News summary for 7/31/07

Tue, 07/31/2007 - 10:11am

Verizon petition of FCC suggests early transition to digital
By Brian Santo

In a recent petition of the FCC, Verizon indicated it may transition to all-digital television transmission within a year, in advance of the February 17, 2009 deadline the FCC has set for the entire television industry.

Verizon, one of the very few recipients of a waiver on separable-security set-tops, also requested further concessions from the FCC on the same issue.

Current rules on the digital transition say that a company making the switch to all-digital must inform its customers of the fact a full year in advance. Verizon has asked for the wording of that rule to be changed to “reasonable notice.”

The request could be interpreted in one of two ways: either Verizon plans to go all-digital in the next 12 months or so, in which case it has already missed, or is in danger of missing, its deadline for public notice. Or, the other possibility is that with a year’s notice, competitors would have time to make a similar early transition to all-digital, and Verizon wants to be able to provide such short public notice that local competitors will not have time to immediately respond.

As for the set-top box situation, Verizon is apparently worried that the downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) technology being developed isn’t going to be ready within the year.

Verizon has a one-year waiver, just as a very small handful of other companies do. Verizon complains that it has special difficulties in complying with the integration ban that are not shared by the cable industry, and so it should get additional relief in the form of a waiver that extends for three years, or until it can come up with an interim solution to the integration ban, until DCAS becomes available. 

“In order to comply with the one-year waiver, Verizon will have to expend enormous resources developing an interim solution – only to replace it with common DCAS when that technology becomes available. Forcing Verizon to implement a security solution twice will waste resources, time and effort, to the company’s detriment and ultimately the detriment of consumers.”

If that has the ring of familiarity, perhaps it’s because that is the same argument the cable industry made about the CableCARD solution – an argument rejected by the FCC.

Houston op to deploy CMC/C-Cor VOD solution
By Traci Patterson

Phonoscope, an independent cable operator in the Houston area, will deploy on-demand services to its subscribers this fall using “VOD In a Box,” a joint solution from Comcast Media Center (CMC) and C-Cor Inc. 

VOD In a Box is an integrated, on-demand solution designed to reduce the complexity, cost and time required to deploy VOD in markets that serve 25,000 digital customers or fewer.

Platform components include C-Cor’s n5 Compact (n5C) on-demand server and nABLE software management platform, and the solution offers up to 1,200 hours of program content, which is aggregated and managed by CMC. The joint product includes complete content aggregation, receiving equipment, storage and streaming hardware; a full suite of management software and tools; and professional services, installation and support.

“Phonoscope will now be able to bring its customers the same competitive services, like video-on-demand, as the large operators - quickly and without straining their resources,” said Michael Pohl, president of global strategies at C-Cor.

Zoom Technologies invests in Unity Business Networks
By Mike Robuck

Zoom Technologies has invested $1.06 million in Unity Business Networks, with an option to buy all of Unity in 2009. Zoom also received preferred shares for a 15 percent interest in Unity and specific veto rights.

Founded in 2003, Unity Business Networks is a privately-owned communications company providing local, long-distance and Internet services to single and multi-site businesses in Colorado, Minnesota and Oregon.

Zoom Technologies produces cable and DSL modems and other communications equipment under the Zoom, Hayes and Global Village brands.

“We are excited about the Unity investment because Unity is a profitable, well-managed company providing high-performance VoIP service to business," said Frank Manning, Zoom's president and CEO, in a prepared statement. "Hosted VoIP for business is a high-growth area that is a good fit with Zoom's existing business and technology expertise. In the near term we hope that our investment and our experience will help Unity to meet their aggressive growth plan.

“Our hope is that Unity will meet their plan, that Zoom will choose to exercise its option to acquire Unity, and that we will continue to grow the business with the support of the Unity team, whose managers will become significant shareholders in Zoom.”

Zoom also announced its second quarter results today. The Boston-based company reported net sales of $4.3 million for the second quarter, which was down 4 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Zoom reported a net loss of $1.3 million, which was an improvement over the net loss of $1.9 million.

While Zoom’s profits were up in the United Kingdom and North America by 20 percent and 6 percent, respectively, those gains were offset by smaller sales in Turkey.

UTStarcom’s IPTV DRM system audit complete
By Traci Patterson

UTStarcom Inc. has completed a security audit of its IPTV digital rights management (DRM) system. The audit was commissioned by UTStarcom in June 2006 and completed in April by Merdan Group Inc.

According to the audit results, all areas were robust at the “Criminal Enterprise Level,” the highest available rating, except for one area involving the set-top box installation, which was given the second-highest rating, “University Challenge Level.”

The DRM solution allows UTStarcom to deploy an end-to-end IPTV system, but the company will continue to partner with other DRM vendors.

“We will continue to take the ‘DRM-neutral’ position in planning IPTV deployments and position our solution as just one of the options,” said Qiang Li, chief scientist at UTStarcom.

Cablevision digital subs receive CNET TV
By Traci Patterson

Cablevision Systems Corp. and CNET are partnering on a technology-focused interactive channel, “CNET TV - Powered By Optimum.”

The channel is currently available to Cablevision’s iO digital cable customers, offering them product reviews, commentary on breaking technology news, help and how-to advice, and CNET’s tech shows, including “Top 5,” “Insider Secrets” and “Prize Fight,” available on-demand.

"This is a terrific extension of our existing distribution, both on the Web and on TV,” said Joe Gillespie, EVP at CNET.

The content will be refreshed and updated each month, and the service will be ad-supported and free-of-charge for the more than 2.5 million iO digital cable customers.

Rogers posts net loss, adds RGUs
By Traci Patterson

Rogers Communications reported a net loss of $56 million in its second quarter, ended June 30, down from a net income of $279 million in the year-ago quarter.

But Rogers added cable, Internet and telephony subscribers in the quarter - for a total of 101,500 RGUs added - and the company completed its acquisition of the remaining 80 percent of the outstanding shares of Futureway Communications Inc. that it did not already own. The total cash outlay for the acquisition was $86 million.

Rogers added 33,500 digital cable households, up 23 percent year-on-year, bringing the total to 1.24 million. Basic cable additions declined by 11,700 for a total of 2.27 million. In the year-ago quarter, 6,300 basic cable subscribers were lost.

Residential high-speed Internet subscribers grew by 21,100 to a total of 1.36 million. In Q2 2006, Rogers added 21,600 Internet customers.

Nearly 70,000 voice-over-IP telephony lines were added in the quarter, and about 13,500 were migrations from the circuit-switched platform, which lost 10,200 subscriber lines in the quarter.

Level 3 has Leap Wireless’ back
By Mike Robuck

Leap Wireless International is using core network backbone services from Level 3 to extend its long distance reach. Specifically, Leap is leveraging Level 3’s voice termination facilities, which are anchored by nearly two million voice-capable trunks that connect Level 3 to the public switched telephone network.

Level 3 is also providing Leap with its Level 3 Intercity Private Line Services to connect Leap’s mobile switching centers to transport voice and data traffic over a single network. Level 3’s private line solution will allow Leap to leverage cost-effective Ethernet handoffs, as well as add scalability and flexibility.

The financial terms of the deal weren’t announced, but the Level 3 solution also lays the foundation for Leap’s 3G services.

"As Leap begins to deploy revenue-generating 3G services, Level 3 will support its network to deliver capacity when and where it is needed," said Peter Neill, senior vice president of wireless markets for Level 3's Wholesale Markets Group, in a prepared statement. "We are excited to be working with a customer like Leap to provide services that we believe will ultimately enable the next generation of mobile technology."

Broadband Briefs for 7/31/07
* OpVista fills CFO position 
By Brian Santo

OpVista has hired Kevin Thompson as chief financial officer. Thompson most recently served as CFO for Entrisphere, a specialist in fiber-to-the-home networking. While at Entrisphere, Thompson coordinated four rounds of equity funding that brought in a total of $100 million, and then helped negotiate the sale of the company to Ericsson in early 2007.

* Zhone to supply WDM network in Greece
By Brian Santo

On Telecoms of Greece chose Zhone Technologies to supply WDM optical transport gear to extend the capacity and reliability of its IP network. On Telecoms Greece, which claims to be the second largest carrier in the region, will deploy Zhone’s GigaMux optical transport products to provide a variety of services.

* Anadigics adds to U.S. sales team
By Mike Robuck

Anadigics, a provider of semiconductor solutions for wireless and wireline broadband markets, announced the addition of three new members to its U.S.-based sales team.

Duane Koonce was hired as Western regional sales manager for wireless products, while David Bennett is the Americas and Europe broadband sales director for WLAN and WiMAX products. Stephen Simon has also joined the company as broadband key customer sales director.



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