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News summary for 10/23/07

Tue, 10/23/2007 - 9:58am
CED staff

Cisco purchases Navini Networks for $330M
By Traci Patterson

As rumoredCisco will purchase Navini Networks Inc., a player in the mobile WiMAX space, for approximately $330 million in cash and assumed options.

The deal is expected to close in Q2 2008, at which time Cisco plans to integrate Navini into its Wireless Networking Business Unit, as part of the Ethernet and Wireless Technology Group.

Navini integrates "Smart Beamforming" technologies with Multi-Input Multi-Output (MIMO) antennas, improving the performance and range of WiMAX services and lowering deployment and operational costs. Navini’s portfolio of broadband wireless WiMAX solutions includes base stations, adaptive antenna arrays, management systems and subscriber modems.

Navini's WiMAX products will extend Cisco's Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi-Mesh portfolios, allowing Cisco to address the growing markets for broadband wireless services and allowing the company to better compete with Motorola, the current leader in the WiMAX space. The acquisition will also extend Cisco’s IP next-generation network (IP NGN) Connected Live vision - enabling service providers to deliver any service, to any device, over any network.

“Around the world, broadband wireless networks based upon WiMAX have the potential to add millions of new Internet users who cannot be reached economically using copper or fiber infrastructures,” said Brett Galloway, VP and GM of the Wireless Networking Business Unit at Cisco. “Additionally, WiMAX networks will help drive the transition to open, IP-based broadband wireless architectures and accelerate the rollout of new applications and services.”

AT&T turns in solid Q3 based on wireless, biz services
By Brian Santo

AT&T made $30.1 billion in its third quarter, nearly doubling its revenue figure from the third quarter of 2006. Those numbers don’t take into account the acquisition of BellSouth, however, nor the full consolidation of Cingular, which had been a joint venture between the merged companies. Taking that into account, AT&T’s revenue was up a less eye-popping but still respectable 3.2 percent from last year – and up 1.8 percent from the previous quarter.

Driving growth were business services (including broadband, Ethernet, and IP services) and wireless, where AT&T added 2 million customers, for a total of 65.7 million. The company reported wireless data revenues increased 63.9 percent from the like quarter a year ago, driven by increases in both consumer and business data usage including messaging, media bundles, laptop connectivity, smart phone connectivity and enterprise vertical market solutions.

Healthy sales of the Apple iPhone undoubtedly played a part in AT&T’s wireless success.

As for U-verse, the company said it was signing up new TV subscribers at a rate of 10,000 a week by the end of the quarter – but averaged fewer; AT&T had 51,000 TV subscribers at the end of Q2, and 126,000 at the end of Q3. The company is actually doing better with DBS video – it added 140,000 satellite TV customers in the quarter.

AT&T's high-speed Internet connections, which include DSL, AT&T U-verse high-speed Internet and satellite broadband services, increased by 499,000 in the quarter to reach 13.8 million, up 2.2 million, or 18.6 percent, over the past year. The company didn’t break out the numbers of DSL and U-verse broadband subs.

Limelight Networks sending HD content over Internet
By Traci Patterson

Limelight Networks has unveiled LimelightHD, which delivers HD media and digital content over the Internet. The service is available on more than 700 broadband access networks worldwide.

The service allows media and entertainment companies, global consumer brands, game publishers and social media sites to deliver HD-quality movies, TV shows, video clips and games directly to a user’s Internet-connected TV, game console and PC.

Brightcove, Fox Interactive Media, MSN Video and Rajshri.com have announced that they will offer HD content with the service. Other media technology companies supporting the LimelightHD initiative include Adobe Systems Inc.Microsoft Corp.Move Networks and Veoh Networks.

The LimelightHD service is designed to provide end-users with a high-fidelity HD media experience by bypassing the often-congested public Internet and delivering content directly to "last-mile" broadband access networks, the company said. Limelight's global CDN architecture, which consists of thousands of content servers distributed worldwide, connects directly to broadband access networks and interconnects via a high-speed optical network.

"The Internet has had inherent limitations for companies trying to distribute the massive files associated with HD content, and content providers have struggled to find different ways to monetize their HD content online," said David Hatfield, SVP of global products, marketing and sales at Limelight. "LimelightHD is optimized to address these issues and deliver extensive libraries of rich media . . . with better clarity and speed than consumers experience with their existing broadband Internet connections.”

Harmonic bringing VOD to SES Americom’s IP-Prime
By Traci Patterson

Harmonic Inc. is developing a VOD solution for SES Americom's IP-Prime service that will utilize Harmonic's StreamLiner 2000 video servers, CLEARcut storage encoding solution and Ingest Gateway workflow software.

The solution will enable U.S. telcos and broadband service providers that use the IP-Prime IPTV service to offer VOD to their customers.

IP-Prime is a telco TV service that offers more than 275 video channels. With the introduction of Harmonic's on-demand platform, SES Americom will expand the offering to include local and national on-demand content.

The CLEARcut, Ingest Gateway and StreamLiner offerings are part of Harmonic's IP-based on-demand video delivery platform, which supports VOD, near VOD, time-shifted TV, nPVR, barker channels and ad insertion.

Ciena supplies first nationwide optical mesh network in India
By Traci Patterson

Ciena Corp.’s CoreDirector multiservice optical switches have been deployed by VSNL in order to create the first nationwide optical mesh network in India.

The new network - which will also be utilized by Tata Teleservices (TTSL), an Indian mobile and fixed service provider - enables VSNL to offer its customers network reliability and service agility using automated service restoration and provisioning. The fully meshed architecture will survive multiple failures, including natural disasters and accidental fiber cuts, and will automatically (within milliseconds) route traffic around network failures.

CoreDirector is a multiservice, multiprotocol optical switching system that consolidates the functionalities of a multiservice provisioning platform, digital cross-connect and Ethernet switch into a single switching system that can reduce network operator capex by as much as 65 percent, and opex by as much as 85 percent.

India is one of the fastest-growing telecom markets in the world - teledensity is expected to more than double in the country by the end of 2008.

Startup offers help providing carrier Ethernet
By Brian Santo

With a fresh capital infusion of $8 million, startup Ethos Networks announced a new service for global service providers: Ethos will help service providers deliver Ethernet products with guaranteed quality of service (QoS).

Current converged networks cannot deliver multiple differentiated services with guaranteed service levels, with only limited QoS and provisioning mechanisms, the company asserted, making it difficult to provide competitive new data services. Ethos’ example: vast deployments of IPTV broadcast require the fine management of every subscriber's stream as well as meeting strict quality levels in multipoint networking.

“The telecoms sector has changed considerably over recent years and today's carriers face an intensely competitive market," said Ethos CEO Dr. Yuval Davidor. “Limitations on existing packet networks mean that some operators have had to delay the launch of converged networks and new services like IPTV and L2 VPNs.

With Ethos' solution, carriers no longer need to compromise on the service mix, level of profitability or the number of new services launched. For the first time, operators have the ability to operate a truly converged service where one network can handle all the different services.”

Hotels dive into world of high tech but fail to make a splash 
Copyright Los Angeles Times
Joseph Menn, Los Angeles Times

At Hotel 1000, which markets its high-technology trappings to those visiting this tech-driven city, occupants can get high-definition movies delivered over the Internet to a giant flat screen. That is, they can if they point the remote at exactly the right spot: an unlabeled clump of wires peeking out from under the monitor.

At the W Los Angeles-Westwood, guests can use something resembling a plastic parking meter to order margaritas from a poolside chaise. Most stick with the waiters.

At the new Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego, a breakfast tray left outside the room will beam a silent complaint to the management until it gets picked up. At least, it will after the hotel gets some new gizmos to make it work.

Many such hotels are trying to catch up with a population that is more comfortable with technology than ever. The $133-billion lodging industry's cutting edge sees a business opportunity in traveling lawyers pining for high-speed Internet access, twentysomethings looking for a place to plug in their iPods and vacationers preferring YouTube over the boob tube.

But although the trend is gathering steam, it's a tricky proposition for an industry that is more Flintstones than Jetsons.

"We're a business that's still trying to come to grips with the toaster," complained John Burns, president of Hospitality Technology Consulting in Scottsdale, Ariz. "If you have to turn the knob to make it lighter or darker, we have to think about that."

Still, customers want what they want. In a survey of business travelers this year, 58% said free high-speed Internet access was "very" or "extremely" influential in determining where they stayed -- triple the proportion from five years earlier.

Though location, price and overall reputation still matter more, "what's really remarkable is that the amenities that have risen fastest in terms of consumer preference are all technologies," said hotel marketer Peter Yesawich, whose Orlando firm conducts the annual poll. "There's an expectation that what people have in their home, they will find when traveling."

Generally speaking, that hasn't been true for a long time. The hotel industry's contributions to innovation might have peaked three decades ago when it introduced HBO to the masses. And that happened only because hotels didn't have to pony up any money: Companies such as Lodgenet Entertainment Corp. install satellite or cable TV connections for free, then give hotels a cut of their pay-per-view revenue.

Since then, most major technology improvements have required substantial investments by hotels. That money has been tough to get, in part because many hotels have split control, with local building owners having to agree with management companies and often a national-brand czar before anything happens.

For good measure, the industry's vendors and technology infrastructure are badly fragmented. Many hotels have dozens of computer systems that don't speak to each other.

Newly enlightened

Grudgingly, many hotel officials now acknowledge that they need to get with the times.
The current round of upgrades is driven by two big constituencies: Guests want Net access. And hotels want flat-screen televisions, which goose in-room movie sales.

"If you have a big screen and surround sound at home, when you come to your hotel and there's a 24-inch tube TV with a mono speaker, you're not going to buy 'Harry Potter,' " said Arnon Levy, chief executive of Guest-Tek Interactive Entertainment, which sells hotels Internet access, including a new package that integrates Net phone calls and high-definition movies.

After hotel officials started buying big screens, they realized how unimpressive the picture looked unless both the televisions and the videos were high-definition. And that led to soul-searching, dollar-scrounging and debates about which delivery systems to use.
Independently owned hotels are leading the charge into the future. Their competitors are following, worried about losing customers. Eventually that will lead to hotel stays that aren't quite so frustrating for the connected crowd: guests who want to surf the Net while instant-messaging and playing computer games.

"We're making definite but slow progress," consultant Burns said. Modernization is "scary, because it's expensive and it doesn't work all the time, but ultimately it's not optional."

There certainly are going to be some hiccups, as recent visits to some of the souped-up hotels made clear.

The W in Westwood installed the drink-ordering gizmos, which are officially called intelliChaise Personal Ordering Systems, in late July. The hotel's information technology manager, Teo Risquez, said he has seen 15 or more in use at a time during crowded cocktail hours.

But the technology requires the exact thing it's intended to replace: a waiter. Guests need a server to give a brief tutorial and input their room numbers before they can set up a personal code for access.

Members of the younger set are the most willing to try. The younger subset with long fingernails has the best luck; the touch-screen displaying color pictures of drinks and food doesn't respond well to regular taps of a finger. The nail-challenged are given white plastic finger styluses that conjure up images of Cruella De Vil from "101 Dalmatians." Even so equipped, some guests have to poke at the screen up to half a dozen times to get the point across.

The maker of intelliChaise -- Tiare Technology Inc. of Cherry Hill, N.J. -- said that an imminent software upgrade should make the touch-screens more responsive, and that it is still working out the kinks. The W Los Angeles-Westwood is only the company's second customer, following the Four Seasons in Miami.

Tiare President Jeff Krevitt said the visual displays could overcome language barriers while promoting profitable menu items and hotel services.

"There's just so much more potential," he said.

The W is among the still-rarefied class of hotels that make technology a big part of their draw.

The one in Westwood lets guests rent laptops for $25 a day. A "Wired" package, which is the chain's most popular add-on, includes unlimited Net access and a year's subscription to Wired magazine. Perhaps most usefully, a kiosk in the lobby lets visitors check out of the hotel and check in for their flights at the same time, so they can leave in minutes with a printed receipt and a boarding pass.

Better Internet service

The hotel, like many others across the country, is upgrading to a bigger Internet pipe, with plans to charge at least the heavy users for access to the faster connection. It also promises high-definition free cable and pay movies on high-definition flat screens soon.
At the Grand Del Mar, which opened this month, guests can get access to the Internet through their televisions and use no-contact key cards that unlock doors when they are waved past a sensor. The hotel will also soon offer the trays that tell staff when they're ready to be picked up.

Less ostentatious has been the spending -- probably in the hundreds of thousands of dollars -- to put in signal amplifiers and other gear ensuring that guests get cellphone reception.

A new chain called eSuites Hotels, meanwhile, may be the first to make technology its top selling point. When the first four hotels open next year in Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Tampa, Fla.; and Jacksonville, Fla.; at least half the rooms will come with their own personal computers.

The most geeked-out

For now, Seattle's Hotel 1000 is seen as the most geeked-out place to stay, at least on the West Coast. That title comes with the classic penalty for high-tech pioneers: gadgets that don't work.

An amazing number of the hotel's services are connected to a single fiber-optic backbone, including Guest-Tek's Internet-based TV system, electronic do-not-disturb buttons and room phones that offer free Internet-based calling to anywhere in the U.S. -- doing away with the traditional practice of jacking up in-room calling rates in search of profits.
A mildly unnerving high-tech addition: money-saving electronic mini-bars that charge you and signal for a replenishment when an item has been removed for more than 30 seconds. Why so little time?

"It's amazing how quickly people can take a mini bottle of vodka, pour it out into a glass and refill it with water and put it back," hotel technology consultant Jon Inge said.
Problem areas include French press coffee makers with six-step instructions that could perplex their caffeine-deprived operators, and the TV remotes, which have to be pointed at an infrared sensor instead of the television screen. Guest-Tek says that is because the hotel bought the wrong kind of monitors.

Although not everything works, Hotel 1000 can still fulfill at least one ultimate geek-on-the-road fantasy.

A recent guest's call to complain about a broken remote was met with a peculiar response from the front desk clerk: "I'll send an engineer right up."

Broadband Briefs for 10/23/07

* Orca’s middleware chosen for IPTV rollout in Columbia
By Traci Patterson

Orca Interactive’s RiGHTv middleware has been selected by Columbian MSO UNE-EPM Telecommunications in order to rollout the first IPTV service in the country.

UNE-EPM Telecommunications currently offers its triple-play service throughout Columbia. The operator’s IPTV service is expected to be available in major cities in Q1 2008. The deployment will be carried out by Union Electrica S.A., Orca’s partner and system integrator for the project.

* ICTV demos cross-platform “social networking” 
By Brian Santo

ICTV is demonstrating what it is describing as the media industry’s first universally deployable cross-platform social networking capability at the Telco TV Conference and Expo. Using its ActiveVideo Distribution Network, the company will use mobile email sent by TelcoTV attendees to illustrate how on-screen communications can quickly be created and modified, using any Web device or service, and displayed in conjunction with broadband video and targeted interactive advertising.

* KT to base voice/video service on Spirit DSP product
By Brian Santo

Korea Telecom (KT) has decided to use Spirit DSP’s TeamSpirit 3.0 Voice & Video Engine PC for KT's trial of a PC-based multi-service, multi-terminal service. TeamSpirit is an IMS-ready solution which encapsulates wideband voice and video processing to offer video and voice integration. The Engine bundles standard and proprietary wideband voice and video codecs, echo cancellation, noise suppression, packet loss concealment, jitter buffer and network optimizing functionality, voice/video synchronization, CPU load control and more.

* Wave7, Embarq set up independent telco for IPTV
By Brian Santo

Embarq Logistics and Wave7 Optics will set up McClure Telephone (McClure, Ohio) to provide triple play services. The FTTP network system being installed for McClure Telephone includes Wave7’s Trident7 Universal Access Platform. Embarq Logistics is managing the project. McClure is scheduled to start service based on the new network in January.

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