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News summary for 9/25/07

Tue, 09/25/2007 - 8:55am
CED staff

EchoStar to buy Sling Media while exploring spin-off
By Brian Santo

EchoStar Communications bought Sling Media for $380 million, and said it is considering a split into two companies.

One will contain the service operations of the Dish Network plus the supporting satellite network.

The assets of the spun-off, second company would include EchoStar’s set-top box design and manufacturing business, its international operations, and assets used to provide fixed satellite services to third parties, together with satellites, uplink centers and spectrum licenses not considered core to Dish Network’s subscriber business.

"We believe separation of our consumer-based and wholesale businesses could unlock additional value,” said Charlie Ergen, who is both chairman and CEO of EchoStar. “Each company would be able to separately pursue the strategies that best suit its respective long-term interests. The spin-off transaction would also allow employee incentives to be tied to their respective company's performance, and improve opportunities to effectively develop and finance expansion plans.”

Ergen would be chairman and CEO of both companies.

The company has petitioned the Internal Revenue Service to discover if the transaction would be tax-free; the company said the deal is partially contingent on an IRS ruling that the split would be.

Sling Media’s Slingbox technology allows users to forward content from their pay-video service to a wide variety of viewing devices via a broadband connection. 

One of the supposed disadvantages of DBS is that its satellite broadcast is not well-suited to provide rapidly responsive on-demand services or broadband services. The acquisition of Sling Media and its Slingbox, combined with the DVR units that Dish Network subscribers already have, could give EchoStar some interesting options for presenting on-demand services.

The Dish Network has more than 13.5 million U.S. DBS customers.

Micrel bows CableCard 2.0 switch and controller
By Mike Robuck

Micrel Inc. has unveiled its CableCard 2.0 Power Controller that is designed to be used in CableCard applications.

The integrated power switch and controller, called the MIC2569YQS, was designed for high-volume consumer electronics makers of digital cable receivers, DTV/ HDTVs, digital DVR STBs, and digital satellite receiver applications. Micrel said it’s the only integrated circuit on the market that meets the FCC’s separable security mandate, which currently entails the use of CableCards.

Micrel's MIC2569YQS is designed to supply power to CableCard 2.0 cards in CableCard host systems.

The device supports both S-Mode (Single Stream Video) and M-Mode (Multiple Stream Video) through a simple-to-control parallel interface.

"Micrel's CableCard 2.0 Power Controller has received wide customer acceptance and is the only all-in-one IC CableCard 2.0 Power Controller solution available today," said John Lee, director, Mixed Signal products, Micrel, in a statement. "In addition, a major set-top box manufacturer has received a coveted CableLabs certification in both dual S-Mode and M-Mode DVR for a set-top box containing the Micrel device. This is the only set-top box to-date to receive such a certification."

Micrel didn’t say which set-top box maker received CableLabs certification with its device.

ICTV launches AccuWeather ActiveVideo Channel
By Traci Patterson

ICTV has launched the AccuWeather ActiveVideo Channel, an interactive TV channel that houses AccuWeather's Web media content.

The new channel - for cable and IPTV platforms - offers real-time weather forecasts and other weather information, which is delivered to the TV as a single programming stream with targeted, interactive advertising. With their standard remote control, viewers can navigate through searchable local forecasts, satellite-generated weather maps and local weather broadcast programming.

ActiveVideo Channels, delivered via ICTV’s ActiveVideo Distribution Network, mix linear and on-demand programming with broadband content to form personalized MPEG video streams that can be sent to any cable or IPTV STB. The channels offer network operators and programmers access to video libraries, navigational elements, channel branding, targeted and interactive banner ads, and links to ad showcases.

AccuWeather’s channel will be demonstrated at the Telco TV show, which will be held in Atlanta on Oct. 23-25.

Brix Networks rolls out 10-Gigabit IP assurance platform
By Mike Robuck

Brix Networks took the wraps off its next-generation, IP Service assurance platform today.

The Brix 4100 Verifier platform scales up to 10-Gigabits and helps network operators monitor the quality of service of their live, IP-based voice and video services while also providing network information to operator employees. The Verifier provides real-time monitoring of live customer VoIP and IPTV traffic from its end-to-end service monitoring.

“Network capacities scaling beyond 30 million busy-hour calls, hundreds of high-definition channels, and multi-Gigabit IP transport backbones all require correlated information from multiple access points in order to truly evaluate a customer’s quality of experience,” said Charlie Baker, director of product management at Brix Networks, in a prepared statement. “The Brix 4100 family scales beyond full Gigabit capacity for voice and video streams, and helps network operators transition their services from closed TDM networks to open IP/MPLS-based infrastructures by providing immediate visibility across signaling and media - all from the same extensible platform.” 

The Brix 4100 family is designed for use in large-scale, production networks. Deployed throughout a provider’s network, the platform works together with the company’s service assurance correlation and analysis software engine to monitor, assess, and report on the quality of voice and video traffic at edge or core locations of operational VoIP and IPTV networks. 

Global Communications unveils last-mile solutions
By Mike Robuck

Global Communications demonstrated its VUTP Platform and products today at the IDG Network DEMO trade show.

The company’s patented technologies are designed to provide access over existing wireline and wireless networks. The VUTP Platform architecture is a portfolio of broadband products that enable the deployment of a national-scale, broadband service capable of supporting voice, video and data in any city or country worldwide.

VUTP is a pure analog solution delivering bi-directional triple play services over legacy copper phone lines. Global Communications said VUTP runs at speeds up to 100 times faster than DSL or ADSL.

The new architecture supports pure analog and pure digital environments equally and consists of three products: VUTP (Video over Untwisted Pair), VUTP Light and SECOS (Scalable Electronic Command Control Operating System).

VUTP Light is an all-digital solution enabling wireless transmission of video, voice and data point-to-point or multi-point with 1 Gbps bandwidth that stretches from four to 20 miles. It can extend the reach of fiber optics in a WiFi-like environment without fiber optic glass or mobile towers.

Global Communications said SECOS can scale to support 100 million electrical or communications devices in real time.

"Although broadband usage appears to be increasing at a rapid pace, usage in rural or low socio-economic communities is significantly lower, which represents 70 percent of the world's population. This is due to the enormous expense of using traditional methods to replace or upgrade existing networks," said J. Johnson, chairman and founder, Global Communications. "VUTP architecture enables universal broadband access to any community or country worldwide and removes the barriers of cost."

According to Global, the architecture can be used to provide interactive 3D TV and up to 2,000 channels of HDTV anywhere in terrestrial environments worldwide with or without a phone company or cable company.

Last week Rim Semiconductor Company announced it would test its speed enhancement product that is designed to run over existing copper in the service network of Ringgold Telephone in Ringgold, Ga.

Broadband Briefs for 9/25/07

* Study: U.S. VOD usage on the rise
By Traci Patterson

Within the next five years, Americans will spend more than one-third of their daily TV-viewing time watching on-demand programs rather than regularly scheduled shows and events, according to a new VOD-usage forecast by Pike & Fischer

The company predicts that the average monthly TV-viewing time per household will remain relatively stable, but that the amount of time Americans watch VOD programs will rise from 8.5 percent at the end of this year to about 38 percent by 2012 (to about two hours per day).

* Xanadoo passes 12,000 subs
By Traci Patterson

Xanadoo now has more than 12,000 subscribers, making it more of a competitor in the 2.5 GHz wireless market. The company offers service in Lawton, Okla., and in three Texas cities: Lubbock, Wichita Falls and Abilene. Navini Networks serves as Xanadoo’s network infrastructure provider, offering its Mobile WiMAX solution.

* Fitzgerald Mosley named to Vyyo’s board of directors
By Mike Robuck

Vyyo announced today that Benita Fitzgerald Mosley has joined the company’s board of directors. Fitzgerald Mosley is president and CEO of Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT).

“Throughout her career, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley has earned a reputation for establishing and achieving high goals for herself and the organizations with which she has worked,” said Davidi Gilo, chairman of the board of directors of Vyyo. “Her engineering background, her cable expertise and her leadership skills will be invaluable in helping to shape the growth of our company.”

Prior to her professional career, Fitzgerald Mosley earned an international reputation as a world-class athlete, winning a gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles in the 1984 Olympic Games.

* Centillium announces mystery order
By Brian Santo

Centillium Communications said it received a multi-million dollar order for one of its Mustang system-on-chip (SoC) processors from a company it would identify only as “a leading manufacturer of broadband networking equipment in Japan.” The chips will power optical networking unit (ONU) devices at the customer premises for a Japanese service provider, also unidentified.

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