Technological advances offer an increasing variety of home entertainment systems, and consumers enjoy seamless availability of multimedia services almost anywhere in the home. Many major broadband service providers bundle products, including music and video on demand, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony and high-definition TV. With packages such as AT&T's U-verse, a single Internet gateway provides connectivity to multiple devices, including TVs, PCs and telephones. U-verse subscribers connect PCs to the Internet using Ethernet, Universal Serial Bus (USB) or wireless protocols.
In 2005, SBC Communications Inc. (now AT&T, Inc.) launched the U-verse brand for its bundle of IP-based TV, Internet, music, video and VoIP telephone services. SBC also announced contracts awarded to 2Wire Inc., Motorola Inc. and Scientific-Atlanta Inc. for manufacture of U-verse-branded hardware to be installed across the United States. The Residential Gateway, a wireless hub, is the central U-verse device, and it connects to a receiver to provide digital TV services, digital telephone handsets for VoIP, and any PCs that require Internet access. U-verse receivers optionally include a built-in digital video recorder.
USB is a communication protocol that connects computers to external devices such as printers, disk drives and MP3 players. It is a plug-and-play interface, and USB peripherals generally can be connected and disconnected without restarting the computer. Most operating systems, including Windows and Mac OS X, recognize a new USB device and enable a connection automatically. The higher speed USB 2.0 protocol is better suited to data-heavy applications than the original USB 1.0 version. Most U-verse Residential Gateways and receivers are fitted with USB connectors, or ports.
Two versions of the U-verse Residential Gateway are in common usage at the time publication -- the 2Wire 3700HGB-V and the 2Wire 3800HGB-V models. Both feature a high-speed modem, a wireless router and Ethernet ports, while the 3800HGB-V also carries a single USB port that can be used to connect a PC to the high-speed Internet. The PC user must install the Residential Gateway USB driver before connection can be established. The CD supplied with the Residential Gateway contains drivers for Windows and Mac OS X.
Receivers & DVRs
AT&T supplies two ranges of U-verse receivers and DVRs: the Motorola VIP1200 Series and the Scientific-Atlanta (now Cisco) IPN330/430 Series. All models feature one USB port on the front panel and one on the rear of the unit. In June 2011, AT&T U-verse Live Agent Support confirmed that these "two USB ports . . . are for future purposes. Currently there is no function for these ports except power." Recharging cell phones, MP3 players and similar equipment is the only practical purpose of the ports.
- AT&T, Inc.: Media Kit: AT&T U-verse
- AT&T, Inc.: How do I connect computers to the AT&T U-verse Residential Gateway?
- AT&T, Inc.: AT&T U-verse Timeline
- University of South Florida: What is USB?
- Motorola, Inc.: Installation Manual VIP1200 Series
- Cisco Systems, Inc.; AT&T U-verse Receiver Installation Manual; November 2008
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