UPfront - August 2007
Latest industry news and insights
Amidst ops’ customer dissatisfaction woes, cable telephony gets applause
Not only did cable operators score lower than the IRS in a recent American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) quarterly report, but according to a Verizon-commissioned survey, customers like Verizon more than most cable customers like their operator.
The survey was conducted by Flake-Wilkerson Market Insights in markets where Verizon’s FiOS Internet and TV services are available, and participants were unaware of who had commissioned the poll.
Verizon’s customers and competing cable operators’ customers were asked how they felt about their phone, Internet and video packages. Verizon beat the top five competitors on overall performance, quality and reliability, and customer service, the company said.
A large number of cable customers reported that they were ready for a new TV and Internet provider. A third or more of the customers at Comcast, Cablevision, Cox and Charter, and more than a quarter of TWC’s customers, said they were likely to switch providers. Fewer than 18 percent of Verizon’s customers were likely to switch.
But when it comes to telephony services, cable operators are moving to the front of the pack, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates. Cable companies snagged the top honors for customer satisfaction in all six U.S. regions for the first time ever.
The study measured customer satisfaction, for both local and long distance services, based on six factors: performance and reliability, customer service, billing, image, cost of service, and offerings and promotions.
For the fifth-straight year, Cox Communications’ residential phone service was ranked the highest in overall customer satisfaction for the western region.
Cablevision ranked highest in the Mid-Atlantic region, while Bright House Networks ranked first for the second-straight year in the southeast region.
WideOpenWest! was included in the study for the first time and led the north-central region.
The study cited the power of the triple play bundle in the cable operators’ success. It found that 86 percent of cable-based voice customers also subscribed to data services from the same provider, which topped last year’s mark of 71 percent.
Sandvine scoops up acquisitions
Sandvine Corp. has completed its acquisitions of CableMatrix Technologies Inc. and Simplicita Software Inc.
The combined purchase price includes $4.5 million in cash; 900,000 Sandvine common shares; and 600,000 shares if certain sales targets and business metrics are met by 2008, the company said.
CableMatrix’s products complement Sandvine’s VoIP, IPTV, VOD and bandwidth-on-demand solutions. Simplicita provides network policy solutions with Sandvine’s platforms, service provider data and third-party sources.
Sandvine brought in $18.9 million in revenue for Q2, up 171 percent year-on-year, and added seven new customers, including one Tier 1 company and five DSL companies.
Trio of manufacturers adds to GPON landslide
Alcatel-Lucent has added improvements to both its fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) and fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) gigabit passive optical network (GPON) product lines, Motorola has unleashed the next generation of its optical access platform’s support of GPON, and Ericsson has upgraded its GPON system so that it can switch bandwidth up to 320 Gbps.
These enhancements come on the heels of similar PON announcements from Hitachi Telecom, Scientific Atlanta, Wave7 Optics and Zhone Technologies.
Alcatel-Lucent’s 7342 ISAM FTTP product is now on Release 4.4. New features include quad-port line cards, which double system capacity, and a compact optical network terminal (ONT) for multiple-dwelling units (MDUs).
Alcatel-Lucent is also on Release 3.4 of its 7330 ISAM FTTN platform for the North American market. Among the major enhancements are a 48-port VDSL2 line card with bonding and a POTS line termination card.
Motorola’s new support for GPON is based on a 200 gigabit advanced switching architecture with onboard, high-capacity, single 10 gigabit WAN interfaces, and with support of 10 gigabits to each application unit, which Motorola said results in full GPON line-rate throughput to the access network.
Additionally, Motorola is introducing an intelligent and fully featured line of small business, high-density MDUs, and both indoor and outdoor single-family home GPON ONTs.
Ericsson, meanwhile, has enhanced its EDA 1500, which can now switch bandwidth up to 320 Gbps for commercial and residential next-gen multimedia services. It also provides two 10 gigabit Ethernet interfaces and eight 1 gigabit Ethernet interfaces on one card.
In June, AT&T said it will use GPON products from Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson for a small percentage of its U-verse deployments, starting no earlier than 2008. The products include unspecified equipment for the central office, as well as home terminals.
Sprint, Verizon rev past landmarks
Sprint now reaches more than 203 million people nationwide with its EV-DO Rev. A high-speed wireless Internet service, which provides users with an average upload speed between 350 and 500 kbps, and a download speed between 600 kbps and 1.4 Mbps.
And Verizon Wireless’ entire nationwide CDMA 1x EV-DO network, available to more than 210 million people, has been enhanced with Rev. A technology.
Verizon BroadbandAccess customers with Rev. A-compatible devices can expect average upload speeds between 500 and 800 kbps, and average download speeds between 600 kbps and 1.4 Mbps.
On June 20, Verizon announced the one-millionth household to subscribe to its FiOS service.
Adelphia boys off to jail
On June 27, a federal judge ordered Adelphia Communications Corp.’s founder, John Rigas, and his son Timothy to report to prison on Aug. 13, nearly three years after the two were convicted in a corporate fraud case.
In May, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan upheld the men’s convictions, on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud. John Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and his son to 20.
TiVo launches ‘Buy on TV’ service
TiVo subscribers with a Series2 or Series3 broadband-connected DVR can now order movies off of Amazon.com directly from their TVs.
The new “Buy on TV” feature allows users to search, rent and purchase titles from Amazon Unbox with their remote control, and Amazon Unbox is fully integrated with TiVo’s Universal Swivel Search technology.
Users can choose from thousands of movies to rent from $1.99 to $3.99, and purchase from $9.99 to $14.99, or thousands of TV shows to purchase for $1.99 per episode.
In March, the two companies teamed up to deliver Amazon’s Unbox service to TiVo set-tops, but orders had to be placed on a computer through Amazon’s Web site.
At the end of June, Comcast finally approved TiVo Inc.’s OpenCable Platform software for use on its DVRs. The two companies announced the deal more than two years ago.
Comcast creates LVOD development squad
Comcast Cable’s Eastern Division has formed a local video-on-demand (LVOD) team to develop exclusive, local and original content for its 5.4 million customers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Comcast’s Eastern Division VP of
The new LVOD team will be led by 25-year industry veteran and Eastern Division VP of Programming Michael Ortman, with day-to-day operations managed by Noah Kodeck in the new position of director of local VOD programming and production.
Both have experience with the development and distribution of VOD content. Between them, they have been involved with the following features: “Candidates On-Demand,” “Fugitive Files,” “Scholarships On-Demand,” “Troop Greetings,” “Pet Adoptions,” and hyper-local offerings ranging from the Philadelphia Asian Festival to a New Jersey St. Patrick’s Day parade.
With the majority of customers now digital cable users, on-demand has become a tremendous competitive differentiator, and VOD users are the company’s most satisfied and loyal customers, the company said.
In the past year, “Get Local” orders have increased by 41 percent, with consumers watching more than 800,000 local programs a month. The division experienced more than five million LVOD orders through the first half of this year, and it is well on pace to more than double its LVOD views from a year ago.
“The success and growth of LVOD made it the optimal time to establish a group dedicated to identifying and delivering this unique content and taking local to the next level,” said Michael Doyle, president of Comcast Cable’s Eastern Division and founder of CN8, The Comcast Network.
Sprint Nextel has named Jim Patterson as acting president of Sprint’s JV with MSOs Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Advance/Newhouse Communications. Patterson was Sprint’s VP of cable solutions at the time of the appointment.
John Garcia, formerly the JV’s president, will assume the role of senior VP of product management and development. He will be responsible for development of the Pivot brand, which is expected to launch in 40 metropolitan areas this year.
Sprint also appointed Keith Cowan, a former BellSouth executive, to president of strategic planning and corporate initiatives. Cowan will oversee 4G mobile broadband and the JV.
Cisco solution steps toward quad play
Cisco has unveiled its Cable ServiceMesh solution, an integrated, end-to-end wireless architecture that allows cable operators to extend indoor Wi-Fi to outdoor mesh networks.
“It’s the industry’s first indoor and outdoor solution,” said Bob Scott, director of wireless network systems at Scientific Atlanta. “As operators are looking at [the] quad play, we’re giving them a platform to develop that service. It’s the first step toward delivering the Connected Life.”
The new architecture comprises the Cisco Aironet 1520 Series of lightweight, outdoor mesh access points – with integrated DOCSIS 2.0 cable modems – providing access to any Wi-Fi-compliant device. The access points, which launched in North America in July, were a joint effort by Cisco and Scientific Atlanta.
The solution also includes Cisco’s wireless services modules, wireless control system software, intelligent services gateway, service control engine and the 7600 series router. This combination can extend data, voice and video streaming outside the home or business.
Intel’s future SoC products to support OpenCable Platform
Intel, trying to find an avenue into the consumer TV market, has signed an OpenCable Platform agreement, with the intention of integrating support for the OpenCable Platform in future system-on-a-chip (SoC) products, according to CableLabs. Comcast has committed to build at least one set-top box (STB) based on Intel’s SoC.
Intel expects to sell the SoCs for incorporation in digital TVs, STBs, digital media recorders and other networked consumer electronics devices that — with the OpenCable Platform integrated — will be able to run standard applications and services delivered by cable operators, as well as by consumer electronics companies, program networks and other software developers.
“Comcast is committed to working with Intel to bring one or more Intel SoC-based digital set-top boxes to market in the next two years,” said Tony Werner, Comcast’s EVP and CTO. “The OpenCable Platform is Comcast’s software base for the future.”
New Intel platforms will include OpenCable Platform technologies certified by CableLabs for interactive applications. Interactive digital-cable-ready products can access interactive program guides (IPGs) delivered by cable operators, as well as premium services ordered on-screen such as VOD. The devices will also include support for the CableCARD removable security module.
In April, Intel said it planned to deliver Intel Architecture (IA) SoC products for a new generation of Internet-compatible consumer electronics devices. The SoCs will help manufacturers accelerate product distribution and deliver more cost-effective designs that provide strong processing performance and flexibility.
Intel’s first CE-optimized, IA-based SoC is scheduled for 2008, pairing a powerful IA processor with leading-edge A/V processing, graphics and more to help deliver better-performing, Internet-compatible devices.
IPTV market gains new apps
Microsoft Corp. and Brix Networks have updated their IPTV platforms, and newcomer Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) has released a new set-top box (STB) for the market.
Microsoft has renamed its enhanced IPTV software Microsoft Mediaroom. New multimedia capabilities include in-home music and photo sharing, dynamic MultiView (multiple picture-in-picture) capabilities, a Multimedia Application Environment for the development of interactive services and advanced applications, and digital terrestrial television (DTT) support.
Microsoft’s MultiView Newsroom, top, and ADB’s 7000 Series STB.
Meanwhile, Brix’s BrixVision IPTV portfolio now includes BrixVision Live Monitoring, which provides in-network, service-quality visibility by monitoring and analyzing live video streams at critical service demarcation points within the delivery network.
The new application is designed for large-scale, live IPTV deployments. Based on the BrixWorx centralized correlation and analysis software engine, BrixVision Live Monitoring provides operational features, including carrier-class scalability, remote management, centralized configuration, data storage, and advanced analytics and reporting.
And ADB, an established player in Europe trying to break into the cable and IPTV markets in the U.S., will launch the ADB-7820C-DEV STB in Q3. The STB is designed to support OpenCable Platform developers and MSOs that are introducing the HD OpenCable Platform into their networks.
Building on the ADB-3200C-DEV platform, the ADB-7820C-DEV is a DOCSIS/DSG STB with a Host 2.0 CableCARD interface. It assists with the development and testing of OpenCable Platform applications in a real-world environment, enabling the uptake and rollout of the new technology.
CommScope snags Andrew for $2.6B
CommScope Inc. will acquire Andrew Corp. for $15 per share in a transaction valued at approximately $2.6 billion, with at least 90 percent to be paid in cash. The combined company will provide infrastructure solutions for the video, voice, data and mobility markets.
When the transaction closes, Andrew will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of CommScope. Frank Drendel, CommScope’s chairman and CEO, will remain in his position.
Motorola, Aurora revamp their CWDM solutions
Both Motorola and Aurora Networks have debuted enhancements to their CWDM solutions.
Motorola introduced its enhanced coarse wavelength division multiplexing (E-CWDM) technology, which the company said transmits multiple wavelengths on a single fiber, increasing the bandwidth up to five times while extending the reach of CWDM by a factor of two.
By transmitting multiple CWDM optical signals over a single fiber optic connection, operators can segment serving areas into three, four or five discrete areas. With each optical signal carrying a full 1 GHz loading of broadcast and narrowcast content, over distances up to 25 kilometers between the hub and optical node, operators can meet the need for additional service capacity for HDTV, VoIP, VOD and high-speed DOCSIS services.
And Aurora unveiled its improved CWDM Ethernet transport solution with Smart Media Converter technology, which allows cable operators to deliver Ethernet over a shared optical access network at speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps.
The new FastE and GigE service modules (MC2701B and MC2710B) fit into the current two-rack unit (2RU) Smart Media Converter chassis and the new patent-pending CPE enclosure chassis, the CH1202B.
Everstream has unveiled its Capacity Intelligence for High-Speed Data (CAPi for HSD), an enterprise-level solution for measuring and reporting bandwidth utilization for data and voice packets on DOCSIS-based networks.
CAPi for HSD offers enterprise-capacity analysis across an operator’s entire data network, with segmentation by subscriber group, service class name and CMTS. The solution can show how much bandwidth a “gold level” subscriber is using versus a “silver level” one, so operators can see the accuracy of their price points.
Operators can also zoom down to the CMTS port and see the details of any red flags, as opposed to similar systems that simply take snapshots or do thin time slices every 15 minutes or so. “It’s a little like exploratory drilling for oil wells,” said Barry Hardek, VP of marketing and business development at Everstream. “Our system can show the whole oil field.”