Off to the left
Gigantic Verizon loudly trumpets the fact every time it passes 500 homes with FiOS. Behemoth AT&T's lurching toward a full bundle of its own justifiably earns headlines. With all that noise it's easy to forget that there's still a third Baby Bell that holds sway over about a third of the lower 48.
Late last year Qwest finally, quietly, issued a request for proposals for a fiber-based next-generation network capable of carrying the full bundle. This is a little late in the game, but reasons can be inferred for that.
Qwest has returned to financial stability, but stability is not the same as fabulous riches. Qwest could never afford to replicate FiOS.
Qwest could well afford to bide its time however, for SBC and/or BellSouth to get their respective fiber to the node (FTTN) and fiber to the curb (FTTC) networks up and running, then replicate one or the other. That was contingent, of course, on either or both of those other two companies remaining on schedule with their upgrades. It's Qwest's bad luck that neither has.
The former BellSouth part of AT&T awaits a decision from its new corporate masters on whether to go ahead with FTTC, devise some variation on FTTN that will take into account the FTTC work its already done, jettison what it's done and adopt FTTN wholesale, or proceed with an inefficient mix of the two, deploying in each market whatever makes sense given local circumstances. Not an easy decision.
Qwest's 14-state operating territory
The progress on the SBC FTTN project, meanwhile, has been fitful. The whole point of bringing in Microsoft was the promise that a Microsoft-based IPTV model would replicate the Microsoft-based computing model - make everything reliant on software and watch as hardware costs came down. That may still work, but it sure hasn't yet.
Had either operation stayed on schedule, Qwest would have been able to ride its coattails - or more to the point, its economies-of-scale - down to lower costs and an easier implementation.
But instead, Qwest is now under the gun to get something done. Yes, it has TV in its bundle with DirecTV, and yes it has cellular telephony with its MVNO arrangement with Sprint, but these are placeholders, just as HomeZone is a placeholder service for AT&T in its old SBC territory. For a big services company to compete and thrive, it needs to do better than cobbling together a set of services and slapping a single logo across all of them.
Qwest's RFP is said to ask about fiber to the home, to the curb, and to the node. Qwest has to evaluate all its options, because no solution being deployed by any other U.S. Baby Bell is applicable. Besides, Qwest has a vast territory that encompasses population centers of every size, from dense urban centers to some of the most sparsely populated areas in the country, different approaches could very well make sense in different applications. It should not be surprising, either, if RFP respondents throw WiMAX or some other high-bandwidth technology into their proposals.
The upshot here is that a set of vendors different from those supplying Verizon and AT&T have a very, very good shot at getting Qwest's business. Qwest is said to want to start its fiber upgrade by early summer. Expect announcements to start trickling as early as next month.
Missouri Senate approves telco TV franchise bill
The Missouri Senate approved a state-wide franchising bill that would benefit primarily AT&T. The bill still requires passage by Missouri's House of Representatives and a signature by the governor before becoming law. A similar bill is being considered in Tennessee. That AT&T is agitating for statewide franchise bills is a reversal of its stance on the issue; the company had been arguing that it does not need franchises.
Ericsson to build IPTV system in Iceland
Vodafone Iceland has contracted with Ericsson for an IP-based triple-play system, including IPTV. Ericsson will subsequently helm Vodafone Iceland migrate to its IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) architecture for full interoperability of TVs, mobile phones and computers.
Net Insight adds video switch with built-in timing
Net Insight announced its new Nimbra 360 multiservice access/edge switch, which integrates transport of digital terrestrial and mobile television services with transfer of highly accurate timing information, which the company said eliminates the need for GPS receivers.
Net Insight's Nimbra 360 switch
The company also said the Nimbra 360 is a flexible and cost-effective solution for delivering advanced multimedia services in broadcast and media networks and for IPTV/CATV distribution. The system has four multirate SONET/SDH SFP ports and one Gigabit Ethernet port. Up to 16 DVB-ASI ports or other combinations of multiservice access and trunk interfaces are available using the two slots for plug-in modules.
Viacom enteres video deal with Joost
Joost, the online video startup, has licensed hundreds of hours of programming from Viacom cable networks including MTV, Comedy Central, Black Entertainment Television and Spike, as well as movies made by the company's Paramount studios. Where popular video sites today offer clips sourced from almost anywhere, Joost intends to run full episodes of TV shows one after another, as if the stream were a traditional TV channel.
Telephony starting to scale for Charter
Charter Communications said it has signed on more than 500,000 telephony customers, providing further evidence that recent decisions to ramp-up VoIP rollouts aggressively are starting to bear fruit. Charter said it has more than quadrupled its phone customer base since the start of 2006. Today, the MSO offers phone services to more than 6.8 million homes passed - about two-thirds of Charter's entire footprint - and expects to introduce it to additional markets during the balance of 2007.
The majority of Charter's phone customers are served by VoIP, based on softswitch technology from Cedar Point Communications and Nortel.
According to Ted Schremp, the senior vice president and general manager for Charter Telephone, 73 percent of Charter's phone customers also subscribe to the company's video and Internet services. "We have a very careful eye on the [Sprint-cable] joint venture and how things are playing out there...but we don't have any specific plans to discuss," Schremp said.
Telephia to dial up numbers on telco/VoIP competition
Market research firm Telephia has organized the capability to start accurately tracking, on a monthly basis, residential access line share at the metropolitan market level. Telephia, which began by measuring an initial 10 markets in Q4 2006, said it will roll out its patented Network Signal Polling technology through 75 markets by Q4 2007.
Competitive gains from the pure-play VoIP operators like Vonage is relatively consistent across the three markets, while cable MSO performance drives most of the variance in telco line loss, according to Telephia.
VoIP secures funding to manage debt and move forward
VoIP Inc. has scared up $4.7 million in financing it intends to use to pay down debt and for operations. The company said it completed a series of private placements of a convertible debentures with institutional investors totaling $4.7 million. VoIP Inc. chairman and CEO Anthony J. Cataldo said, "This transaction eliminates a great deal of uncertainty regarding our financial condition, which should favorably impact our relationships with customers."
Mexican MSOs to invest $300M in broadband & voice
Mexico's cable TV association, Canitec, said its members plan to invest about $300 million in 2007 to upgrade their networks to offer broadband and voice services, according to a Dow Jones report. Six Mexican MSOs expect to have commercial phone service in 25 cities by the end of this year. Mexico has over 200 cable TV operators with about 4 million pay-TV subscribers, 600,000 high-speed internet subscribers, and 125,000 VoIP subscribers.
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Clearwire picks up BellSouth's 2.5 MHz licenses
AT&T has sold to Clearwire the licenses to 2.5 GHz spectrum AT&T acquired when it bought BellSouth. The sale fulfills a pledge AT&T made to gain approval for its acquisition of BellSouth. The sale includes The sale also includes BRS (Broadband Radio Service) spectrum, which is used for commercial delivery of wireless broadband services, and EBS (Education Broadband Service) spectrum, which is reserved for accredited educational institutions and noneducational organizations. Clearwire paid $300 million in cash.
U.S. residential broadband penetration poised to exceed 50 percent
Residential subscriptions to high-speed Internet services jumped 20 percent in 2006, and are expected to exceed 50 million U.S. homes later this year, according to a new report from Parks Associates.
The firm, citing its "Digital Lifestyles: 2007 Outlook" report, said U.S. residential broadband subscriptions could rise as high as 60 million by year-end - about 55 percent of all U.S. households.
Worldwide DSL growth picks up
Unit shipments for DSL customer premise equipment (CPE) reached a record high in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to the Dell'Oro Group. Voice-enabled gateways showed the strongest growth with shipments surging 56 percent sequentially.
Dell'Oro Group president Tam Dell'Oro said, "Much of the demand is being driven by customer subscriber base upgrades to new services and features that their existing devices do not support. Western Europe is leading the way as service providers, such as France Telecom and British Telecom, promote their triple play services delivered through advance function gateways."
The report also shows that Thomson Telecom was the market leader with the greatest shipments of total DSL CPE in 2006, followed by Siemens and ZyXEL.
CableVision starts up the Network network
Some people go home and crack a cold one; others go home and bone up on Metro Ethernet. For that latter group, Cablevision's business broadband subsidiary Optimum Lightpath has launched a video on demand channel (channel 660) that provides content extolling the benefits of Metro Ethernet. Lightpath is experimenting to see if it can reach business customers in their homes. Programs include interviews with luminaries such as Ethernet inventor Robert Metcalfe and Metro Ethernet Foundation (MEF) president Nan Chen.
D-Link hosting video about networking
Then again, with infinite storage, maybe making deep-tech esoterica universally available is not that bad an idea. D-Link is posting on its site video that educates potential customers about networking, VoIP, and other communications issues. D-LinkTV has content aimed at consumers, business customers and resellers, with segments covering company products and their uses in the digital home, small-to-medium business (SMB) and enterprise. The company promises new content will be added each week.
Gotta click. Gotta click. Gotta click.
IBM fired an employee for visiting an adult chat room, and the man is suing IBM for $5 million ( AP story here ), claiming he had an addiction and should have been offered help, rather than being dismissed. Separately, serial self-help advisor Marsha Egan just recently devised a 12-step program to help wean people from addiction to e-mail, which she's offering through her company Egan E-mail Solutions.
That type of thing is not new; The Center for Internet Addiction has been around for a while (you can take tests on the web site to find out if you have a cybersexual addiction, or if you're addicted online gambling, gaming, auctions, etc.). China's first center for Internet addiction is so popular it plans to expand from 30 beds to 400 ( story here ); a writer chronicles his stay at this center in a recent issue of Harper's (no online access to story).