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RealTime IT News

SBC Eyes More Than Triple Play

BOSTON –- IPTV advocates like to talk about the technology enabling new services, however the discussion usually returns to the familiar voice, video and data triple play.

In part, that's because it's early. Telecoms, network equipment makers, system integrators and software developers are still deploying miles of fiber-optic cable across the United States and running tests to ensure that their systems are compatible.

What's more, the carriers pursuing the IPTV strategy may be wary of tipping their hands to cable and satellite rivals before content and services deals are nailed down.

But the executive spearheading SBC Communications' IPTV initiative outlined an offering that, while probably not a reason to buy the service on its own, provides a tangible example of a service made possible because of converged networks.

The offering would involve SBC's pending IPTV offering, Cingular's camera phones and wireless data network and Yahoo's photo software tools.

A user could take a picture with a Cingular phone, have it automatically sent to their SBC-Yahoo photo account and made available via IPTV, Jeff Weber, an SBC vice president, said in a keynote at Yankee Group's IPTV Decision Summit on Tuesday.

The pictures would be available for viewing or organizing on their TV within minutes of being snapped, a significant time-saver over downloading images from a digital camera onto a PC, Weber said.

The choice of partners is an easy one for SBC. The San Antonio-based Baby Bell is co-owner, along with BellSouth , of Cingular, the nation's largest wireless carrier with more than 50 million subscribers.

SBC has enjoyed a long-running Internet access and content partnership with Internet giant Yahoo, which it recently extended with an eye on developing new offerings in the TV, audio, home networking and wireless spaces.

SBC also sees other synergies with Yahoo. For example, Yahoo's parental controls for Web content could be transferred to the IPTV, Weber said.

Storing those preferences on the network is key, because, Weber said, a little known fact – at least to parents -- is that by unplugging some set-top boxes, teens can wipe out the parental settings.

In addition to ties with Cingular and Yahoo, the pending $16 billion purchase of AT&T will bring SBC additional engineers with IP expertise.

That knowledge could come in handy as Weber and his team look beyond voice, video and data.