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CED Broadband Direct May 07, 2007

Mon, 05/07/2007 - 10:02am
CED Magazine Staff

MSOs: We'll really, really do OCAP this time

Cox, TWC, Brighthouse rolling out in '07; Comcast to follow in '08.

LAS VEGAS - Cox, Time Warner Cable and Brighthouse are preparing to support OCAP this year, and Comcast is set to start supporting the technology early next year, according to executives from each company.

Those pledges were no small thing, given the situation: They were being made at the very first OCAP Developers Conference, held here before the opening of The Cable Show,  and several times in the past, cable operators have said they were about to roll out OCAP, only to pull back. So it's appropriate to invoke the parable of the little boy crying "wolf!"
OCAP - the OpenCable Application Platform - is a middleware product that ideally will make the cable industry look more like a monolithic national market than the agglomeration of fractured regional and local markets it is now.

Time Warner Cable has its Scientific Atlanta headends, representing about 70 percent of its footprint, ready to support OCAP-enabled set-top boxes, said Mike Hayashi, TWC senior VP of advanced technology and engineering.

The rest of TWC's systems are Motorola. "We're hoping for a trial by the end of this year, and to move into deployment next year," Hayashi said.

Hayashi said TWC has been deploying Samsung's OCAP-enabled HD set-tops, "and this week we'll start taking delivery of SA DVRs."

Cox is trialing OCAP in two markets and expects to have five systems ready for OCAP by the end of the year and to support OCAP company-wide in the first half of 2008, according to Cox CTO Chris Bowick.

Cox has been developing some of its own applications for more than a year using On-Ramp to OCAP, a subset of OCAP that can run on low-end legacy boxes. The advantage of On-Ramp is that it is forward-compatible with the full version of OCAP.

Brighthouse is in a position similar to TWC, with the majority of its systems based on Scientific Atlanta, according to Arthur Orduna, SVP of policy and product at Advance/Newhouse Communications, which runs Brighthouse.

Comcast is trialing OCAP in four markets, including Denver and Philadelphia, and is looking to have 80 percent of its systems OCAP-ready by the end of the year.
Brighthouse, Cox and TWC expect to begin shipping OCAP boxes starting in July. Comcast will start shipping OCAP boxes in early 2008.

Even those commitments might not be enough. Richard Doherty, director of Envisioneering, a consulting group, said programmers are now very skeptical of OCAP, and may hold back on OCAP application development until someone else proves the technology is viable. "Viacom isn't going to do anything until Fox does," he said.

The panelists encouraged the developers in attendance with a few key pieces of advice.
First, applications that help bind or converge two services (e.g. caller ID on TV screens) will be looked upon very favorably. Operators are likely to introduce one application at a time, so come prepared to explain - complete with a business model - why an operator should deploy your application instead of another one. Also, have what Bowick called a crawl/walk/run strategy - show how the application can work on a low-end set-top, a high-end set-top, and have some idea of how it can be improved or expanded upon in the future.

"We defined the tools; we defined the sandbox," said Orduna. "You have to fill it with sand. Amaze me."

The rest of the OCAP Developers Conference aimed to reinforce the message that this time OCAP really is imminent, with sessions on application development guidelines, a roadmap on development of the specification and making a business case for OCAP applications.


SA, Digeo, Panasonic lend active support to OCAP
By Brian Santo

LAS VEGAS - As the first OCAP Developers Conference wraps up today, equipment providers are announcing or reiterating their readiness for the migration to the technology. Scientific Atlanta  announced an OCAP developer program with interactive TV specialist itaas, Digeo introduced two OCAP-compatible products, and Panasonic is featuring its OCAP-enabled set-tops here at The Cable Show (overlapped by the OCAP conference).

Developers enrolled in itaas' istart OCAP developer program will gain access to the Scientific Atlanta OCAP platform, including documentation, developer tools, set-tops, online downloads and the istart conference. The istart support team will also provide technical support and assistance to accelerate OCAP application development.

Jeff Seebeck, vice president, product strategy and development for Subscriber Networks, Scientific Atlanta, said, "One of the ways Scientific Atlanta is committed to helping operators take advantage of these opportunities is by establishing a standard platform and developing technologies that seamlessly bridge multiple applications across multiple devices."

Digeo, meanwhile, introduced its Moxi for OpenCable Application Platform and Moxi HD Digital Video Recorder (DVR).

Moxi for OCAP is a software-based version of the Moxi user interface, optimized to run on lower-end set-top boxes and other hardware using OCAP middleware. The HD-capable Moxi for OCAP software integrates advanced services such as interactive content applications, video-on-demand and pay-per-view and can be easily deployed through normal in-line software updates.

Three versions of Moxi for OCAP solutions will be available: Moxi EPG only; Moxi EPG with DVR support; and the complete Moxi experience including DVR, media center applications and services.

The DVR model is Digeo's follow up to the Moxi Media Center introduced in late 2004. It incorporates nearly twice the storage of the previous Moxi Media Center at more than a third less cost. The new Moxi HD DVR capabilities include Moxi 4.1 software improvements including faster rendering time, time forward feature and hard drive storage meter; remote web-based scheduling; built-in support for a Multi-stream CableCARD (M-Card) with two-way capability; and the ability to record two simultaneous HD video streams: up to 16 hours of HD MPEG-2 video, and up to 160 hours of standard-definition video on the 160GB hard drive.

Digeo expects the Moxi HD DVR to be available in the fourth quarter of 2007. The first version of Moxi for OCAP (EPG only) will be available in the fourth quarter of 2007 with the DVR and complete Moxi experience versions following in waves in early 2008.

Panasonic is featuring its PCH2180 OCAP HD-DVR set top box, OCAP-based high definition Plasma televisions and OCAP application development tools.

The PCH2180 is an Advanced Multi-tuner OCAP Set-top receiver that integrates high definition video recording, a multi-stream CableCard Host Interface for separable security, and a high-speed DOCSIS modem to support DOCSIS System Gateway (DSG) signaling in a compact set-top configuration. The PCH2180 includes support of a variety of digital video codecs including MPEG-2, MPEG-4 (H.264) and VC1 and has capability to incorporate a MoCA Home Networking option.

The PCH2180 will be available in Q4 2007. OCAP enabled plasma televisions are slated for introduction in Q3 of 2008.

Also on exhibit will be Panasonic's Application Development Tools, the ADK200 Set-top unit and the OCAP PC Emulator, which provide application developers the ability to quickly create and test OCAP applications. In addition, Panasonic will exhibit the PCH1000 OCAP Reference Platform.


Motorola's new Cable PON moves operators toward FTTP
By Brian Santo

One of the advantages of the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) architecture was that, if need be, an HFC operator could always extend fiber closer to subscribers' homes. With some competitors deploying fiber to the premise, some MSOs do indeed need to extend their fiber plant, and Motorola is set to accommodate with an architectural variation that combines HFC and Passive Optical Network (PON) technology most familiar from telco fiber deployments.

Motorola's Cable PON is designed to leverage existing HFC plant as an intermediary step toward a full gigabit PON (GPON) fiber to the premises network.

By emulating a traditional coaxial network, Cable PON allows cable providers to deliver deep-fiber services that simply plug directly into their existing cable infrastructures and back-office operations.

Motorola said cable providers can continue to use set-top and DOCSIS equipment located in homes and headends over PON while adding new FTTP connections in proximate green-field locations supporting Ultra-Broadband service delivery into residential and commercial subscriber communities.


OpVista lands $15M in new funding
By Traci Patterson

OpVista has secured $15 million in additional funding in a new round led by ComVentures.

Existing investors Sevin Rosen Funds, iNCUBiC, U.S. Trust, Western Technology Investment (WTI) and DCM also participated in the round, bringing the total funding to $90 million.

The funding will further support the company's global sales and marketing efforts for the OpVista2000, and its Carrier Ethernet Transport (CET) services, the company said.

"The communications sector is investing aggressively to meet the significant bandwidth demands caused by video," said Karl May, president and CEO of OpVista. "Based on OpVista's strong 2006 performance, the company remains on track to achieve profitability by the end of this year and return another year of triple digit growth in 2007."

Comventures is a venture capital firm that invests in mobile, Internet and enterprise applications and the underlying communication infrastructure.


ICTV, RGB unveiling ActiveVideo solution
By Traci Patterson

ICTV and RGB Networks are demonstrating their joint solution for ActiveVideo programming and advanced advertising at The Cable Show.
 
The companies said they are showing how logo overlays inserted in linear broadcast streams via the RGB Broadcast Network Processor (BNP) can be used to enable immediate viewer entry into the ActiveVideo environment of Web media, high-quality video and targeted, interactive advertising - all delivered as a single programming stream to the TV by ActiveVideo.
 
The solution enables programmers to insert graphic elements into linear channels, which prompt viewers to switch directly to an ActiveVideo channel or advertising showcase, without returning to the channel guide or VOD interface.


iGuide gets iTV solutions from Navic
By Traci Patterson

Navic Networks is extending its interactive television (iTV) solutions to Motorola Inc. /TV Guide's iGuide platform.

At the same time, Navic announced that both Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable are extending their deployments of Navic products. Cox, which already has Navic in San Diego, Tucson and Phoenix, will deploy Navic in its Las Vegas system. TWC, meanwhile, signed a multi-year follow-on contract with Navic.

Navic said that after the Motorola solutions receive Acadia certification this spring, they have the potential to nearly double the company's deployment footprint.

The new solutions include addressable advertising, advertising destinations, audience measurement, diagnostic data collection, enhanced TV, information services and interactive customer care (ICC).

With Navic's HyperCast Network, addressable advertising and enhanced TV apps can be deployed across any system, regardless of whether it uses Scientific AtlantaPioneerPace or Motorola STBs, the company said.


Cisco showcases new CDS addition
By Traci Patterson

Cisco Systems Inc. is unveiling an enhancement to its content delivery system (CDS) - Internet streaming media capabilities - at The Cable Show

The addition offers video on-demand (VOD) and streaming systems, but it also incorporates applications for delivering video to digital TVs and set-top boxes, as well as for delivering video, voice, music and data to Internet Protocol (IP) devices such as PCs, WiFi-connected mobile phones and PDAs.

The solution is part of the Cisco Internet Protocol Next-Generation Network (IP NGN), a converged network designed to deliver video, voice and data services with increased mobility.

"A new generation of entertainment is upon us with the maturing of user-generated and Web-based video," said Vince Vittore, senior analyst with The Yankee Group. "Service providers must respond by enabling customers new ways to create and consume content."

The CDS Internet streaming solution is scheduled for completion in Q3.


Comcast launching Web-based communications hub
By Traci Patterson

Comcast Corp. expects to launch the SmartZone center, which will give its customers free access to communications tools via a fully integrated, Web-based communications center.

Customers can use the central location to send and receive e-mail, check voicemails online, send instant messages and manage a smart address book.

Comcast is partnering with Hewlett-Packard (HP), Plaxo-creator of the smart address book-and Zimbra, a provider of open-source messaging and collaboration software. The center will also incorporate Bizanga's e-mail anti-abuse system, Cloudmark's e-mail anti-spam and anti-phishing tools, and Trend Micro's anti-virus software, the company said.

The service, scheduled to rollout later this year, will be available via Comcast.net.


56M subs and counting: Broadband remains a hot product
By Brian Santo

Did someone say "saturation"? The largest cable and telephone providers signed up an aggregate of 2.9 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2007, exceeding the 2.5 million total of the previous quarter. The top 19 providers now account for 56.2 million broadband subscribers, according to the Leichtman Research Group.

Cable companies account for over 30.7 million of the total U.S. broadband subscribers (a 55 percent market share), and telephone companies for the balance of over 25.4 million subscribers. For the tenth straight quarter, the telcos added more subscribers than cable, though this time it was close. The telcos added 1.49 million, while cable operators added 1.45 million. That matched a record high for cable, first set in the first quarter of 2006. 

Cable was led by Comcast, which added 563,000 subs to push its total over 12 million, and Time Warner Cable, which added 356,000 to reach 7 million. AT&T added 690,000 broadband customers to reach 12.8 million, while Verizon added 416,000 for a total of just under 7.4 million.

Other quarterly results include:

  • The top cable companies added a record 1.1 million telephone subscribers, for a total of about 10 million.
  • The top cable companies added over 1.2 million digital cable subscribers - the most net additions since the fourth quarter of 2002.
  • The top cable companies added about 200,000 basic cable subscribers.
  • The three largest telephone companies (the RBOCs) added over 150,000 wireline video subscribers, and added 335,000 video subscribers in DBS partnerships.


TI unleashes Puma 5 for DOCSIS 3.0
By CED staff

DALLAS - Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) has unveiled its Puma 5 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem architecture, a solution optimized for IP services including voice, data and video, with home networking support to complete the gateway. The DSP-based Puma 5 incorporates TI's voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology for voice performance over a cable modem.

The Puma 5 architecture is DOCSIS 3.0 standards compliant and supports Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), IPV6 and channel bonding.

"TI anticipates that by 2009, cable operators will stop deploying earlier generations of DOCSIS-based products and only offer their subscribers DOCSIS 3.0 technology, as it offers them additional opportunities for revenue with new features and services while providing their subscribers a better technology," said Peter Percosan, director of broadband strategy at Texas Instruments, in a statement. "Puma 5 will go through certification later this year, with general availability expected early in 2008."


Gemstar-TV Guide unveils 'My TV Guide,' teams with video providers
By CED staff

LOS ANGELES - Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. has introduced "My TV Guide," a new suite of cross platform personalized guidance tools and services. These tools will enable consumers to access a content-rich, integrated guidance experience as they access video entertainment on platforms ranging from traditional linear television to the Internet and mobile devices, according to the company. The company is demonstrating My TV Guide at the show.

The company will license My TV Guide tools and services to distributors across cable, satellite, telco, CE and mobile, including those deploying TV Guide's iGuide, Passport and CE IPG product lines. My TV Guide products and services, designed to complement existing interactive program guides (IPGs), will begin to roll out later this year, with the initial phases of deployment taking place primarily on the Web.

"Living room-oriented" applications should make their way to consumers beginning in 2008. The new suite of tools and services will include MetaPlus Enhanced Data, Personalized Guide Services, Cross Platform Messaging, Advanced Guide Ad Services and Client Applications.

The company also has agreements with several multi-channel video providers to collaborate on My TV Guide services. TVGuide.com will offer remote recording services from Verizon's FiOS TV service, EchoStar Communications and DirecTV. The remote recording capability will also be offered to TV Guide's IPG affiliates as part of its A26 iGuide release, which is planned to be available in early 2008.


Sigma debuts broadband IP service management release 3.2
By CED staff

TORONTO, Canada - Sigma Systems has announced Release 3.2 of its broadband IP service management solutions, which handles OSS service and relevant order management, service authorization, resource management, provisioning/activation, and self-care of high-speed data/ISP, voice-over-IP and digital video.

The company's broadband IP solutions are pre-configured to manage triple play deployments and provide a common solution architecture to migrate to "all play" services in support of the evolution to IMS. These solutions may be deployed for broadband IP access network technologies, including DOCSIS 1.x/2.x/3.x, PacketCable 1.x/2.x, DSL, FTTx, WiFi, WiMAX and two-way satellite.


Ecuador operator takes Safari
By CED staff

DERRY, N.H. - Grupo TVCable, the largest cable operator in Ecuador, is using Cedar Point Communications Inc.'s Safari C3 Multimedia Switching System in a converged wireline and WiMAX voice deployment. The operator has deployed SIP-based services using the Safari C3 platform to an initial base of about 300 subscribers in an industrial area adjacent to the city of Guayaquil. Grupo TVCable is using the Safari C3 switch to support the delivery of VoIP services, via its existing HFC infrastructure, to residential and business customers elsewhere in Guayaquil.

In the Grupo TVCable deployment, calls handled by the Safari C3 are carried over 3.5 GHz spectrum between WiMAX towers and the customer premises. The operator expects the deployment to reach 2,000 customers or more in the next 12 to 18 months.

"The high degree of flexibility engineered into Safari C3 has been invaluable in the Guayaquil industrial area, where it is not practical to run HFC plant," said Jorge Schwartz, CEO of Grupo TVCable, in a statement.


Tandberg unwraps new SDV system
By CED staff

ATLANTA - Tandberg Television, part of the Ericsson Group, is displaying its OpenStream Switched Digital Video (SDV) solution, which provides a scalable, redundant system with seamless failover to ensure the delivery of video channels, according to the company. The SDV system gives cable operators the ability to provide, control and manage switched multi-rate (2-20 Mbps) digital TV services through an open platform.

The OpenStream SDV solution allows operators to deploy new services with existing network resources - cable operators can mix MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 AVC set-top boxes in the same network using the company's switched technology.

The system provides an open architecture, multi-vendor solution so MSOs have a choice of vendors and technology. It also features n+1 redundancy for seamless failover, according to the company.


StarHub test clocks DOCSIS 3.0 services at more than 145 Mbps
By CED staff

NORCROSS, Ga., HORSHAM, Pa., and SINGAPORE - Vyyo Inc., Motorola Inc. and StarHub conducted a test of DOCSIS 3.0 services with speeds exceeding 145 Mbps, according to the trio. The test traveled over StarHub's hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network, using Motorola network products and Vyyo UltraBand Spectrum Overlay solutions.

Vyyo's spectrum overlay solutions use spectrum up to 2.75 GHz. The integration of Motorola HFC network solutions already deployed by StarHub with the Vyyo solution has produced successful esults in recent lab and feld trials in Singapore.

StarHub's trials used Vyyo's XHUB node product, XFR trunk amplifier, XTB CPE device and passive elements to double downstream bandwidth and increase upstream bandwidth by a factor of at least four. Motorola equipment in the tests included the BSR 64000 CMTS and SB6100 cable modems.


Cedar Point to demonstrate integrated VoIP business services
By CED staff

DERRY, N.H. - Cedar Point Communications will debut a new suite of features designed to help cable operators capitalize on the opportunity to deliver business services. In its booth, the company will demo features such as hunt groups, call transfers and private numbering that have been integrated into its Safari C3 Multimedia Switching System, enabling the delivery of hosted services to the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) market without the need for additional devices or element managers.

"The delivery of business services is as much as a $130 billion market for cable system operators," said Dave Spear, executive vice president, strategy and market development for Cedar Point Communications, in a statement.


Mixed Signals unveils OCAP monitoring
By CED staff

LAS VEGAS - Mixed Signals Inc. will debut its Sentry Digital Content Monitor's OCAP carousel and video network IP monitoring capabilities at The Cable Show. OCAP (OpenCable Application Platform) is designed to run interactive television services and applications over cable TV systems in North America, regardless of which set-top box, TV receiver hardware, or operating system software is being utilized. The company's new module provides service providers with features including the ability to provide an application-centric view and decode the entire OCAP carousel, the ability to alert and be notified when files are added, removed, or changed, and enhanced monitoring capabilities for the video IP network.

"OCAP carousels offer video service providers the ability to download their preferred conditional access systems as well as the ability to generate and deploy new advanced services for customers," said Eric Conley, CEO of Mixed Signals, in a statement.


Optical upgrade converts existing RF amplifers into nodes
By CED staff

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - C-Cor Inc. is launching an optical upgrade that transforms its installed trunk and bridger amplifiers into optical nodes. The company is showing the Opti Max 2700 optical upgrade at The Cable Show.

Upgrading existing trunk and bridger amps to optical node functionality provides a way to reduce service group size for increased narrowcast capacity. The upgrade is targeted toward network service providers seeking cost-effective ways to expand capacity of their existing networks with minimal service disruption, according to the company.

The upgrade is compatible with C-Cor's latest 1 GHz Flex Max 901e amplifier and its predecessors, the FlexNet 700 and 800 series and Flex Max 900 and 901 models. The OM 2700 enables 1 GHz bandwidth expansion in order to increase forward capacity and future flexibility of the network and incorporates coarse wavelength division multiplexing transmitters, providing more return channels through existing fiber.
C-Cor says that the optical upgrade is already being deployed in the U.S.


ADB, Softel-USA, Vidiom team on iTV creation environment for OCAP content
By CED staff

NORWALK, Conn. - Advanced Digital Broadcast, Softel-USA and Vidiom Systems Inc. have partnered to create an integrated bundle for the creation of OCAP-based interactive applications.

The bundle pulls together ADB's 7820C high-definition OpenCable set-top box, Softel-USA's MediaSphere Desktop headend simulator and carousel system, and Vidiom's Vision Workbench application development environment.

The bundle is available as a turnkey package from all three companies and will allow any developer to create an application in the Vision WorkBench environment and immediately review its behavior on a real-world set-top box via playout from a reference class MediaSphere carousel, according to the trio. The companies say that the package will be priced under $35,000.


Broadband briefs for 5/07/07

HughesNet drops price on satellite broadband gear
HughesNet is temporarily dropping the price of the equipment for its Internet satellite service. New HughesNet subscribers who sign up for the Home, Pro, or ProPlus service plans, will be able to purchase Hughes equipment with standard installation for $300, $100 less than usual. The offer is good through the end of June. Service plans start at $59.99 a month. HughesNet claims more than 327,000 small business and consumer customers.

Verizon revs into the Twin Cities
Verizon Wireless is rolling out its EV-DO Rev A service in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.

Verizon launched its EV-DO network in the Twin Cities area in August of 2005, but the new service allows for average download speeds from 600 kbps to 1.4 megabits, and average upload speeds of 500-800 kbps.

Charter granted FCC set-top waiver
Charter Communications Inc. has been granted a limited waiver of the July 1 set-top security integration ban from the FCC.

Charter can continue to deploy its limited-capability STBs with integrated security until July 1, 2008.

BigBand integrates TV Guide's iGuide
BigBand Networks has integrated its switched broadcast system with TV Guide's iGuide. The combination should somewhat ease deployments of switched digital video, video-on-demand (VOD), digital video recorder (DVR) and interactive services, independent of the underlying hardware infrastructure.

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