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Independent Show - The Cavalry Arrives, Riding the Cloud

Sun, 07/31/2011 - 8:45pm
Brian Santo, Editor-in-Chief

Hosted, managed services reduce the expense of rolling out advanced features.

There’s nothing new in designing products to meet the needs of smaller network operators, nor is there anything novel in hosting services on behalf of those operators. What is new is the comprehensiveness of many of the solutions and the growing range and power of capabilities being made available through the cloud.

Securing more bandwidth for more channels and to support more customers isn’t going to diminish as a priority anytime soon, and that’s hard enough. Some vendors specialize in migration strategies to more bandwidth, and some can help accomplish a forklift upgrade to an entirely new architecture. For some service providers, that can be perfectly adequate.

But now there’s multi-room DVR and TV Everywhere and targeted advertising and social networking and advanced guides with search and discovery. … Just buying bandwidth isn’t going to help if competition requires some combination of these services and features.

One of the granddaddies in this area is IBBS, which has been providing hosted broadband and VoIP services for nigh on two decades. The Comcast Media Center (CMC) has been providing its VOD in a Box service for years. Companies like Calix, CommScope and Zhone have been winning contracts from smaller service providers to provide upgrades to FTTx.

Adara Technologies provides hosted, managed SDV...

Recently joining the party with new one-stop offers are Adara Technologies, EchoStar, Entone and Avail-TVN with SeaChange International.

“There are solutions out there, but they haven’t brought economies of scale,” noted Adara Technologies CEO Joseph Nucara. “Adara and other companies are arriving to do that.”

One of the new kids on the block, Adara puts hosted and managed switched digital video (SDV) at the service of its customers. The company installs some Cisco QAMs, encryption systems and some other equipment in their customers’ headends to help create an SDV tier that includes literally hundreds of channels, both SD and HD.

Otherwise, Adara customers keep using all of the equipment they already have in place. Though formally allied with Cisco, Adara’s cloud-based approach makes it irrelevant, whether an operator’s network is based on equipment from Cisco/Scientific Atlanta or Motorola (or anyone else, for that matter).

Nucara boasts that Adara solves both the technology and business challenges that smaller companies have – specifically, how do you offer more channels without a forklift upgrade while simultaneously migrating to IP to support advanced features and services, including video-on-demand and advanced guides?

Separately, Adara and CCI announced that they have begun working together on managed, hosted solutions.

EchoStar recently introduced a support system called Aria aimed exclusively at mid-size and smaller independent cable operators, which also exploits the cloud to provide advanced services.

Motorola TelevationAria is a hybrid IP/QAM solution that uses existing cable plant and features cloud-based VOD, TV Everywhere and an interactive HD program guide. It will also provide system maintenance and software upgrades.

Aria will run in concert with new EchoStar SD, HD or SlingLoaded settop boxes and will allow operators to offer services over multiple platforms and for out-of-home viewing, all under the operator’s own brand.

Like most vendors aiming at this market, EchoStar is sensitive to the fact that small operators may need to cater to relatively few customers who have a legitimate desire for new, advanced services. The Aria system was designed to support even single-digit numbers of subscribers and to scale up as high as a customer can go, and do it gradually, with as many options as possible.

“You have three people taking VOD, so you pay for three people,” said Michael Hawkey, EchoStar’s vice president of sales and marketing. “You can buy boxes with or without Sling. You can go with a basic grid guide, or you can go more sophisticated.”

Earlier in June, SeaChange and Avail-TVN introduced a service that enables smaller operators to jump right in to providing a TV Everywhere type of experience. The system is built on SeaChange’s Express multi-screen cloud-based service offering and leverages Avail-TVN's content licensing, asset management and delivery.

The pair gives operators the ability to private-label the user interface, and then they handle the formatting of the content, the DRM and the content distribution.

The Avail-TVN content offering for multi-screen distribution includes Hollywood new release and library titles and network television programs prepared in a number of adaptive bit rate HD and SD profiles and available in multiple streaming formats.

Separately, Avail-TVN announced the launch of U.S. trials of its AnyView managed multi-screen service.

Entone introduced its FusionTV managed service for telcos late last year, and it now has a version appropriate for cable operators. FusionTV uses the operator’s broadband channel to deliver streaming video, including HD channels, program guides, VOD, and a variety of social networking and other apps.

Entone sweetens the pot with access to a library of VOD titles, including new releases. If an operator already has a VOD system, what Entone provides can be offered as a complement.

The approach supports whole-home DVR, as well as other cloud-based applications such as home security, digital storage and medical monitoring.

CommScope offers its BrightPath Optical Solutions (BOS), which it describes as a complete, scalable, “end-to-end” FTTx solution comprising a full suite of headend, outside plant and end-user systems.

CommScope’s approach with BOS is to offer a range of technologies, including RFoG and HFC node segmentation, and work with an operator to choose the architecture that meets its immediate needs while leaving open a migration path for upgrading and expanding.

BOS allows operators to meet the requirements of residential, multi-dwelling unit, commercial and cellular backhaul applications.

CommScope will also be showing its HomeConnect solutions, a collection of subscriber drop products, including amplifiers, splitters, taps, coax drop cables, SV and ground products, and locking terminators.

TRIED & TRUE + INNOVATIONS

If there’s one thing that the Tier 2 and 3 service providers that attended the Independent Show have in common with their Tier 1 peers, it is that, as a group, their needs span the range from the triedand-true to new innovations.

As a group, the vendors at the show consequently had a mix of products that run the range.

NDS' Snowflake UI

NDS
NDS demonstrated a version of its NDS Snowflake user interface (UI) specifically designed to provide today’s current generation of cable set-top boxes with a rich, uniquely branded look and feel, with enhanced functionality such as unified search, OTT video and personalization.

Using this solution, MSOs have the ability to tailor the appearance of the UI to reflect their brand and provide a template for a common but optimized UI across the next generation of set-top boxes and other platforms, such as tablets and PCs.

ARRIS
In addition to its DOCSIS 3.0 video, voice and data solutions, Arris brought its Ruckus Wireless Wi-Fi portfolio of indoor and outdoor access points, controllers and network management software, along with the CM 7761 strand-mountable outdoor access point with integrated DOCSIS 3.0 radio, which was developed specifically for cable MSOs.

Arris Wi-Fi solutions enable new revenue-generating services like community Wi-Fi, IP video applications, multimedia hotspots, extended WLAN service outdoors and 3G data offloading.

CHEETAH TECHNOLOGIES
Cheetah Technologies said it had three new stories at the Independent Show. The first was its new partnership with NCTC, which has become a distributor of Cheetah solutions.

The second was the announcement of the company’s Network Tracker Plus, an analog/digital performance-monitoring device. This device monitors RF, analog, digital power levels and individual channel metrics for video, DOCSIS data and QAM carriers. The company has identified more than 10 applications that, if executed, result in higher network reliability, workforce automation or cost savings for the cable TV operator.

Cheetah’s third announcement was that it has completed most of the major MSO initial installations for its V-Factor Source Monitor, a video monitoring and MOS grading solution.

MAXXIAN
Maxxian, meanwhile, was demonstrating its CounterStryx Tracker Automation solution for automatic set-top disabling, deletion and configuration correction. Designed to improve revenue, system performance and set-top response, the new Tracker Automation solution reduces the time required for chronic set-top box polls within an operator’s network by 60 percent.

CLEARLEAP
Web-based TV technology company Clearleap demonstrated its IPbased content management system and comprehensive streaming solutions. Clearleap’s Stream on Demand enables video service providers to stream unlimited hours and titles to connected set-top boxes, gaming consoles and Internet-connected televisions.

The company showed the product on MSO-branded interfaces on Pace set-top boxes, Roku entertainment devices and connected Blu-ray players.

In addition, Clearleap demonstrated how its flexible APIs can be used for rapid development and deployment of customized iPad applications; the demo featured an application developed by itaas.

Developers can use Stream On Demand’s APIs to integrate personalization, robust search and navigation features, critic and peer reviews, and bookmarking across any connected device, while still ensuring quality of service.

Evolution Digital's uDTA

AURORA NETWORKS
Aurora Networks was showcasing its RFoG and GEPON solutions. Aurora’s implementation of RFoG paves the way for operators to efficiently overcome the limitations associated with the deployment of an RFoG system. Examples include the company’s VHub, high-sensitivity receivers and RFoG R-ONUs.

URC's UR5L9000L-RFIn order to serve colocated businesses, it is the most efficient way to provide an all-IP network with PON technology – GEPON or 10 GEPON, Aurora said. The company showed its Gigabit Ethernet Node PON Module, the GE4132M. The Aurora GEPON OLT module is designed to work in Aurora’s VHub or node, making PON delivery from an RFoG platform a reality.

MOTOROLA MOBILITY
Motorola Mobility was showcasing a number of new products in its booth, starting with Televation. This wireless device allows consumers to stream live TV to their IP-connected mobile devices – i.e., tablets, smartphones or laptops – anywhere around their home. The device has a high-performance transcoder that translates programming in real time from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4, as well as changes resolution and bit rates to match the capabilities of the consumer’s viewing device while maintaining excellent picture quality. The company also had its Motorola Medios multi-screen video service management portfolio on display.

EVOLUTION DIGITAL
Evolution Digital was demonstrating solutions that offer operators multiple bandwidth reclamation options, a VOD strategy and a path to IP.

The use of digital terminal adapters (DTAs) gives operators the chance to reclaim bandwidth to launch more HD and advanced services. Evolution Digital’s universal DTA products are designed to integrate with existing Motorola and Cisco platforms.

Evolution said it is currently working with multiple vendors to create operator-branded VOD applications that function on TiVo Premiere DVRs, which Evolution can provide directly. In the company’s booth, it was showing the new Stream On Demand service provided by Clearleap.

Working together, Avail-TVN, Conax and Evolution have launched a hosted content security system that is housed at Avail-TVN’s Super Headend.

UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL
Universal Remote Control (URC) was introducing a new RF remote control for multichannel operators. The Phazr-5 UR5L9000L-RF controls up to five devices via IR or RF. When used with the MRF-250C RF base station, users no longer need to point the remote at the set-top box, television or any other component for full control.

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