AT&T turns cell phones into TV remotes

Homezone customers can now view TV listings and schedule or delete recordings on their DVRs via wireless handsets.
Written by Marguerite Reardon, Contributor
AT&T Homezone subscribers are now able to program their digital video recorders from their cell phones.

AT&T said that starting Tuesday, it will allow customers of its Homezone product, a service that offers video-on-demand and other content from the Internet on TVs, to use their mobile handsets to remotely view listings and schedule or delete recordings from their DVR (digital video recorder) set-top boxes. All that is needed is a WAP 2.0-enabled handset that lets subscribers access the AT&T-Yahoo portal.

AT&T isn't the first major communications company to link mobility to its existing services. As phone companies and cable operators look for new ways to attract customers, they have recently turned their attention to integrating their existing services with mobile phones.

In 2005, four major cable companies formed a joint venture with Sprint Nextel to tie mobility with their high-speed Internet and TV offerings. In their initial wireless service launches, Comcast, Advanced Newhouse, Time Warner and Cox Communications will allow customers to access their e-mail, cable TV guide and home voice mail from their cell phones. They'll offer some video content on their phones that would otherwise be available only at home. Eventually, they plan to allow customers to be able to do things like program their DVRs remotely from their handsets.

Since the Homezone service launched last year, AT&T has offered subscribers the ability to manage their DVRs through the AT&T-Yahoo portal. AT&T plans to offer additional functions to the remote wireless offering, such as remotely accessing photos, music and other content stored on devices in the home.

Homezone is a service that uses a set-top box to deliver content over the Internet to televisions, including on-demand movies, caller ID and photos stored on home computers. It is available throughout AT&T's 13-state territory to AT&T and Dish Network satellite subscribers who either already have or plan to order AT&T DSL service. Customers can select from several broadband speeds and satellite TV packages and then purchase the Homezone service for an additional $9.99 a month. The new wireless feature is included in the monthly $9.99 price.

Homezone is AT&T's interim video offering until the company is able to roll out its new IPTV, or Internet Protocol television, service called U-verse, which runs over an upgraded DSL network. AT&T has slowly been introducing the U-verse service to new markets. So far, it has 13 markets onboard, and the company just announced Tuesday that it is adding Dallas-Fort Worth to its list.

While U-verse subscribers are also able to manage their DVRs remotely from a PC, the feature hasn't yet been extended to mobile phones. But an AT&T spokeswoman said that feature is coming.

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