Small ops getting big boost from new tech & services
Atlanta —Small, independent cable operators have had their share of gloom through the years-from DBS competition and regulatory constraints to lack of access to much needed capital-but the emergence of VoIP, high-speed data and other services is gradually lifting the cloud cover, at least according to four operators who fit that description and spoke here at The National Show during the "Independent's Day: Big Ideas from Smaller Operators" session.
Among the group, New Wave Communications of Southeast Missouri is bullish on VoIP and has developed "lots of bundles" and the triple play, which is now subscribed to by 50 percent of its customers, reported Jim Gleason, New Wave's president. "We now have a suite of products that are very different than in the past," Gleason said.
For operators such as Bend Cable Communication of Bend, Ore., the company is trying to align its service offerings with those of its bigger MSO brethren. And now, says Bend Cable's CEO Amy Tykeson, with the emerging technologies such as VoIP, and higher data speeds, it's actually achievable.
"There's lots of technology geared to larger markets," she said. "They're innovative and creative. Our group is very interested in innovating and having the same services as the bigger operators. We're now using a hybrid VoIP model, have tightened our plant and added partners, which is crucial. But we're small, nimble and responsive."
Sunflower Broadband and Eagle Communications, two additional small, independent operators, are pushing ahead with triple play services and beyond, and glad they are.
"We've launched modem service, phone service, HDTV and now a voice navigation system and rural wireless network. Now, it's all about the value proposition," said Patrick Knorr, general manager of Sunflower Broadband, an operator based in Lawrence, Kan.
And it's all about new skill sets, plant preparation, marketing and a changing business model, which are no small hurdles to overcome. Yet for a growing number of smaller operators who are adding triple play services, cost effectively, the emergence of new technologies may be the bright spot they've been looking for.
USDTV goes all MPEG-4
U.S. Digital Television, LLC will be the first broadcast television service provider in the U.S. to convert its entire network to MPEG-4 AVC, the company announced.
USDTV has designed a small MPEG-4 conversion device that upgrades its existing MPEG-2 set-top boxes, and plans to convert its entire network to MPEG-4 this summer.
Why the conversion? USDTV believes it more efficiently utilizes the digital spectrum it currently leases from its broadcast partners and adds content and service offerings.
Intelsat helping upgrades to MPEG-4
MSOs looking to upgrade their networks to MPEG-4, as well as telecommunications companies moving into the IPTV market, could be getting some help from Intelsat's Ampiage, a satellite-based content delivery and management service.
Ampiage packages the acquisition, aggregation, encoding, encapsulation and encryption of licensed TV programming and can redistribute it in MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 format to cable and telecom service providers
Shenick adds granularity to testing
Shenick Network Systems has added some key components to its diversifEye Version 3.0 software, which, the company says, will provide the granularity required to test overall performance and QoS, with the capability of drilling down to each IPTV, VoIP and Internet user for true "quality of experience" assessment.
The enhanced 3.0 Version will allow testing of critical IPTV, triple play, broadband services performance and quality issues within a single system, Shenick added.
Why the upgrade? "Today, network resources are being stretched to cope with shared standard and high definition IPTV, VOD and a mix of high-speed Internet data applications and VoIP. Companies rolling out new IP services need to understand their limitations," said Robert Winters, chief marketing officer, in a prepared statement.
Sprint-cable JV rolls on
Field trials spawned by the Sprint/cable quad-play joint venture (JV) will begin later this year and initially involve seven markets served by the JV's MSO partners. Those markets, according to JV President John Garcia, will include Comcast of Portland, Ore., and Time Warner Cable systems in Austin, Texas; and Raleigh, N.C.
The remaining two MSOs already part of the JV — Cox Communications and Bright House Networks — will identify their trial markets this summer.
Garcia, who provided details during last week's National Show in Atlanta, also revealed that the partners are looking toward the eventual use of Broadband Radio Service (BRS), a wireless spectrum space in the 2.5 GHz range for future services, and that Sprint plans to roll out BRS service nationwide.
Exactly how the MSOs will play in the coveted 2.5 GHz range is unclear. However, each of the MSOs participating in the JV has identified that spectrum as a key opportunity for future service.
New Global Telecom gets smart
New Global Telecom has launched a three-volume information series to help VoIP providers grow their businesses.
SMART — an acronym for Strategic Marketing, Acquisition & Retention Techniques — is designed to provide answers about selling and managing VoIP services in the enterprise VoIP marketplace.
"It's about providing intelligent recommendations, important considerations, useful market intelligence and insight," said Rich Grange, president & CEO of New Global Telecom.
Comverse acquires Netcentrex, strengthens VoIP, IMS position
Comverse Technology, Inc. has acquired Netcentrex S.A., a network-based software provider that enables triple play services to the enterprise and consumer segments.
The combination is expected to benefit operators deploying multimedia services in the VoIP and IMS spaces, the companies said.
Sprint adds cable companies
In addition to helping some big MSOs launch mobile service, Sprint
has continued to sign deals to support cable VoIP services. Among the most recent ones to tap Sprint for VoIP include WEHCO, NPG Cable Inc. and Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations (SELCO).
Sprint noted that it now serves more than 1 million VoIP lines via its cable partnerships.
Next up for Sprint and VoIP? Extending Sprint's wireline VoIP solution into the small business market and working with its cable partners to launch wireless converged services, the company added.
Juniper out to protect VoIP against attacks
Juniper Networks Inc. has launched a new product designed to better protect cable MSOs and their VoIP and SIP-based services from network security attacks.
The company's Cable Dynamic Threat Mitigation solution uses a Juniper IDP device that monitors for network attacks on a per-user, per-application, or on-demand basis.
Why the new product? It can also be extended to provide security for SIP-based services, such as online gaming, video conferencing, instant messaging and push-to-talk services.
And the research says....
With all the buzz about VoIP's bright future, the consulting and financial advisory group, Deloitte, Touche and Tohmatsu's "Predictions 2010: Eye to the Future" report suggests a less rosy future, at least on the revenue side.
The report reveals a growth in VoIP adoption, but with muted revenue impact as of 2010, translating to less than five percent of global voice revenues. And, VoIP over broadband mobile networks (3G) and WiFi infrastructures is unlikely to be felt in any significant way by 2010, the report added.
The bottom line? VoIP is growing its share of volume, but remains a minor player, the report concludes.
Promptlink passes test, signs Time Warner Cable
Time Warner Cable has inked a deal to enlist a Cable Modem Test Platform (CMTP) from Promptlink Communications.
The agreement allows Time Warner to purchase the CMTP product for testing of both Cable Modem and Embedded Multimedia Terminal Adapter (EMTA) devices at a discount from Promptlink.
The CMTP product tests both data and voice modems across a wide spectrum of parameters designed to separate devices that fail to meet cable system standards from those that will perform well in customers' homes.
And the research says....
The top three purchases planned by teens over the next year are an MP3 player, wireless handset and a video game console, in that order, says a recent study by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).
Notebook PCs scored high on their want list as well, while the average amount teens allocated to consumer electronics purchases over the last year was $667, the report noted.
Kagan: Media revenues heading north
The adoption of new technologies will boost media revenues in 2006, spurred by the online ad market, which is expected to grow 21.7 percent and finish the year with $14.5 billion in revenue, according to a Kagan Research study.
In addition, estimated annual VoIP net adds will reach nearly 4 million in 2006, and by 2015, after growing 18 percent per annum, total voice subscribers are projected to reach 29 million, generating $10.2 billion in revenue, Kagan predicted.