VoIP quality improves as VoIP quality declines
A few weeks back, Brix Networks published the results of its investigation that showed voice over IP phone call quality was declining. This past week, Minacom released statistics indicating that VoIP quality is improving.
They both might be right. It's just that we can't yet be sure whether they're comparing apples and oranges, or Jonagolds and winesaps.
There are two types of VoIP. The first is enabled by companies like Skype and Google; the calls begin (and frequently end) on broadband data connections provided by other companies, which means it is difficult, if not impossible, for the providers to control call quality. The other type of VoIP is provided and managed by cable and phone companies; they presumably should be able to assure higher call quality.
Minacom says cable/telco VoIP phone service quality increased steadily over the last year, with an average Mean Opinion Score (MOS - a commonly used quality standard) of 4.2, compared to 3.9 for calls made via the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). Minacom found only 1 out of 50 calls in North America were considered to be unacceptable, and 1 of 10 worldwide.
In addition to superior sound quality, calls over VoIP connected quicker overall, based largely on calling patterns in Europe. The PSTN was faster to connect for calls placed to North America (4.3 seconds vs. 5.7 for VoIP), while international calls connected faster with VoIP (8.7 vs. 10.4 seconds for PSTN). Linear regression indicates that VoIP is closing the gap, connecting 2 seconds faster in July 2006 than a year earlier.
So why do the Minacom and Brix results appear to disagree?
For starters, the data sets are orders of magnitude different. Brix monitored over a million calls while Minacom monitored 14,000. I don't know enough about statistics to tell you how big of a sample you need when monitoring VoIP, so I'll leave it to others to decide if sample size could be a factor.
Also, Minacom asserts that Brix was monitoring only the Skype type of VoIP, whereas it monitored cable/telco VoIP. Minacom is merely assuming what Brix measured, and you know what happens when you assume.
In fact, Brix is not entirely sure what type of VoIP calls it had monitored. The data behind its announcement a few weeks back did not include breakdowns, so it may be skewed by an abundance of presumably lower quality PC-to-PC calls. Or maybe not. Brix says that in the next round, the data will be broken down by provider.
But even then the results might disagree. Brix says Minacom is using a non-standard approach to measuring MOS.
So is VoIP quality improving or declining? It almost doesn't matter. Brix says 1 in 5 VoIP calls is of unacceptable quality; Minacom says 1 in 10 is unacceptable. Either way, noted Brix spokesman John Ricciardone, overall VoIP quality is still not equal to traditional telephone quality.
It'll be worth it to pay attention to the next set of data from Brix, however, to find out if the data show a significant difference in the quality of Skype-type VoIP and MSO/telco-managed VoIP. If it does, then MSOs and telcos might have to consider how to market their VoIP to distinguish it from less reliable VoIP from other providers, to avoid being tarred with the same brush.
Report: 14 million IPTV subs in North America by 2010
Global IPTV subscriptions are expected to jump from 2 million to 34 million between 2005 and 2010, a compound annual growth rate of 60%, according to Research and Markets.
North America will experience the most rapid rate of growth, with a CAGR of 78%, followed by Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), with a CAGR of 61%, and Asia/Pacific with a CAGR of 41%.
The number of North American IPTV households is expected to near 14 million by 2010, with the U.S. accounting for 80% of those subscribers, according to R&M. Although rural operators have accounted for most IPTV installs thus far, the entrance of Verizon and AT&T will quickly flip that balance.
The EMEA segment is expected to top 14 million IPTV households by 2010, with France, the U.K., Italy, Spain, and Germany accounting for 87% of the total, with eastern Europe and Scandinavia representing a good chunk of the rest.
Asian IPTV deployments are expected to account for only 5.6 million subscriptions by 2010. R&W believes the large-scale implementations in Hong Kong, China and India will be less successful, especially in China, where the government is pushing a digital terrestrial broadcast technology.
Consolidated Communications Launches IPTV in Texas
Consolidated Communications Holdings launched its IPTV service, called Digital Video Services (DVS), in Conroe and Katy, Texas, following a rollout of DVS in the company's systems in Illinois.
DVS in Texas will be delivered over the existing telephone infrastructure, the company said. Consolidated is using Hydra video gateways and Streamliner networked video software from Entone Technologies (soon to be part of Harmonic Inc. - see story further below); headend equipment from Tut Systems; Myrio middleware from Siemens SURPASS Home Entertainment solutions; and content protection from Verimatrix.
The initial Texas DVS launch will pass over 37,000 homes in the Conroe and Katy areas. The company plans to roll out DVS service in nearby Lufkin in 2007. Consolidated Communications claims approximately 239,000 local access lines and 46,000 DSL subs.
Lucent to lead construction of KPN's converged IP network
Lucent Technologies won a contract with KPN to build the Dutch carrier's All IP Next Generation Network (NGN), which will be based on IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) service architecture. Siemens previously said it is participating in KPN's network upgrade.
KPN earlier announced it will be spending well in excess of $1 billion on the network upgrade.
KPN is giving Lucent responsibility for the migration of KPN's existing services and customers to the new network. Following the successful migration of customers and services, the legacy networks and buildings will be phased out.
Lucent will also provide KPN with program management, network design and planning, integration, and migration services, as well as security, network and process redesign consultancy services for both the network infrastructure and the related IT systems.
Harmonic to acquire Entone's VOD operation
Harmonic will acquire the video networking software business of Entone Technologies for $45 million - $26 million in cash and approximately 3.54 million shares of Harmonic common stock.
The Entone software technologies cover content ingest, distributed content management and video streaming, enabling video-on-demand (VOD), network personal video recording (nPVR), time-shifted television and targeted advertisement insertion. Harmonic will combine those products with its own headend, edge and access network solutions.
Harmonic will not, as part of this deal, pick up Entone's Hydra IPTV getweay and set-top business, according to a Harmonic spokesperson.
|The Entone Streamliner is a software architecture that transforms standard server hardware from HP and IBM into video servers that ingest, store, and stream video programming on demand. Source: Entone|
Entone claims over 35 IPTV deployments, including PCCW of Hong Kong. Earlier this year, Siemens decided to include Entone technology in its Surpass system.
The acquisition was announced on the same day that Cisco Systems announced its acquisition of VOD provider Arroyo Video Solutions. That larger transport companies are buying smaller companies with on-demand technology is clear indication that VOD in particular and IPTV in general are becoming mainstream.
MoCA okays ONTs from Motorola, Tellabs
The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) has awarded its first certifications to two Optical Network Terminals (ONTs), the home-side device for fiber-fed passive optical networks (PONs).
The first ONT vendor products to pass the test were Motorola Inc.'s ONT1000M and Tellabs' 1600-612 Single Family Unit (SFU) ONT. Both ONT models have embedded the MoCA technology.
Support for MoCA will help eliminate an inherent challenge for IPTV services; namely, how video is shuttled and shared among multiple TVs and other devices in homes that are not already wired for Ethernet. Using MoCA, video can be networked over IP on existing coaxial lines at net speeds above 100 Mbps.
MoCA will also reduce installation time and customer acquisition costs, the vendors said.
Although MoCA, an effort that has solid backing from the likes of Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications, continues to aim for de facto status in the coax world, it's not the only game in town. Coaxsys uses proprietary technology, and has found some success with small- and mid-sized telcos. Pulse~LINK, meanwhile, is looking to graft Ultrawideband technology onto coax to produce "application layer throughput" of greater than 400 Mbps. HomePNA has also been designed to run over coax.
Rim's VDSL2 chips prove faster than average
Rim Semiconductor's new Embarq VDSL2 chips deliver up to 200 Mbps, twice as fast as traditional VDSL2 technology, according to Telcordia Technologies.
If DSL service based on these Rim chips provides transmission rates at just half the theoretical maximum, copper-based broadband would be fast enough to challenge Verizon's fiber-based FiOS service for speed, with plenty of capacity for voice, data and several streams of HD video.
Telcordia found that Rim's Embarq product line delivers higher bit rates on both short and long copper loops than VDSL2 and higher data quality with fewer noise issues. Embarq also coexists better with other technologies, including ADSL and fiber, due to its avoidance of low frequencies and its low power to avoid crosstalk, according to Telcordia.
Kasenna appoints engineering veep
Kasenna Inc. has hired Sanjay Mehta as its vice president of engineering. Most recently, he served as senior director of global systems development at Quantum Corporation. Sanjay was also previously senior vice president of engineering at DirecTV Broadband. Kasenna provides an integrated IPTV solution for the telco market.
Report: Softswitch sales pick up in Q2
Sales of softswitches and media gateways grew 8% to $742 million in the second quarter of 2006, following declining sales during the first quarter, according to the Dell'Oro Group.
The market was generally strong, but a surge in shipments into Europe paced the quarter.
The company said softswitch sales for Voice-over-Broadband subscriber services were particularly strong this quarter, climbing 66% over year ago levels, driven by both cable and phone companies bundling VoIP with data services.
The report also indicates shipments of media gateways were especially strong in North America where carriers expanded their core trunk networks. In contrast, shipments into Asia Pacific were weaker during the quarter in large part because of declining trunk network transformations and PHS wireless sales in China.
Sogetel, Warwick Tel pick Tekelec
Tekelec picked up the business of Canadian independent operating companies Sogetel and Warwick Telephone. Both are deploying the Tekelec 9000 Distributed Switching Solution to support their (VoIP) and data services. Both companies operate in Quebec, and service a combined 30,000 subscribers.
Vonage, D-Link offer bundled router and VoIP service
Vonage America, continuing its efforts to expand its VoIP service through the consumer electronics retail channel, has cut a deal with D-Link to bundle its service with a D-Link router.
The co-branded VWR Wireless-B/G Broadband Router is available at for $59.99, after a $40 instant rebate.
The VWR, based on Texas Instruments' TNETV1060 VoIP gateway chipset, includes a Wireless-B/G Access Point; a built-in 4-port switch to connect wired Ethernet devices; a router function so the entire network can securely share a single cable or DSL Internet connection, and two standard telephone jacks.
Covad announces business-class VoIP deal
Covad Communications entered a strategic partnership with VGE (Venture Group Enterprises), a sales and marketing agent whose distribution partners will now be able to sell Covad's VoIP and broadband solutions to small businesses. VGE will provide back office agent support, account base maintenance, reporting, and sales support.
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Forecast: DOCSIS 3.0 CMTS penetration to hit 60% by 2011
Although many cable operators haven't provided much guidance on exactly when they plan to deploy DOCSIS 3.0 equipment on their networks, at least one research firm has gone ahead and taken a stab at it.
ABI Research believes penetration of DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem termination systems (CMTSs) will reach 60% by 2011. ABI also predicts that penetration of CPE based on the new specs (cable modems, multimedia terminal adapters, set-tops, residential gateways, etc.) will be a tad slower - just under 40% by 2011.
The full 3.0 spec will bond a minimum of four 6 MHz channels - enough for a shared downstream of 160 Mbps, and 120 Mbps upstream. Set-tops that incorporate channel-bonding modem technology should be able to support traditional MPEG-delivered video as well as DOCSIS-powered IP video.
CableLabs issued the new specs earlier this month, noting that readiness on full 3.0 products will largely be driven by the vendors. Because elements of the new specs require new spins of silicon, it's expected that full-scale deployments of DOCSIS 3.0 won't begin until 2008 or 2009. In the interim, CableLabs plans to support interoperability testing on pre-3.0 equipment that some operators already are deploying to fend off competition.
"2007 should see the first volume shipments of DOCSIS 3.0-compliant network equipment," said ABI Principal Analyst Michael Arden.
Shaw Communications of Canada has already taken an aggressive posture with DOCSIS 3.0, noting recently that it aims to deploy it "as quickly as possible."
XO gets a fix on wireless broadband
XO Communications has installed fixed wireless broadband in nine cities, claiming the technology can deliver speeds in the range of 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps.
XO said service via its line-of-sight installations is available in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, Tampa and Washington, D.C.
XO's fixed wireless broadband system is being offered in partnership with Nextlink, a sister company that has LMDS (Local Multipoint Distribution System) spectrum with licenses in 75 metros.
The technology can support qualified line-of-sight locations within an average of five miles of each wireless hub, said the companies, which will target the service to businesses that do not have access to fiber, or have access only to bandwidth-limited copper lines.
Pipex trial airs out WiMAX
Pipex Wireless, a joint venture between U.K. service provider Pipex and Intel, has successfully demonstrated nearly symmetrical transmissions on a WiMAX system based on equipment from Airspan Networks.
The performance was validated using both indoor and outdoor antennae, powered by Intel Rosedale chipsets.
The next stage of system test will include commercial trials delivering end-to-end WiMAX services with a number of local authorities and live customers.
BellSouth backs off on phantom DSL fee
In the face of widespread derision and, by some reports, the fury of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, BellSouth has decided to reduce the fees it collects from customers to cover the costs of various regulatory measures.
The FCC determined that phone companies no longer need to pay into the Universal Service Fund for their DSL service. That should have reduced service bills by anywhere from a little over a dollar to almost $3. BellSouth initially said it will not reduce its catch-all regulatory fee by the value of the expiring USF fee, but then it recanted. BellSouth, several people have observed, may feel compelled to make nice, given the FCC has yet to approve its merger with AT&T.
Verizon, on the other hand, instituted a new fee it said is meant to spread the additional costs of naked DSL across all its DSL customers. Verizon defiantly insists it is complete coincidence that it instituted the new fee just as the requirement to collect the USF fee was about to elapse, and even further coincidence that the new fee matches the old USF fee almost to the penny. The FCC has demanded to see Verizon's ledgers. Stay tuned.