did some messy wiring so that they could connect their equipment up to my existing wiring.
And while they were not supposed to, they went through and cleaned up the mess that Cox made in the NID. I appreciated that.
(CLICK HERE for a look at a diagram of the work done in the box)
After all was cleaned up they notice that we had no voltage coming from the telephone pole to my house and the nid device. Since I no longer had AT&T for local phone service they never hooked up my wires on the pole when they were rewiring things getting ready for UVerse.
They needed to call in a linesman to come hook the line up as these guys are not permitted up ont he poles. This delayed things down about an hour and a half or so.
As we were waiting for the linesman to show up the other two "trainees" were working on figuring out how to put in the wiring. Since this was their first non lab install these guys went VERY slow putting in the wiring as they wanted to make sure everything was installed perfectly and by the book. While they only needed to run about 40 feet of wire it took them over 3 hours to do it. Again I had no problem with this and as they were working they had some questions like "They never told us in class why we needed to do it this way instead or this other way" and I was happy to know the answers to those questions and tell them why. I felt actually good that I could teach them some stuff.
They took a break for lunch after lunch the linesman showed up and went on the pole and got us all connected. The lead installer when went to our neighborhod Vrad unit with the linesman as this was the first install they have done on a naked line (with no dial tone and no internet service) and he wasnt sure how to set the jumpers in the VRAD unit.
After working for awhile one of the trainees hooked up a meter and waited for it to say SHOWTIME on the display. After a few calls back and forth the unit finally displayed SHOWTIME we were good to go now!
The head installer and line tech came back to my house and ran some more tests, everything was perfect. After this time line tech left and the trainees put in wall plates in near the TV's and got everything hooked up. The head installer cleaned up my NID box a little more then closed it up and came in for the next step. And that was getting the service working inside the house.
They unpackaged the 2 receievers (1 DVR and 1 non DVR, I was amazed how small and light they were) then they unboxed a 2WIRE VDSL gateway, this thing was a monster in size compaired to the receivers!
At this time a supervisor showed up, was a nice guy we talked shop while the other guys worked.
The head tech hooked up the 2WIRE Gateway to the coax and also to his laptop. There was a problem we couldn't get it to sync up. After about 30 minutes on the phone with level 2 support and a bunch of resets to the gateway unit it finally synced up. He then hooked up the DVR to the Gateway by using a ethernet patch cord (not coax) we hooked the DVR up to my TV with standard AV cables. Then plugged it in. There was a problem, we were not getting the software download.
They were sitting there not knowing what to do, I asked the tech some questions and asked to see the setup screens on his laptop. When I looked it said that my IP address was a 192.168.x.x address, and this was also the address to the gateway. Something was not correct here. I told him our gateway was not getting an IP address from the gateway. I was talking greek to him. I then explained to him how things work as far as TCP/IP. After a bit he seemed to understand more and still couldnt get the gateway to obtain an IP address, but at least now he knew what the problem was. It was time to call support again.
So on the phone again with level 2 support, and level 2 support was kind of clueless at first, they had no idea what to do. In fact the head tech said that in their class what must they do differently to a customer who is just getting IPTV and no internet and telephone service (The teachers answer BTW was "it will never happen") kind of funny that their first real install and they ran into the problem out of the gate.
After going through our settings with tech support for another 30 minutes they finally figured how to provision our gateway (basically they turned on the internet access portion which I was not subscribing to) once they did that the DVR started download its software. It took the box a few times to download the first "cog" and then a long time (about 30 minutes) to download the second part of the software (or as they called it, the second "cog") after it was done downloading the box rebooted. After 2 minutes we saw life on the TV, the AT&T U-Verse Logo.
The supervisor left at this point he thanked me for helping them out and joked asking if they had any more install problems if they could call me instead of support.
They hooked up the non DVR box in my sons room (via coax) and repeated the software install process. When it was done we had U-VERSE in there as well.
Since it was getting late I was given a quick tour of the remote which for the most part operated just like the Dish Network remote. I was shown how to record some stuff and saw some things I liked and didn't like (more on that later) the installer then was going to show me a small VOD movie welcoming me to the U-VERSE however for some reason the video on demand system was down.
Before they left they tried something, they started a HD stream on both TVs and both TV's were able to tune into HD at the same time.
By the time they left it was after 5:30pm. But all was working! I then sat down for a bit and watched some TV. I was very impressed with what I saw, and so was my 4 year old son who saw a show he liked on the PBS Channel "Sprout"
Thats where the TV stayed tuned for the rest of the night. I didn't get to play anymore, I had packing to do as me and my wife were headed to Las Vegas for CES.
And while I could have written up my review then I decided to wait until I got home from CES to really play with U-Verse and write my honest feelings about the service. And frankly I am glad I waited.
In the next section of my review we take a look at the DVR and its operation, then in the section following that we get into the meat and potatos the actual review of the service itself.
I do hope you enjoy this review, feel free to post links to it at other sites, as I am sure there are many folks out there looking for more information on this service.