AT&T has challenge for cable

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THE US telecommunications company AT&T has developed a device that will allow subscribers to receive inter-active video signals on standard telephone lines.

The technology is expected to provide new competition for US cable-television systems, which provide most US homes with films, home shopping and other programming over special coaxial cable.

While telephone companies have expressed interest in using their networks to deliver television signals it had been assumed that they would have to rewire with fibre-optic cable before they could offer video services, particularly inter-active ones that allow viewers to place orders and respond to advertising.

The new product, which should be available by the end of the year, incorporates transmission technology developed by AT&T's Paradyne division.

'We see this as a transitional technology to fibre,' said Robert Faw, director of advanced transmission technologies at Paradyne.

A number of regional US telephone companies, notably Bell Atlantic, have announced plans to offer services such as movies-on- demand to their subscribers.

While many of the experimental projects entail co-operation between telephone utilities and cable operators - using phone lines as a common carrier for their signals - one venture planned by Bell Atlantic in New Jersey will be in direct competition with the local cable programmer.

The regional telephone companies are banned from owning the programming they carry over their networks. But Bell Atlantic announced late last month that it planned to sue the FCC for the right to sell information services to its subscribers.