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News summary for 9/06/07

Thu, 09/06/2007 - 9:36am
CED staff

Cisco debuts low-end CMTS; cuts Flash video deal
By Brian Santo

Cisco Systems said it has a new, compact and lower-priced version of its Universal Broadband Router (uBR) cable modem termination system. The new CMTS is being tried by Danish cable operator Dansk Kabel TV.

The new uBR7225VXR, each of which can support up to 5,000 subscribers, is targeted at smaller entry and greenfield deployments. As such, it will have a lower price when it becomes commercially available later this year.

Cisco claims it is the first compact CMTS in the industry designed for compatibility with CableLabs DOCSIS 3.0 and channel-bonding technology. It provides up to 16 upstreams and 4 downstreams per two-rack-unit form factor. It is also compatible with Euro-DOCSIS 2.0 and PacketCable 1.1 technology.

Dansk Kabel has been a Cisco customer. Jakob Kristjansen, the company’s technical manager, said, “We believe the compact Cisco uBR7225VXR CMTS can serve areas with lower density requirements and its modular form factor provides us the flexibility to add capacity and functionality as we need it.”

The uBR7225VXR platform has also been in field trials at A+, the third largest broadband service provider in Denmark.

Separately, Cisco said its Content Delivery System (CDS) will natively support Flash streaming capabilities, in addition to traditional progressive delivery. Service providers using CDS will be able to deliver video that is compatible with Adobe Systems Flash Player to PCs and TVs.

Cisco said its agreement with Adobe will include the recently-announced Adobe Flash Media Server 3 software. Adobe Flash Media Server 3 will offer faster user response and increased streaming protection to ensure that valuable content is better protected. The CDS platform provides additional benefits for the hosting and distribution of Flash Player compatible video content and services including content and service routing, dynamic hierarchical caching, load balancing, failover protection, IP multicast extensions, unified management tools, and end-to-end quality-of-service (QoS) support.

WOW! picks Arris’ C4 CMTS for voice, data services in Midwest
By Traci Patterson

WideOpenWest (WOW!) has chosen Arris’ C4 CMTS to provide primary-line voice and high-speed data services to subscribers in its regional systems in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

“Using multiple upstream and downstream carriers in a single service group allows us to increase bandwidth without significant wiring changes, therefore making the Arris C4 CMTS the right choice for some of our hubs,” said Gary Nilsen, WOW!’s VP of engineering.

WideOpenWest has been using Arris’ Touchstone E-MTAs to provide voice service since it began offering VoIP.

At IBC 2007, Arris is exhibiting its D5 Universal EdgeQAM (UEQ) with switched digital video (SDV) capabilities.

ADB to launch push VOD, content sharing, more 
By Mike Robuck

Advanced Digital Broadcast is keeping ahead of the digital curve by developing several new technologies for service providers.

ADB, which has previously launched hybrid IPTV set-top boxes in Europe, said it will launch several new technologies, including push VOD, multi-room content sharing and Internet TV/OTTV.

At IBC 2007, ADB said it will introduce a digital video recorder designed specifically for IPTV operators, but didn’t say when the DVR will be available. The hybrid unit is AVC-based and compliant with SD and HD transmissions at MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 levels. It also offers the additional benefit of hybrid recording from both DVB-T and IP transmissions.

ADB will unveil a new solution for operators wishing to maximize opportunities posed by InternetTV/OTTV. ADB’s ADB-3810TW combines IPTV, digital terrestrial TV and HDTV in a single unit. The product is based on a single-chip architecture that provides decoding of MPEG-4/H.264 content.

ADB has also teamed up with T-Com Innovations to present a live demonstration of T-Com Innovations’ interactive Web-on-TV pilot for which ADB has been selected to supply its ADB-3810TW set-top boxes.

For cable operators, ADB will also demonstrate a number of DOCSIS and DVB-C products at IBC, including the ADB-3800C HDTV unit. Following the drive toward separable security and open standards in North America, the company’s latest fully OpenCable compliant solution featuring CableCARD and OCAP middleware and applications will also be unveiled in Europe for the first time.

RGB integrates with SeaChange, demos with C-Cor
By Mike Robuck

RGB Networks and SeaChange International announced that RGB’s Dynamic Bandwidth Manager has been integrated with SeaChange’s VOD system.

"As a recognized market share and technology leader in VOD solutions, SeaChange is naturally a key partner for us as we expand into the VOD market. There is substantial synergy between our respective solutions and the opportunity to integrate our products is key," said Ramin Farassat, VP of product marketing for RGB Networks, in a statement. "With this successful integration of our Dynamic Bandwidth Manager with SeaChange's VOD system, cable operators can take full advantage of synergistic capabilities of both products to deliver up to 50 percent more VOD programming without the need for expensive network upgrades and additional QAM channels."

RGB Networks and C-Cor are teaming up for several demonstrations at next week’s IBC 2007 show in Amsterdam. RGB and C-Cor will jointly demonstrate integrated solutions for both digital advertising insertion and VOD bandwidth optimization.

In one of the demonstrations, RGB's Dynamic Bandwidth Manager will perform real-time statistical multiplexing on VOD streams delivered by C-Cor's n5 video server, enabling the delivery of 50 percent more programming in the same bandwidth without impacting picture quality. The resulting 50 percent capacity increase is gained by sending five additional standard definition VOD streams on top of the standard 10 streams in the same amount of spectrum.

The second demonstration will show RGB's Broadcast Network Processor working in conjunction with C-Cor's n5 Video Server to splice digital advertisements into multiple ad zones.

Espial’s Evo DVR gets upgrade 
By Traci Patterson

Espial Group Inc. has updated features of its Evo DVR, including StartOver TV, the ability to record multiple programs simultaneously and an advanced conflict resolution engine.

Espial’s Evo IPTV service platform includes both IPTV client and server middleware and software applications, including Live TV, EPG, VOD, PPV, DVR, Radio TV, Web TV and Caller ID.

At IBC 2007, Espial is launching a new HD user interface and demonstrating new services such as Evo Timeshift TV and mobile convergence capabilities.

Digital Rapids rolls out new portfolio of streaming encoders 
By Mike Robuck

Digital Rapids will unveil a new product line of live streaming encoders at next week’s IBC 2007 show in Amsterdam. 

The new line, called StreamZ Live, features live streaming encoders for applications such as live IPTV channels and Webcasting. It comes in a one-rack unit rack-mount version, and is available with a variety of video and audio input options.

Four StreamZ Live models offer a choice of encoding formats: SMPTE VC-1 (Microsoft Windows Media Video), H.264 (AVC, MPEG-4 Part 10), On2 VP6-based video for Adobe Flash (commonly referred to as Flash 8 Video), and MPEG-2. An optional module for the H.264 model adds the ability to deliver H.264 in an MPEG-2 Transport Stream to the system's standard RTP/RTSP elementary stream support. 

"Hundreds of our versatile StreamZ studio encoding systems are already in operation powering live IPTV channels and Webcasts worldwide," said Brick Eksten, president of Digital Rapids Corp., in a statement. "StreamZ Live builds on the attributes that have earned StreamZ its industry-leading reputation, while setting a new standard for professional live streaming encoders."

StreamZ Live encoders can be combined with Digital Rapids Broadcast Manager software for enterprise-level management, remote control, status monitoring and fault tolerance.

Digital Rapids will also offer IBC show attendees a sneak peak at its Copper C2 high-speed global data delivery software. Copper C2 extends the transfer speed, reliability and security of Copper delivery technology to add network mesh topologies, and features a new client interface, expanded management tools, and enhanced core architecture, according to the company. Copper C2 is slated for release in early 2008.

In other news, Digital Rapids announced today that is has formed a partnership with Adobe as an encoding and transcoding partner of the Flash Media Solution Provider program. Digital Rapids’ encoding and transcoding solutions offer support for the new H.264 video and AAC audio capabilities in Adobe Flash Player, as well as established Adobe Flash Player video formats such as the On2 VP6 codec.

MaxLinear has low-cost universal TV tuner 
By Brian Santo

MaxLinear announced a TV tuner IC that meets all global digital and analog cable and terrestrial TV standards, and can be used in digital/analog televisions, terrestrial and cable set-top box (STB) applications, and portable TV applications.

The MxL5007 is implemented entirely in CMOS, which contributes to low cost, low power consumption, and good heat dissipation. It consumes 300mW of power, which the company said is three- to six-times lower than competing products.

Engineering samples and evaluation kits will be available in Q4 2007, and production quantities are expected in Q2 2008.

Vudu movie box could work like magic, but it's veddy, veddy expensive
Copyright 2007 Gannett Company, Inc.
Edward C. Baig, USA Today

Pop quiz: Which is larger, the number of movie genres or the number of ways those movies are delivered to your living room? For all your dramas, comedies, horror flicks and so forth, there's TiVo, Blockbuster, Netflix, cable and satellite TV, pay-per-view, video on demand, Apple TV, PC downloads and more.

Today is the launch of yet another vehicle for distributing movies to home cinema. It's called Vudu from a Santa Clara, Calif., start-up of the same name.

Vudu promises instant access to about 5,000 movies from all the major studios, plus 20 independent studios and distributors. Films arrive via a small, 4-pound, set-top box; it has a 250-gigabyte hard drive capable of storing about 100 hours of standard-definition movies. Eventually, you'll be able to increase storage by connecting a USB hard drive. Vudu's box must be connected by Ethernet cable to a fast (2 Mbps minimum) broadband Internet connection.

Now the rub: Before you can "rent" movies (99 cents to $3.99 a pop) or buy them ($4.99 to $19.99 each), you must fork over $399 for the hardware. That's a lot to pay for the convenience. Even with no subscription fees, I'm having a difficult time coming to grips with Vudu's pricing.

A similar pricing scheme was a chief reason I didn't recommend a somewhat similar on-demand service called MovieBeam, reviewed here a year-and-a-half ago. It then cost $200 for a box to rent flicks, albeit for a far slimmer selection of movies.

Vudu worked well, following a trying start. My test box was loaded with about 4,000 movies, but not all of the absolute latest batch of films. The company says it will have 17 of the top 20 DVD rentals as of today's launch. Thus, the newest movie I watched was Night at the Museum. I also took in oldies such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and family flicks such as Charlotte's Web.

Moreover, while Vudu's hardware is capable of supporting high-definition content, no licensed HD fare is available yet. Here's a closer look:

Start-up blues. Setting up Vudu turned into a B-movie nightmare. I connected the box to my Sony HDTV using a single HDMI cable often used these days to connect high-def sets to other components. A Vudu logo appeared on the TV screen, but then the screen went dark. The logo reappeared, then went dark again -- a scenario that continued. I couldn't complete the setup. After a round of troubleshooting, the company concluded the hard drive was corrupted.

Vudu sent a second box for testing, but I wasn't out of the woods. An error message appeared on the Sony TV asking me to connect a display that supports HDCP. Short for "high-bandwidth digital content protection," this is a form of copy protection you sometimes see when you use HDMI cables. Vudu told me they tested their service with lots of TVs but not my model. (The company says the issue will be resolved.)

In the meantime, though, I was able to proceed only after connecting lower-quality cables. The "composite" cables included in the box yielded a lousy picture and sound, plus I had to muck with settings to see the entire movie on my TV screen. The quality rose dramatically when I connected optional so-called component-type cables.

Finding movies. When you first set up the device, you provide a credit card and choose an amount ($20 is the default) to purchase or rent movies. The account is replenished when it hits zero.

Pressing a Vudu button on the simple remote control displays Vudu's home screen on your TV. Twenty movies are showcased through movie posters. Clicking on a poster pulls up pricing and other details about renting or buying the film. You can also watch a preview. You can search films by actor, director, title or genre and fine-tune a search through other criteria, including MPAA ratings, critics' ratings, etc.

Renting a movie typically gives you 30 days to start watching, but once you hit "play," you'll have 24 hours to finish the film. You can watch as often as you like within that period. Paused movies will resume where you left off. You can fast-forward or rewind by turning a scroll wheel on the remote.

If you buy a movie instead, it remains on the box without expiring. For now, you cannot transfer the film to a portable device.

Vudu says it will get all the movies that are released to DVD and electronic distribution, adding about five to 20 a week to its lineup. But Vudu's movies lack the bonus extras found on DVDs.

The technology. Vudu takes advantage of a so-called hybrid distributed network. To provide immediate access to the films you want to watch, a few seconds of every available movie already resides on the Vudu box. The system pulls the rest of the bits off a neighbor's box or the company's own servers.
I'm all for the convenience Vudu is promising, especially if it delivers more of the films I want to see. Still, it's hard to justify the price of admission when there are so many other ways to catch a flick at home.

Broadband Briefs for 9/06/07

* Tektronix enhances GeoProbe
By Brian Santo

Tektronix has enhanced its GeoProbe Network Assurance solution; it now enables operators to monitor several new interfaces, including Gb/IP, IuFlex and A-interface over SIGTRAN for IP converged transport networks.

IP convergence not only impacts the way operators view their networks – from the service and application level – it also impacts the underlying transport networks and associated technologies and protocols in the delivery of video, voice and data services, Tek said. The transport network is evolving into a highly reliable, converged all-IP network for multimedia content. This converged approach allows operators to achieve greater operational efficiencies and maintain competitiveness by reducing network capital costs and operational expenses.

* Concurrent lands VOD deal in Baltic States
By Mike Robuck

It’s a new horizon for Concurrent,  thanks to the first commercial VOD deployment in the Baltic States. Elion, the largest telecommunications and IT provider in Estonia, picked Concurrent’s MediaHawk 400 platform to provide roughly 1,200 streams to about 40,000 IPTV subscribers in a decentralized architecture. Concurrent landed the sale through its partner, Scansatec.

“Broadband in Eastern Europe is gaining rapid momentum, with Estonia currently leading the market in penetration,” said Concurrent CEO and President Gary Trimm, in a statement. “The introduction of new services, like VOD, is a key element in this continued growth. We are proud to be chosen as a partner in this developing market with Scansatec and Elion.”

* UPC chooses Motorola, TandbergTV solutions for VOD service
By Traci Patterson

UPC Broadband (UPC) - a Pan-European MSO and the European cable division of Liberty Global Inc.—has picked solutions from Motorola Inc. and Tandberg Television to power its VOD service in The Netherlands.

UPC will utilize Motorola’s B-1 video server, which provides the streaming of MPEG-2 video content, and TandbergTV’s OpenStream digital services platform - a VOD back-office solution. The service is expected to reach more than 500,000 UPC video subscribers this year.

* Pixelmetrix showcasing test, measurement solutions at IBC
By Traci Patterson

Pixelmetrix is showing off its latest test and measurement solutions, the Electronic Couch Potato (ECP) and the Consolidator, at IBC 2007.

The ECP provides feedback—about network transmission quality, overall service quality, availability and other elements—to a central site. The solution can also simulate a subscriber by sequentially changing channels on a STB via an in-built infrared (IR) control mechanism. The Consolidator is a software application that concentrates performance information, from up to 10 remote locations, to a central site.

* Orange eyes U.K. IP TV launch
Copyright 2007 World Markets Research Limited
By Emeka Obiodu

France Telecom's Orange unit has unveiled plans to launch its IP TV service in the United Kingdom before the end of the year as part of efforts to prop up its declining broadband market share. Commenting on the plans, France Telecom chief financial officer Gervais Pellissier said the company needs to convince the British public that Orange is an internet service provider and not just a mobile phone operator.

Launching an IP TV service in the United Kingdom will hardly have the same impact as Orange's IP TV service in France, largely because of the existing pay-TV options in Britain. The market is already crowded, with BSkyB, Virgin Media, BT and Tiscali making it relatively tough for Orange to make any headway with its IP TV service.

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