News summary for 10/31/07

Wed, 10/31/2007 - 8:57am
CED staff

BigBand kills Cuda; Picks up Comcast SDV business
By Brian Santo

BigBand Networks yesterday handed out a big dose of bitter medicine in one long draught: a third quarter loss, getting out of the CMTS business, a 15 percent reduction of its workforce, and a re-organization. There was a big spoonful of mitigating sugar, however; the company announced that Comcast has become a customer of its switched digital video products.

BigBand bought the Cuda line from ADC in May of 2004, considering the CMTS line a good complement for its service routing products. BigBand expected that innovations in modular CMTS technology would increase the appeal of the Cuda line, but was disappointed on that score.

The line never gained much in the way of market share. BigBand could no longer afford to invest R&D money in what had become a low-margin, commodity business, said BigBand President and CEO Amir Bassan-Eskenazi.

The company will continue to support its installed base through 2010.

Bassan-Eskenazi said the company would reassign many of the employees with IP and DOCSIS expertise who were working on the Cuda line to the design of new products that will provide video-over-IP. He declined to elaborate.

The company now has a headcount of 630. It said it will lay off 15 percent of its employees, and will spread the cuts across the entire company.

As part of the restructuring, David Heard was promoted to chief operating officer. Heard was previously GM of product operations. Heard joined BigBand earlier this year. He had worked at a number of companies, including Tekelec, Lucent, AT&T and Somera Communications. He assumes responsibility for R&D, marketing, sales, services and operations.

The company will focus on its routing products and edge QAMs, where it has been finding much more success, especially in switched digital video (SDV) and telco TV. The company supplies Verizon with products for its FiOS service, and Bassan-Eskenazi said during the third quarter the company added two more cable operators as customers for its SDV products, one of which was Comcast. So far, BigBand is designated as Comcast’s sole source for SDV managers.

But for all the success with signing up customers, there have been delays with installations, which has slowed the collection of revenues, in part leading to lower Q3 results.

Revenues for the third quarter of 2007 were $38.5 million, a decrease of 10 percent from the third quarter of 2006. The company lost $12.2 million, compared to a profit of $1.6 million in Q3 ‘06. BigBand took $5.8 million in fixed assets and inventory charges associated with the retirement of the Cuda CMTS.

“While our current operating challenges will take some time to work through, we expect to emerge from the next few quarters as a stronger, more focused company,” said Bassan-Eskenazi. “We believe that switched digital video, edge QAM and telco TV offer BigBand a significant opportunity for growth over the coming years and that addressable advertising and IPTV will create additional opportunities.”

FCC votes for competition in MDUs
By Traci Patterson

On Wednesday, the FCC voted in favor of a new rule that nullifies existing exclusivity provisions between building owners and cable operators, and the Commission prohibited any new deals between the two camps.

According to the Commission, nearly 30 percent of Americans live in multiple-dwelling units (MDUs), and the numbers are increasing.

“All consumers, regardless of where they live, should enjoy the benefits of competition in the video marketplace,” said FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. “Exclusive contracts between incumbent cable operators and owners of multiple-dwelling units have been a significant barrier to competition.”

The new rule has been backed by telcos such as AT&T and Verizon, since they now offer a competitive TV offering. And the ruling is yet another blow to the cable industry from the competition-seeking chairman.

Current FCC rules allow apartment tenants to install parabolic antennas to receive satellite services.

TiVo, Windstream hook up on bundled offering 
By Mike Robuck

TiVo and Windstream Corp. signed an agreement to serve up bundled services to Windstream’s customers.

Windstream, which provides voice, broadband and entertainment services in 16 states, will package TiVo’s DVR services with its high-speed Internet offering.

"Combining TiVo's best-in-class DVR experience and Windstream's high-speed Internet service brings to our customers a comprehensive TV entertainment offering," said Ric Crane, chief marketing officer at Windstream, in a statement. "Windstream now will be able to offer customers a simple-to-use integrated television experience with the ability to download on-demand movies, music and photos."

Windstream customers will use TiVo’s interface to access broadband video content as well as traditional linear television. Windstream will start marketing its bundled service with TiVo in the first half of next year. Specific pricing of the bundle and the terms of the deal between TiVo and Windstream were unavailable.

NBC Universal picks Tandberg for compression of HD channels
By Mike Robuck

NBC Universal went with Tandberg Television’s video-compression technologies in order to launch HD on its cable networks.

NBC Universal used a combination of compression products and managed services to launch HD on Bravo HD, USA HD, Sci-Fi HD, and CNBC HD, which premiered Oct. 3. NBC Universal said the deal with Tandberg allowed it to expand its program offerings to cable, satellite and IPTV service providers throughout the United States.

“We benefit from a long standing relationship with Tandberg Television and value their innovative solutions which impact how content providers can more effectively distribute programming,” said Larry C. Thaler, vice president, distribution technology media works, NBC Universal, in a statement. “We were excited to leverage Tandberg Television’s expertise and products to deliver the highest quality HD experience for our viewers nationwide.”

The deal with NBC also marked the first time that Tandberg has supplied its DVB-S2 8PSK modulators with its Prekor product in the U.S. to distribute programming to service providers. The DVB-S2 modulation standard is designed to increase the throughput of a satellite transponder, or increase downlink margins for better reception.  According to Tandberg, Prekor optimizes the use of DVB-S2 8PSK modulation by pre-correcting for distortions that reduce the maximum transmitted bit rate.  

NBC Universal also deployed a Tandberg system that included MPEG-2 HD multiplexes and the Tandberg Director network management and receiver control system. In addition, Tandberg also provided NBC Universal with its new Director Advantage service, a turnkey managed product for the deployment of IRDs, and a multi-service decryptor fully integrated with its Director System.

Local men pursue broadband solution in Vermont

Copyright 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspaper Group Inc.
By Howard Weiss-Tisman, Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer

WESTMINSTER -- On a cold, winter day this past January, John Rais was sharing a pot of coffee with his friend, Scott Wendel, and listening to the radio.

News came on about Gov. Jim Douglas' plan to form a telecommunications authority that would address the sorry state of high speed Internet access and cell phone coverage in the remote hills and valleys of Vermont.

The two engineers hardly needed a reminder that moving bits of information is slower than navigating a dirt road in mud season.

Rais still has dial-up service from his home office on Morse Brook Road, and even his office in Saxtons River, which has a so-called high-speed land line, is painfully slow when it becomes clogged with competing data.

So on that January day, with the clarity-inducing caffeine running through their veins, Rais and Wendel formed J.R. Engineering and decided to do something about the problem.

Today, they are among a handful of businesses that are pitching their idea to the telecommunication authority as it sets out on its goal to provide every Vermonter with access to broadband Internet service by 2010.

"It's not really that difficult if you know what to do," Rais said about his company's proposal. "We were listening to the radio that day and we just decided to come up with a way to apply existing technology to implement in Vermont to resolve the lack of service."

Rais and his partners want to bring an optical carrier, or OC-3, network to deliver high speed service across the state.

The OC-3 network is wireless and uses microwave technology to transport data.
Rais has been an engineering consultant for years and specializes in green technology. His plan includes outfitting the towers with solar and wind generators.

According to their proposal, the state would be divided into six zones with each zone maintaining a point of presence, and three of the zones housing network operation centers to provide customer support.

Rais, who is from Switzerland and speaks with a strong accent, said the technology is tried and true, and has been used in Europe for years. He said the network would be ready for Vermont as soon as the powers-that-be decide it is right.

At least some of the lawmakers in Montpelier think the plan should at least be considered.

"When I met with John, the first thing we did was travel around the state and see if it could be done," said Rep. Daryl Pillsbury, I-Brattleboro, who has been working with Rais and is promoting the idea around the state. "I wanted to make sure he was talking with the right people and not wasting anyone's time. They want to provide Vermont with a service and I think it's worth listening to."

Along with providing the Internet service, Rais says his plan would create jobs in Vermont. If it all works, other states could follow the lead and set up their own green, OC-3 networks, creating a new manufacturing sector for the state's economy.

"My worry is that a huge company is going to come in here and outsource the jobs," Pillsbury said. "Here we have a Vermont company that wants to create good jobs here and the more people who hear about it, the more support there seems to be."

Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans, met with Rais a number of times this winter when the Legislature was establishing the Telecommunication Authority. Illuzzi was chairman of the conference committee that established the authority this year.

While Illuzzi said a decision is not going to be made soon, and it is likely that more than one company is going to be a part of the network expansion, Illuzzi said that Rais made an impression during his meetings.

"Everyone always says it is impossible or a monumental task and here we have an engineer from (Westminster) that is working on it and thinks he has a solution," Illuzzi said. "We should at least put it on the table and discuss it."

The backbone of the proposal would create a statewide network of towers.

Rais knows there are environmental concerns with the idea of erecting towers across the state's mountains, but he said they would be sleek and just barely extend over the treeline.

The towers would not require major roads and security fencing, he said.

"We need the infrastructure to deliver the bandwidth," Rais said. "The technology is there. Now the issue is how we go about to make it feasible."

Rais said weather will not affect microwave transmission and existing high points, such as church steeples, utility poles and buildings might be able to house the equipment.

Mary Evslin, chairwoman of the Telecommunication Authority, said she has only so far seen a five-page summary of the Rais proposal, but she liked the general idea.

"It's very interesting," she said. "New entrants have been coming to us bit by bit and we are considering every option. We are technology agnostic. We just want to get it done quickly."

The Telecommunication Authority hopes to reach every single home and business in Vermont by 2010 and Evslin said she still thinks that can be achieved. The authority is close to hiring a director and will gather more details from small and large companies as the proposal moves forward.

At some point next year, Evslin said, the governor will approve a final selection of the companies that will work to reach those final miles.

"Big companies have deep pockets but don't move very fast, and smaller companies don't have the capital but are more flexible," she said. "We have people living in valleys and on mountaintops and around the sides of mountains and it is going to take more than one technology to get it done."

Rais is patient, and understands that the wheels of democracy move slowly.

And he admits that he still has work to do to present more details and come up with an estimate of the costs involved.

"If you don't have the highway network in place, you can't go forward. It's like putting the cart before the horse. Sooner or later wire technology will be a thing of the past. It's only a matter of time," Rais said. "The easier you keep it, the fewer problems you are going to have to face. It's complex but it's not complicated."

Broadband Briefs for 10/31/07

*Allot announces first commercial deployment of Service Gateway Platform at major DSL-based ISP
By Brian Santo

Deep packet inspection (DPI) specialist Allot Communications announced the first commercial deployment of its Service Gateway, Omega Series (SG-Omega). The Service Gateway provides a platform for broadband providers to build secure and intelligent networks, optimized to deliver Internet-based content and services. The Service Gateway has been deployed at an unidentified DSL Internet service provider in the Asia Pacific region.

* TVN deploys Harmonic’s CLEARcut software
By Traci Patterson

Harmonic Inc.’s CLEARcut offline content preparation software has been deployed by TVN Entertainment for the company’s HD on-demand assets.

Video is digitally compressed with Harmonic's DiviCom MV 500 MPEG-2 HD encoders, and it is then formatted using the CLEARcut software for storage on video servers. CLEARcut is a part of Harmonic's MediaPrism application suite for on-demand asset creation.

* Sunburst Electronics hires sales manager
By Mike Robuck

Sunburst Electronics, a contract manufacturer of electronic controls headquartered in Erie, Pa., has hired Sandy Barretta as sales manager. Prior to Sunburst, Barretta was regional sales manager for Clifford Metal.

Sunburst Electronics specializes in developing electronic assemblies such as printed circuit boards, chassis assembly, cables and harnesses for industrial machinery, control and measurement applications, instrumentation, avionics, transportation, transducers and medical devices.


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