Chutzpah. It's what's for dinner
So I'm sitting around wondering what to write about this week, and it occurs to me to check in on what Verizon is doing. Because no matter what Verizon is doing, there's good odds it'll be worth a column.
In the past year, Verizon has been complaining it needs state-wide franchise agreements—no, wait! a national franchise would be great!—because it hasn't had enough time since the 1996 Telecommunications Act to file for them. It has levied phantom fees. It's issued a press release every time it passed another 43 homes in Fort Wayne, Ind., with optical fiber. And it continues to crow in every announcement about FiOS that it is finally bringing competition to the video industry, as if DirecTV and EchoStar didn't exist.
Sheer entertainment. How can you not love those guys?
And once again, Verizon has not disappointed. They really are becoming my favorite company.
Someone—and I do not know for a fact who this might be—came up with the idea for the The Fiber-to-the-Home Council to certify when providers string fiber all the way to subscribers' homes. Those providers who string fiber all the way to the home can be certified and licensed to slap a shiny new "This Home Is Fiber-Connected" badge on—presumably—the home thusly connected, and perhaps also some marketing materials.
Pretty cool, huh? So who has qualified for this badge? Mirabile dictu! Verizon.
AT&T and the for-now-still-separate BellSouth and Qwest could qualify for the badge in some greenfields, and there are a few other regional providers beginning to do FTTH, and there are the rural customers of Calix (which now owns FTTH vendor Optical Solutions). The cable companies need not apply, Verizon says.
Yeah, so, from a numerical standpoint, it'll mostly be Verizon that'll have the badges.
The FTTH Council says the intent is to help eliminate consumer confusion about what qualifies as fiber-to-the-home.
Over the years I've explained to civilians the differences between cable modem service and DSL, the concepts behind net neutrality, how VoIP works, and other things they've asked me about (I know better than to volunteer this stuff). But I have never encountered anyone confused by the phrase "-to-the-home." Perhaps there are some people deliberately trying to confuse the issue, but I personally haven't seen it.
And if they have, I cannot help but wonder if any confusion on the issue - naturally occurring or sown by nefarious unnamed forces—can be dispelled by a badge that mostly only one company would benefit from.
So what we end up with here is a way for Verizon to stick an advertisement for its services directly on the homes of potential customers, without actually having its corporate name on it, so that it isn’t, strictly speaking, an ad. Furthermore, none of its competitors are in a position to do something similar. Tell me you don’t admire the genius of it.
Taiwan provider selects Alcatel for optical network
Alcatel was given a contract by Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) to deploy an aggregation and transport solution for new IP-based services. CHT is Taiwan's recently privatized incumbent operator.
CHT previously announced a five-year investment plan to migrate its network to a Next Generation Networks (NGN) configuration. CHT intends to transport digital video for Taiwan's TV networks.
Alcatel will supply its data-aware Optical Multi-Service Node systems, which offer a flexible platform enabling large-scale, cost-effective transport of video signals via multiple kinds of connectivity including Ethernet, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), Asynchronous Serial Interface (ASI), and Serial Digital Interface (SDI).
Wave7, EMBARQ team on FTTP deployment
Wave7 Optics and Embarq Logistics, the distribution and supply arm of Embarq, are tag-teaming on a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) deployment with Ridgeville Telephony Company of Ohio.
The resulting EPON-based system, based on Wave7's Trident7 technology, will be capable of piping in voice and data services, and could leverage an RF overlay to deliver a lineup of broadcast video channels.
Ridgeville Telephony, which serves more than 50,000 residential and business access lines, said it plans to add IPTV and music channels "at a later date."
The companies expect to begin connecting customers to the new network later this year.
Sling Media nets cable, DBS distribution partners
Sling Media, maker of the "place-shifting" Slingbox device, has notched its first pair of direct distribution relationships with pay-TV operators - Viasat, a satellite TV operator based in Sweden; and TVA, one of Brazil's largest cable MSOs.
Under those deals, the operators are marketing the Slingbox directly to their customer base.
Sling Media's Slingbox
In the case of TVA, the operator is offering it for no additional fee, and going as far as making truck rolls to install the Slingbox and hooking it into the customer's home network.
ViaSat of Sweden, meanwhile, is selling the Slingbox to customers directly and at retail at a subsidized price, marketing it under the "ViaSat Everywhere" brand.
The operator launched the offer in Sweden, but expects to extend it to customers in Denmark and Norway, as well.
"We think this is the perfect offering that melds their high-speed and their TV products together," said Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian. "As we've talked about, selling this...at retail makes sense as a service add-on or as an additional offering from a cable operator, or satellite operator or mobile operator."
Krikorian did not go into the specific business models, revenue sharing or otherwise, with ViaSat and TVA, but said several "feasible models" could be applied to such deals. An operator could, for example, offer the Slingbox for a monthly fee, sell it for a flat rate, simply distribute it as a value-add, or put together a technology licensing agreement.
Although TVA and ViaSat mark Sling's first direct distribution relationships with pay-TV operators, it does have other ties. In January, EchoStar Communications and Liberty Media Corp. helped to lead up a $46.6 million round of funding in Sling Media. Beyond the investment, the companies have yet to announce specifically how they might collaborate with Sling or incorporate its place-shifting abilities.
Videotron dials up Nortel for VoIP expansion
Videotron has extended its IP telephony partnership with Nortel Networks. Under the new, multi-year deal, Nortel will serve as Videotron's primary VoIP technology and professional services provider as the MSO extends voice services to its 1.5 million subs.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but Nortel is on tap to supply Videotron with its "IMS-ready" technology and linked services, which include project management, multi-vendor integration and testing, security assessment and deployment support.
On the product end, Videotron will use Nortel's Communication Server 2000-Compact softswitches in tandem with the Nuera BTX 5000 media gateway (AudioCodes purchased Nuera in May for $85 million).
IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) will add unified messaging and mobility to the mix, thanks to its ability to offer IP-based services via a range of wired and wireless networks. IMS and SIP (session initiation protocol) are also key elements of the recently-issued PacketCable Release 2 specifications from CableLabs.
Videotron, which launched VoIP in January 2005, had 283,000 voice subs as of June 30.
Castile Ventures leads Whaleback 'B' round
IP-PBX specialist Whaleback Systems attracted $7.5 million in its Series B round of financing. The round was led by Castile Ventures www.castileventures.com, with participation from new investor Egan-Managed Capital and existing investor Ascent Venture Partners.
Whaleback intends to use the money to expand its channel and geographic market coverage and to fund feature development for its CrystalBlue Voice Service for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs).
Whaleback Systems is a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and a developer of a business phone solution built from the ground up for broadband.
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$Billions at stake in Ethernet business services market
The demand for Ethernet services will continue to expand rapidly, providing enormous opportunity for service providers.
Through the end of 2010, the U.S. business Ethernet services should represent a cumulative total of $24 billion of revenue. That includes rates of 1 Gbps, 100 Mbps, 10 Mbps and sub-10 Mbps using any access technology, including fiber or copper, according to Vertical Systems Group.
Ethernet service at 10 Mbps and higher will represent the biggest chunk of the total - $19 billion during the next five years. But the fastest growing market will be for Ethernet below 10 Mbps, which should contribute to the rest of the $5 billion total in revenue.
"As sub-10 Mbps services fill in the sizeable access speed gap below the 10 Mbps entry point for native Ethernet, customers with FT1/T1 networks gain a more viable migration path to emerging business-class offerings like virtual private lines and VPLS," according to Rosemary Cochran, principal at Vertical Systems Group.
DSL remote management spec gains support at both ends
Comtrend has introduced a configuration server for DSL customer premises equipment (CPE) that conforms to the DSL Forum's CPE WAN Management protocol, and Huawei Technologies has had its CPE certified as compliant with the protocol, aka the TR-069 specification.
The spec ensures that CPE can be easily activated and managed from a DSL network control center, including the configuration of additional new services. The ability to remotely manage and update all DSL modems and routers connected to the network is expected to lead to significantly minimizing costs associated with truck rolls, customer service and network management.
Huawei Technologies'CPE products have successfully passed interoperability testing conducted at SupportSoft's Digital 360 Interoperability Lab.
On the network end of things, Comtrend introduced its Comtrend Auto-Configuration Server (ACS), a TR-069-compliant system that enables service providers to remotely manage TR-069-compliant CPE and dynamically provision or change services.
The Comtrend ACS offers remote CPE WAN management, secure auto-configuration, dynamic service provisioning, remote firmware management, view status and performance monitoring. Using an XML protocol for low-bandwidth overhead communications, ACS enables services providers to view detailed CPE information by type, hardware generation, location of customers or version of software.
In addition, ACS can perform software upgrades remotely to all customers, individuals, specified group, geography or CPE types. This level of serviceability means DSL providers can, for instance, offer tiered services to different paying customers or take inventory of the CPEs that can accommodate high-end services such as IPTV.
Verizon Business gets big follow-on from Johnson Controls
Verizon Business sewed up a five-year follow-on contract worth that could be worth up to $100 million with Johnson Controls.
Verizon Business is extending its nine-year relationship with Johnson Controls to deliver and completely manage an integrated global IP networking solution comprising private IP, IP VPN, Internet and voice services.
To accommodate Johnson Controls' continued growth, Verizon Business will expand the company's Private IP network in the Asia-Pacific region. This expanded footprint, coupled with the introduction of Verizon Secure Gateway, will enable Johnson Controls' employees around the world to securely and seamlessly communicate with each other across their global IP network.
Game industry stars found a broadband applications firm
A couple of heavyweights from the online games industry have combined to found a new company called Trion World Network, which aims to venture beyond games and into a variety of social applications made possible with broadband.
Screenshot from 'Might & Magic'
The co-founders of Trion World Network are Lars Buttler, former vice president of Global Online at Electronic Arts , and Jon Van Caneghem, founder and former president of New World Computing, and creator of the Might & Magic and Heroes games series.
The company has attracted some serious money—DCM (Doll Capital Management) and Trinity Ventures are investors.
The company says it intends revolutionize entertainment by combining the best of online, gaming and traditional media, though details are scant.
"With ubiquitous broadband, online means leisure; people express themselves in social networks and experience interactive entertainment and games in massively connected worlds," Buttler. "We started Trion to leverage all the inherent capabilities of broadband, provide original entertainment, and define the future of media in the global broadband era."
Charter feels a need for speed, adds a 10 Mbps data tier
Charter Communications is adding two new higher-speed tiers. Charter has a 3 Mbps tier universally available. It now also has a 5 Mbps tier, and is in the process of adding a 10 Mbps data service tier. Upload speeds on at least the 10-meg tier will increase to 1 Mbps.
Charter has the 5 Mbps high-speed data (HSD) service across its three operating divisions and is currently signing up 5 Mbps subscribers in all 20 Charter key market areas. The MSO has 10 Mbps available in 15 of its 20 market areas, and gradually through the fall will make the new tier available in the rest.
Charter noted that more than 25 percent of U.S. households have a home network, and furthermore, approximately 36 percent of online users engage in online games, and 25 percent download music. Charter said the 10 Mbps service will make home networks more responsive to multiple users, will enable online gamers to host multi-player games and chat with other gamers during play, and will decrease the time needed to download music and movies.
All Charter HSD service at 3 Mbps and above will also now come with a security package the company is sourcing from F-Secure. This new security software offers root kit detection, anti-virus and spyware protection, parental controls, and a firewall.
As of June 30, 2006, Charter had 2.4 million residential high-speed Internet customers nationwide.