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IP Capsule test

Fri, 12/02/2005 - 11:10am

www.cedmagazine.com | CED Broadband Direct | Current Issue | Subscriptions November 8 no. 4

Craig Kuhl, IP Capsule Editor, and CED Magazine Contributing Editor
A cable speed trap?
There’s an interesting debate going on these days, as cable operators continue to increase speed and new “over-the-top” IP video services continue to emerge. Cable is dilating the pipe and ratcheting up speeds, whilst keeping prices relatively static, in order to maintain an edge over the telcos. But, at the same time, those speed increases are giving the green light to IP video bypass services, which parasitically sap bandwidth and revenue from the operators that are providing it. Earlier on, we saw a lot of this kind of activity with bypass VoIP services such as Vonage.


October 2005
Issue contents >>

But now it’s video’s turn. Just recently:

CBS announced plans to launch a 24-hour news network delivered entirely over broadband. It also hopes to use cable’s VOD platform, but connecting with viewers via broadband will be the first step of the new strategy.

In September, PBS reportedly will launch a 13-episode series called “NerdTV.” The significance is that it will be entirely downloadable.

AOL, on the heels of its huge success with the Live 8 concerts, will follow up with many more live broadcasts delivered via broadband.

More rumors swirled about a forthcoming VOD service from Netflix.

To be fair, many cable operators are matching faster speeds with broadband content – by striking out on their own or with the help of aggregation partners. The best, most recent example of this is what Time Warner Cable is doing in San Diego (look below for more on this).

Speed and content. Seems like a great combination, doesn’t it? Maybe. Maybe not. Michael Harris of Kinetic Strategies mused recently that cable’s “speed addiction” has caused the industry to fall into a telco trap, finding itself “simply selling ‘megabits’ rather than quality, value or services.” Worse, he forwards that cable’s high-speed networks have become “dumb pipes” -- exactly what the industry has been trying to avoid from the get-go.

Considering the evidence available today, what’s your position on this? Has cable found itself in a speed trap? Is it too late to change this strategy? Further, should cable even consider changing this strategy?





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Time Warner test drives 'Broadband TV'
Time Warner Cable has quietly embarked on a trial in the San Diego area that delivers a raft of channels on the operator's television lineup via IP to the PC.

The six-month trial, launched July 8, involves about 9,000 eligible customers who take the MSO's video and Road Runner data services.

Company:
Entone Technologies

Category: IPTV

HQ: San Mateo, CA

URL: www.entone.com

CEO: Steve McKay

Those customers can access 75 channels (all of Time Warner's expanded basic tier) via their DOCSIS cable modem connections. The trial does not offer access to premium channels such as HBO, Starz! and Showtime. It marks the first such public trial for a major U.S. cable operator. According to Peter Stern, Time Warner Cable's EVP of product management, the MSO launched the trial after research indicated that a "significant group" of customers wanted to watch video via a broadband- connected device.

The test will also help the MSO determine what kind of programming customers want to watch over broadband, and how much they use it. Sending those channels over IP will RealNetworks Inc. is playing a big role on the technical end of the trial, providing the overarching media player, and Helix-branded digital right management system and streaming servers.

Although still a test, such a service could rival non-cable affiliated companies such as Sling Media and Orb Networks, which sell IP-enabled devices or services that, once connected to the set-top or DVR, enable viewers to "place-shift" their programming to a PC, laptop or any other type of broadband-connected device

Time Warner Cable, however, is not supporting place-shifting in the same sense for the purpose of the San Diego trial. That decision could be to placate programmers that might complain that redistribution of their signals over the Internet to other devices might conflict with existing carriage agreements. Customers involved in the trial, however, can access the service via any PC in the home connected to the Road Runner service. Time Warner is offering it via its managed network, and not through the public Internet. Time Warner's Broadband TV test does not support digital video recording.


Claim to fame:
Serving the cable,
telco and satellite
markets, Entone markets
off-the-shelf servers
under the “StreamLiner”
brand, a video asset
manager and encoding
studio. Furthering its
push into the IPTV world,
its Hydra IP Gateway
enables service
operators to pump
services to multiple
televisions (up to
three simultaneous
streams) over existing
coax without the needs
for a separate set-top
box for each TV.
Akimbo uploads cable plan
Akimbo has launched a program that enables cable operators to tap the company's library of niche content and offer it to customers via digital set-tops with on-board digital video recorders (DVRs).

The company's "Queue-and-View" client-server system is designed to download content directly to the set-top's hard drive. Akimbo, whose original business model calls for a separate broadband-enabled storage device sold via retail, said the new program can give operators access to thousands of hours of video for "specialty markets," including foreign language, home schooling, film festivals and TV archives. Operators that opt for the service can download content directly from Akimbo's servers, and then redistribute titles to cable subscribers. Subscribers, in turn, will use on-screen guides or a PC connected to the Internet to select shows for download to the cable box.


Recent news of note:
Hired former Tandberg
Television/N2 Broadband
vet Jeff Pierce to head
up cable sales in North
America. The company has
a number of trials
underway with “top”
U.S. cable operators,
but has not provided
further details.
Internationally, it
has cable deployments
with operators such as
Telewest and Telenet.

FCC extends VoIP deadline
The Federal Communications Commission has given "interconnected" VoIP service providers another 30 days to comply with Enhanced 911 (E911) mandates.

The extension gives providers until Sept. 28, 2005 to obtain affirmative acknowledgements from all subscribers that they have read and understood an advisory concerning the limitations of E911 for VoIP service.

But to become eligible for the extension, service providers must have filed a report on or before Aug. 10, 2005. The FCC said it will evaluate the updated reports "and take subsequent action as necessary." A range of providers and associations, including MCI Inc., AT&T Corp. and the VON coalition, have asked the FCC to amend the original ruling, which gave interconnected providers about 120 days to comply with the new requirements. The FCC released the order on June 3. Interconnected providers include services that receive and terminate calls to the public switched telephone network. The ruling does not apply to instant message apps or Internet-based gaming services.

Under the FCC order, interconnected providers must advise all new and existing subscribers the circumstances under which E911 service may not be available, and to obtain a record of affirmative acknowledgement of that from every subscriber. Service providers must also distribute warning stickers and other labels to each sub warning of potential E911 service limitations for interconnected VoIP. Original FCC expectations were that VoIP providers would disconnect subscribers who had not provided an affirmative acknowledgement by Aug. 30, 2005. The extension will give providers another 30 days to receive those required acknowledgements.


Will Sprint and Comcast wax wireless?
Comcast Cable shed more light on its IP telephony strategy this summer by announcing a new partnership with Sprint Corp.

Sprint has signed on to handle the connectivity between traditional phone providers and Comcast's IP-enabled Digital Voice service "in select markets." Comcast plans to launch VoIP in 20 markets by year-end, and make it available across its entire footprint by the end of 2006.

The deal could end up becoming Sprint's largest with a cable operator. Before Comcast, its highest profile deal was with Time Warner Cable, which has tapped Sprint and MCI to deploy VoIP virtually across the board. Sprint also has VoIP relationships with Mediacom Communications, Charter Communications and Cablevision Systems Corp.

The formal announcement with Sprint gives even more visibility into Comcast's technology plans for VoIP, as the MSO has also separate VoIP backbone agreements with Level 3 Communications Inc. and AT&T Corp.

The agreement between Sprint and Comcast could also be seen as a step toward a wider partnership that involves mobile voice services - a coveted, but still missing, component of cable's service arsenal. Wireless voice service is not a component of the announced Sprint-Comcast deal, however.


Cablevision goes out-of-band for 50-Meg service
Cablevision Systems Corp. is using out-of-band overlay technology from Narad Networks to deliver a dedicated 50 Mbps data service to commercial customers. Initially, Cablevision has Narad-enabled in two nodes serving customers in Oyster Bay, N.Y.

Narad's overlay technology lives on the existing HFC plant, but taps into spectrum above 860 MHz and below 1.1 GHz. Although Cablevision is starting with a 50 Mbps dedicated data service, but has the ability to push it to 100 Mbps should a customer want that much speed. Such capacity would also provide more than enough headroom for data coupled with multi-line VoIP services. Narad said its architecture roadmap is built to eventually support symmetrical 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps services.

Because it's an overlay, the technology does not require Cablevision to touch plant that's already underground. Instead, it can deliver fiber-like services over the coax end of the network without having to extend more fiber.

Before this technology became available, Cablevision tended to use its HFC network to service small- and medium-sized businesses, and leverage its fiber-fed Lightpath network to handle larger commercial customers.

"It always bothered me that we didn't have a crossover product," said Wilt Hildenbrand, Cablevision's EVP of technology and engineering. He now has it. Using technology such as Narad's, the distinction between what Cablevision's Lightpath and cable divisions can offer to commercial customers "starts to disappear in terms of who the customer is versus what the technology is," Hildenbrand said. Hildenbrand said Cablevision will take a targeted approach to future deployments of Narad's technology, and use fiber or Narad-enabled extensions when and where it makes sense. "It could be used for a high-end residential play, but right now, it's [for] commercial deployments," he said. "It certainly doesn't hurt that there's a lot of life in the coax network. Sending fiber to every home and business isn't the only way to compete."

Cablevision marks the first announced deployment with a "major" MSO for Narad, which is also handling WiFi backhaul for CAIW in the Netherlands, and commercial voice services for Delta Cable in Vancouver. Narad, along with competitors like Xtend Networks, is aiming to help operators offer business-class services via existing HFC networks using spectrum above and beyond what is used for residential offerings.

"Out-of-band [cable technology] is coming into its own," said Narad COO Chuck Kaplan. "It's really all about spectrum. If you're going to be engaging in a competition where the main element of that competition is capacity, sooner or later you have to get more spectrum."

Kaplan said costs for Narad deployments range from $3,000 to $6,000 per customer. Based on the level of services those businesses subscribe to, operators can expect a return-on- investment within six months to a year, he added.

OmniWav Mobile has launched a car-based (and boat-based) broadband system that uses advanced cellular and traditional home networking technologies.

Citing recent tests of a new software load, company EVP of Marketing J.C. Fulknier said OmniWave's "WavBoard" system is capable of maintaining high-speed connections at up to 100 mph. If used on a boat, a "reliable" connection can be maintained up to 30 miles offshore, the company claims.

The system, which can be mounted in a trunk or glove compartment, includes the WavBoard, a 10-inch by 6-inch receiver/router that connects to the Internet at speeds as high as 800 kbps via emerging EVDO cellular technology. Where EVDO is not available, the system connects to the slower, but far more ubiquitous, 1xRTT cellular network. If both types of cellular technology are present, the WavBoard will prefer the higher speed connection. On the user end, the WavBoard links to laptops and other IP devices via WiFi or Ethernet. The package carries a steep price. The WavBoard is $979, and service runs $79 per month for unlimited use. Today, the service is available in more than 50 metros, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York. National coverage is expected sometime next year, according to the company. The system's lofty prices also limit potential clientele. Fulknier said limousine companies, private businesses and yacht owners are among OmniWav's early customers. "But we've seen some family users in nice SUVs," he added.

San Diego-based OmniWav presently is marketing the system on its own, but has reached out to cellular service providers, and is "in talks" with Sprint, Fulknier said.


Following months of speculation, Microsoft has finally bitten the bullet (http://www.techworld.com/mobility/news/index.cfm?NewsID=4305) by buying a VoIP company. The software giant plans to add technology from privately held Teleo into its Web applications and online services at MSN, including MSN Messenger.

The AT&T brand will live on (http://www.businessweek.com. According to Business Week, SBC will change its name to AT&T once the merger of the two is complete. Why? It’s all about the brand of AT&T, which has been around since 1885.

U.K. service provider “Be” is testing (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/08/31/be_broadband/) a 24 Mbps data service in London via ADSL2+ technology. Those who join the fun will get a free wireless router.



Broadband Cities 2005
Salt Lake City, Utah
September 19-21, 2005
Information:
"www.broadbandcities.com


DSL Forum Meeting Q3
Philadelphia, Pa.
September 19-22, 2005
Contact: info@dslforum.org
Information: "www.dslforum.org


CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment 2005
San Francisco, Calif.
September 27-29, 2005
"www.ctia.org


TelcoTV Conference & Expo 2005
San Diego, Calif.
Nov. 8-10, 2005
"www.telcotvonline.com
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