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News summary for 10/11/07

Thu, 10/11/2007 - 9:17am
CED staff

Former Cox CEO Jim Robbins (1942–2007)
By Brian Santo

James O. Robbins, a board member of Cox Enterprises and for 20 years its president, died yesterday.

Robbins joined Cox in 1983 and was named president in 1985. He also became CEO when Cox went public in 1995. He was elected to Cox’s board following his retirement in 2006.

Robbins led the company as it grew to become the third largest cable operator in the country, and more. Cox was among the first MSOs to branch into telephony and business services.

Under his leadership, Cox transformed itself into a corporate role model for fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce, delivering a superior customer experience and giving generously to the communities in which it operates, the company said.
 
“The passing of our dear friend and valued colleague is a sad event for me, my family and all the employees of Cox,” said Jim Kennedy, Cox Enterprises chairman and chief executive officer. “Jim embodied the spirit of our company – to do the right thing by the people the company touches – employees, customers, vendors, partners and the communities Cox serves. We will miss him terribly.”

Robbins was a mentor to his hand-picked successor, Cox President Pat Esser. Esser said, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of Jim Robbins. He was a friend, leader and mentor to countless people, including me, and is widely regarded as an industry pioneer who led our company with brilliant vision, courage and heart. Jim’s influence on Cox and everyone who had the honor of working with him will live on.”

Robbins was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a BA in American Studies, and of Harvard University, where he earned an MBA. He served as a destroyer line officer and a gunboat flotilla public affairs officer during two tours of duty with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967.

Early in his career, he was managing editor of WBZ-TV News in Boston. From 1972 to 1979, he served in various management positions for Continental Cablevision of Ohio Inc., and Montachusett Cable Television.

He joined Cox from Viacom, where he had been VP and GM for Viacom Cable of Long Island, N.Y., and then SVP of operations for Viacom Communications.

Cox hired him as vice president of its New York City operations in 1983. While at Cox, he served twice as chairman of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA). He earned several industry awards, including the Vanguard Award for Distinguished Leadership in 1996. In October 2006, he was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife, Debby Robbins; their daughters Jane Brooks Robbins, Payson Robbins Murray, and Hilary Robbins Thomas; his brother, E. Brooks Robbins; and his sister, Barbara R. Anderson.

Nortel deploying mobile WiMax in Taiwan
By Traci Patterson

Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET), a Taiwanese telecom, is launching a mobile WiMax network across Taipei County with Nortel’s mobile WiMax portfolio.

Nortel’s portfolio, with MIMO capability, includes 16 base stations and an access service network (ASN) gateway. Nortel will also provide network management services from its global services portfolio. The company is currently conducting WiMax trials and completing network deployments in the U.S., Australia, Japan, Germany, Greece, Russia, Canada, Brazil and Mexico.

Once the network is deployed, subscribers will be able to access services such as streaming video, music, IPTV, VoIP, videoconferencing and corporate applications from nearly anywhere using laptop computers or other WiMax -compatible devices.

"Taiwan has emerged as a leader in the development of an end-to-end WiMax ecosystem," said Y.K. Tsai, GM of Nortel Taiwan. "Far EasTone's rollout of WiMax services will further the government's M-Taiwan vision of bringing readily accessible mobile broadband to the Taiwanese population."

Harmonic has the Pentagon’s back 
By Mike Robuck

Harmonic said that General Dynamics is using its gear to upgrade the cable video system at the Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the Defense Department.

The project included an upgrade to the entire video headend at the Pentagon as well as the expansion of the video transport infrastructure to support more SD and HD video channels and VOD applications.

"General Dynamics and the Pentagon needed a reliable, end-to-end solution for video processing at the headend and delivery across the HFC network," said Matt Aden, vice president of worldwide sales and service for Harmonic, in a statement. "The successful upgrade is an affirmation of the versatility, quality and performance of Harmonic's digital video and HFC transport solutions, which can be deployed in any cable network architecture.

The headend replacement at the Pentagon encompassed a full range of digital video products from Harmonic, including multichannel DiviCom Ion MPEG-2 SD encoders, MV 500 MPEG-2 HD encoders, NSG  9116 edgeQAMs, the ProStream  8000 digital video mosaic solution and NMX Digital Service Manager. The HFC expansion provided by Harmonic included MAXLink transmitters and amplifiers, PWRBlazer nodes and digital return path systems.

The Pentagon has more than 23,000 users of its video services that use the multichannel mosaic capability and the edgeQAMs for on-demand video delivery, while the new encoders will provider the Pentagon with improved bandwidth efficiencies.

The Pentagon was previously a customer of Harmonic’s encoders, multiplexers and optical transport solutions.

RCN Business Solutions, AmeriVault team
By Mike Robuck

RCN Business Solutions, a division of RCN Corp., announced yesterday that is has signed a distribution agreement with AmeriVault. Under terms of the agreement, RCN Business Solutions will resell AmeriVault's managed online data protection product and off-site storage services to its client base. The deal marks the first time that RCN has entered into the storage market sector.

“Telecommunications service providers can no longer provide just the traditional products and services that businesses have come to expect,” said Russell Kohn, executive director of RCN Business Solutions, in a statement. “Over the years, communications and data have become synonymous, so we have to expand outside the box to provide what we feel is a critical offering that protects both on and off-line data.”
 
RCN Business Solutions is a supplier of SONET, Ethernet, Wavelength, Internet and collocation services for large and medium-sized businesses. Maintaining a network independent of incumbent providers in Boston, New York, Eastern Pennsylvania, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., RCN Business Solutions deploys custom offerings to companies in the finance, hospitality, media, government, health care and education industries.

Alvarion chosen for mobile WiMax trial in Argentina
By Traci Patterson

Alvarion will supply its IEEE 802.16e 4Motion solution for Ertach Argentina’s mobile WiMax trial. Alvarion said this marks the first such trial in South America.

The solution will be tested and then deployed in the city of Rosario, targeting SME and corporate users with primary fixed and nomadic broadband services, as well as high-speed Internet and advanced voice services.

The Rosario trial and deployment is meant to satisfy the growing demand for mobile WiMax, first in Argentina and then throughout the rest of South America.

In 2004, Ertach used Alvarion’s BreezeMAX 3500 offering to build the first commercial WiMax network in South America.

Sunrise Telecom adds DOCSIS 2.0 tester
By Brian Santo

Sunrise Telecom has introduced a new cable modem network analyzer, designed to test services over DOCSIS 2.0 networks. The new CM2000 combines customizable verification and troubleshooting capabilities with pre-defined automated test suites.

The unit runs the Windows CE operating system and incorporates the Internet Explorer browser, and a VGA color touch screen.

The CM2000 simplifies VoIP testing, the company said, by permitting technicians to test both the upstream and downstream for MOS, latency, R-factor, jitter and lost packets, without any special provisioning.

The tester also enables field personnel to test HSD deployments in excess of 30 Mbps and verify the QoS on VoIP service flows while ensuring operational margins and identifying impairments before they affect service.

Sprint turmoil clouds WiMax; New CEO may balk at $5B plan
Copyright 2007 Chicago Tribune Company
By Jon Van, Chicago Tribune

Executive turmoil at Sprint Nextel Corp. could put the brakes on the building of a new national mobile broadband network designed to provide wireless Internet access everywhere, analysts said Wednesday, although Chicago's lead role in the plan is unlikely to be affected.

Sprint is seeking new leadership after its chairman and chief executive, Gary Forsee, bowed out this week under pressure from investors unhappy with the company's performance. Besides seeking to turn around Sprint's traditional cell phone business, the new chief will undoubtedly scrutinize Sprint's plans to spend $5 billion building a WiMax wireless network.

Schaumburg-based Motorola Inc., a major WiMax backer and supplier, is building Sprint's network in Chicago, due to be in commercial operation here next spring. While no one expects Sprint to walk away from WiMax outright, analysts said investor pressure could cause the firm's new leader to look at slowing down the buildout to conserve cash.

Other alternatives would be to spin off the WiMax unit as a separate company, sell it outright or take in new partners in the buildout to bolster its cash position.

WiMax is already considered to be a risky but potentially winning bet for Sprint, and any uncertainties introduced into current plans could cause problems for Motorola, Intel Corp., Nortel Networks Corp. and dozens of other firms backing WiMax.

"It's absolutely a blow to WiMax if Sprint falters," said Fred Boxa, a telecom consultant with IBB Consulting Group based in Princeton Junction, N.J. "Sprint is a driving force pushing WiMax forward."

WiMax is a wireless standard for transmitting broadband signals to and from computers, cell phones, cameras or other gadgets over long distances at speeds that are faster and at costs significantly lower than what is available today from cell phone carriers.

Two weeks ago at WiMax World, a trade show in Chicago, Sprint and Motorola were stars, demonstrating a working network operating in a portion of downtown that foreshadows the commercial network being built here.

Examples of WiMax's potential usage include getting high-speed Internet access while riding in a vehicle and connecting devices such as cameras and hand-held game players to high-speed networks so they can transmit and receive digital information.

Sprint hopes to team with Clearwire, a smaller carrier, to build a national WiMax network over the next two years, getting a jump on bigger carriers such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless. Any delays could see Sprint's hoped-for advantage of being first to market evaporate.

Just this week, AT&T made a deal to buy extra spectrum in several large markets, and next January the Federal Communications Commission will auction off spectrum that may be used in 2009 for mobile high-speed communications.

While WiMax technology's ability to perform and Sprint's position as the first to market are both advantages, there is still a big question as to how much consumer demand exists in North America for new high-speed connectivity, said Dave Novosel, an analyst for Gimme Credit, a financial analysis service.

"It's not clear that this is a must-have for people and a home run for Sprint," said Novosel. "Any new CEO is going to have to look at this."

While Sprint's position on WiMax has a huge impact on the technology's future in North America, early acceptance in Asia, South America and other markets with less-developed infrastructure assure Motorola, Intel and others they will have a market for their products.

"No question that Sprint has been the first name associated with WiMax," said Scott Wickware, a Nortel executive, "but there are hundreds of other carriers around the world that aren't household names that have committed to WiMax. We're bullish on WiMax with or without Sprint."

Even if a new Sprint chief wanted to back away from WiMax, that could prove difficult because of contractual obligations, said Bill Densmore, a telecom analyst at FitchRatings.
"I'd be surprised to see someone come in and completely change directions," he said. "They have obligations to handset vendors who've been promised a certain number of potential customers will have access to these networks. I don't know how much wiggle room they'd have to back off from that."

Sprint already has set up its WiMax development unit, Xohm, as separate from its traditional cell phone business, noted Daryl Schoolar, an analyst with In-Stat, a market research firm.

"They might spin that off as a separate company to satisfy Wall Street," he said. "Investors are shortsighted, focusing on the next quarter. Sprint could spin off Xohm, sell it to a third party or invite in other investors.

"Or it might just go ahead as planned with building the new network."

Broadband Briefs for 10/11/07

* Qwest expands wholesale Gigabit Ethernet services to 10 Gigabits
By Brian Santo

Qwest Communications is preparing to offer, on a wholesale basis, Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) over Ethernet with speeds from 2 Gbps up to 10 Gbps within key U.S. metropolitan markets. The bandwidth is available to any service provider in increments of 1 Gbps. 

* Rim Semi finds provider to test new IPSL technology
By Brian Santo

Canby Telcom of Canby, Ore. has volunteered to test the latest generation of Rim Semiconductor’s Internet Protocol Subscriber Line (IPSL) technology. Rim Semi's Cupria IPSL technology is a means of optimizing DSL to provide as close to the theoretical maximum of bandwidth allowable with DSL technology.

* Verizon’s FiOS services expand in Fla., Mass., Pa.
By Traci Patterson

Verizon’s FiOS services have expanded in Florida, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

The company’s FiOS voice, Internet and TV bundle is now available to a total of 67,000 households in Sarasota County, Fla.; FiOS TV is now offered to the residents of Braintree, Mass., which is the 58th community in the state to receive the service; and FiOS TV is also available in parts of Pennsylvania, including Indiana Township, O'Hara, McCandless, Millvale, Reserve, Ross, Shaler, Sharpsburg and West View.

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