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News summary for 10/24/07

Wed, 10/24/2007 - 10:15am
CED staff

From TelcoTV: Come together now, right now, over IPTV
By Mike Robuck

IPTV has grown past the chrysalis stage and into a full-fledged service that is deployed to more than 8.3 million subscribers worldwide, but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t a few wrinkles to work out when it comes to standards and the various entities working together.

The first session at the TelcoTV conference in rain-drenched Atlanta focused on how the industry can move forward while dealing with a complex roster of players who aren’t always running the same play.

While the cable industry has the SCTE to push through standards with ANSI, and CableLabs responding to the specification needs of the large operators, the IPTV space is more fragmented, it was pointed out in the conference’s first session, called “Telco TV Standards Roundtable: The Road to Seamless Services.” As moderator and Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie said of IPTV, “the number of stakeholders make it complex.”

As far as standards go, Dan O'Callaghan, chairman of the ATIS Interoperability Forum, said his group is working with ANSI on a standard definition of the IPTV architecture, as well as quality of experience (QoE) and quality of service (QoS). Once that’s completed, the second phase will cover technologies such as VOD, impulse pay-per-view, targeted ads and streaming content coming upstream from subscribers.

Scott Smyers, the president and chairman of DLNA, said more work needs to be done on digital rights management (DRM), as well as a process for products to be certified.

DSL Forum CEO Robin Mersh said the various entities on the panel, which also included a representative of the Consumer Electronics Association, need to do more work on gap analysis, and where the various standard or industry bodies overlap. While some of the gaps in standards are a result of IPTV’s proprietary environment, Ghassem Koleyni, the chairman of the ITU-T Focus Group on IPTV, said, “everything that exists needs to be an open standard.”

With so many fingers in the IPTV pie, Finnie asked who the ringleader is when it comes to the IPTV products and services that enter a customer’s home. The answer to date is no one, but that it needs to be a joint effort by all of the parties involved.

“Consumers realize now that that they can connect CE devices, but we need protocols that the telcos haven’t identified yet,” said Virginia Williams, director of standards, Consumer Electronics Association.

“The two that need standards are DRM and network management. The consumer electronics industry is at the edge of the network where these aspects manifest.”

In regards to the CE industry, Mersh said that the IPTV industry needs commercial arrangements between the telcos and CE vendors instead of standards.

“We need to have discussions about not reinventing the wheel and making sure there are no overlaps,” he said.

Williams bristled at a question from an audience member that the CableLabs approach of serving cable might work better for the IPTV industry. She said that when fewer numbers of entities decide what’s best for an industry, it’s generally not good for the industry or consumers.

While IPTV has gone from a pipe dream several years ago to a deployed service, the growing pains are far from over, especially when the various organizations are still hashing out the ground rules.

From TelcoTV: Cox’s Necessary enters TelcoTV lion’s den
By Mike Robuck

Prior to the official starting gun for the sixth edition of TelcoTV, Cox Communications’ Steve Necessary addressed the IPTV crowd during one of the three pre-conference workshops.

“I feel like Michael Vick addressing the American Kennel Club,” Necessary joked to the TelcoTV attendees who were in Atlanta for the show.

Necessary was on hand to provide the Cox and cable perspective on IPTV. Customers, Necessary said, don’t care about the technology that delivers their applications and services. Instead they want more and better of what they have, including faster broadband speeds, more on-demand and more HD channels.

“They (customers) don’t care about technology and marketing; what matters are the applications,” he said. “They like reliability, quality, price and convenience; technology is secondary to most (consumers).”

To date, IPTV hasn’t been able to deliver a new product, with new revenues streams and new operational costs that are a vast improvement over what the current MPEG-2 over QAM infrastructure can do for cable, according to Necessary.

Necessary said that IPTV is “a means of distributing video and it’s a Network Layer,” and not inclusive of other technologies such as MPEG-4.

Cox and the cable industry are working on providing blended service applications that cross over the traditional silos of voice, video and data. He said an internal mantra at Cox is “any content, any time, to any device.”

Cable will be able to combat IPTV applications and services by implementing the following: DOCSIS 3.0 enabling 100 Mbps downstream speeds on the Internet, 256 QAM deployments, node splits, 870 MHz and 1 GHz architectures, analog reclamation, switched digital video (SDV), and optimized compression.

Cox has already deployed SDV in its Northern Virginia system two months ago and Necessary said the company expects to have it deployed in two more locations before the end of the year.

Necessary also went over the OpenCable Platform’s ability to enable services such as Caller ID on TVs, voting, polling and reading e-mail on TV.

As another example of merging interactive services, he pointed out Comcast’s recent implementation of TiVo software on Motorola DVRs in the Boston area, and said Cox is planning on a similar deployment with TiVo at some point next year.

Necessary briefly outlined CableLabs’ Project Canoe as a unified platform that brings value to advertisers by targeting content to viewers.

“Canoe develops a consolidated infrastructure, which is an important part of our value chain,” he said. “Advertisers will be able to make one purchase with a cable entity instead of 20 or 30 purchases with different cable operators.”

When asked by an audience member what the difference will be between cable and telco video providers five years from now, Necessary said there wouldn’t be much in terms of the services.

“Cable started out as lots of little franchises that got bought up,” he said. “Along the way, it became a part of towns because of the local franchises. It’s something we never fixed, so now we can feature it. Cable is now respected in many of those communities that it serves, but whether that’s enough to compete with lower prices remains to be seen, but the services will be comparable.”

Dolans’ bid to take Cablevision private fails 
By Brian Santo

Cablevision’s investors rejected the Dolan family’s $10.6 billion bid to take the company private. The vote was expected, given mounting opposition to the plan, notably from two large investors - Clearbridge Advisors, and private fund manager Mario Gabelli.

Opposition to the bid focused on it being too low, at $36 a share. Some investors said the stock could be worth as much as $50 a share. If nothing else, the failure of the bid underscored the Dolans’ contention that Cablevision’s stock – like that of many of its peers – is undervalued.

In a statement, Chairman Charles Dolan and his son, CEO James Dolan, said they were "disappointed" by the vote. This was the family’s third attempt to take the company private. Cablevision remains a potential takeover target; speculation continues about selling out to Time Warner Cable, which also has franchises in contiguous areas.

Verizon begins offering 20 Mbps symmetrical broadband
By Brian Santo

Verizon has introduced a new, symmetrical FiOS Internet service rated at up to 20 Mbps each way, available initially in only some parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Pricing for symmetrical broadband starts at $64.99 a month.

Verizon said it plans to offer similar symmetrical services soon in the 13 other states where the company offers FiOS Internet service, and to introduce a similar small-business offer.

“Verizon's new 20/20 FiOS service blows cable away. Their upload speeds don't even come close," said Susan Retta, vice president, Broadband Solutions for Verizon.

Symmetrical service can enhance interactive services like video conferencing, online multi-player gaming, telemedicine, electronic home monitoring, online work collaboration, data backups and more.

RGB, BlackArrow team on digital overlay demo
By Traci Patterson

At TelcoTVRGB Networks and BlackArrow are demonstrating RGB's Broadcast Network Processor (BNP) and BlackArrow’s ad-insertion system working together in real-time to take national, video-based ads and digitally overlay locally relevant video graphics and text.

The new digital overlay capability of RGB’s BNP is complemented by BlackArrow’s system, which manages and provides the real-time ad decision rules based on a selected ad type against the appropriate targeting criteria.

“Local advertising is a proven money-maker, and together with BlackArrow, we are showing telco carriers that they can expand this lucrative opportunity by dramatically reducing the time, cost and effort advertisers have traditionally endured to localize ads,” said Ramin Farassat, VP of product marketing for RGB. 

RGB is also showcasing its Modular Video Processor (MVP), which generates ad revenue for telcos by inserting local ads into their IPTV services.

NDS’ new HD DVR selected by SES Americom
By Traci Patterson

NDS has launched its new HD DVR - an Amino AmiNET530 STB powered by Metro middleware - for the IPTV market. SES Americom is the first customer, and it will integrate the HD DVR into its IP-Prime IPTV offering.

NDS Metro is part of the NDS MediaHighway middleware family of products, which is currently deployed in more than 61 million STBs worldwide.

The NDS HD DVR solution is showing the live streaming of 100 video channels on an AmiNET530 at TelcoTV. NDS is also showcasing one-touch recording, disk playback capabilities and the ability to schedule a recording through the electronic programming guide (EPG).

"SES Americom knows that HD is a major and increasingly larger factor in how consumers select their television service," said Walt Davis, product manager for IP-Prime at SES Americom. “Offering a DVR that delivers the same HD quality in recorded programs as the viewer experiences when watching the live program is an obvious next step in IP-Prime's solution."

Harmonic’s FTTP solution chosen by ComSpan
By Traci Patterson

Harmonic Inc.’s fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) video overlay and IP transport solutions have been selected by ComSpan Communications for its triple-play communications network.

With Harmonic’s offerings - which include MaxLink transmitters and amplifiers and FlxLink network interface units (NIUs) - the Oregon telecom can offer more bandwidth to its subscribers for voice, video and data services.

Harmonic's FTTP solution is an RF video overlay system for a passive optical network (PON) architecture that encompasses broadcast transmitters, optical amplifiers and a range of optical passive components.

Harmonic's FlxLink 1-Gbps and T1 NIUs are also utilized to distribute IP services across the network using the same fiber, the company said.

"With this implementation, we can offer higher-speed Internet, voice and an expanded portfolio of video channels to customers in rural communities where broadband access is not otherwise readily available," said Todd Richard, VP and CTO of the LTS Group of Companies, of which ComSpan is a part.

Sonus adds application development for IP/MPLS networks
By Brian Santo

Sonus Networks has introduced a major update of its IMX Multimedia Applications Platform; IMX 2.0 builds on the carrier-class support for voice-based services from the original platform version with the ability to develop advanced multimedia applications and data services for converged IP/MPLS networks.

Sonus CTO Vikram Saksena said, “IMX 2.0 opens the door for innovation by making it easier, quicker and less expensive to experiment with media-rich applications with the quality and service that’s expected from any Sonus solution.”

IMX 2.0 is a carrier-grade platform that supports high levels of scalability and delivers applications over Sonus’ field-hardened IP core, the company said. IMX 2.0 supports a broad range of applications and devices that are interoperable with Sonus’ platform today, while providing a foundation for the support of wireless and video applications.

Sonus anticipated the convergence of wired and wireless networking when it devised its system architecture, Saksena told CED.

Instant messaging (IM) and SMS messaging are completely different, making it exceedingly difficult to trade messages between PCs and cellphones in a converged environment, Saksena explained. But because Sonus architected the IMX platform with that in mind, the 2.0 version is uniquely able to pass messages from one to the other, opening the way for operators who use Sonus equipment to build unique unified messaging applications.

Sonus’ solutions have been deployed in more than 150 networks, in over 50 countries. To date, more than 35 billion minutes of voice traffic are carried on Sonus networks each month, according to the company. 

Broadband Briefs for 10/24/07

* Scopus appoints Leitman to board
By Brian Santo

Scopus Video Networks has appointed Orit Leitman as a member of its board of directors. Leitman recently served as vice president of finance at Paradigm Geophysical Ltd. Prior to joining Paradigm Geophysical in 1999, she spent seven years as corporate treasurer of Scitex Corporation Ltd.

* SureWest aims for 38 HD channels by December
By Brian Santo

SureWest Communications said it plans to provide its subscribers with at least 38 HD channels by the end of November 2007. Recently SureWest Broadband, the company’s cable subsidiary, launched A&E, Fox Business Channel, and the History Channel in HD, bringing its current HD total to 26.

Being prepped are the HD versions of Biography, Bravo, CNN, SCI FI Channel, TBS and USA Network.

Currently, SureWest’s fiber-optic network reaches more than 103,000 homes in the Sacramento region, with more than 21,000 taking video services, according to the company.

* Thomson releases version 4.7 of Sapphire VOD solution 
By Traci Patterson

Thomson has launched version 4.7 of its Sapphire VOD solution, offering operators the ability to maximize viewing quality and increase subscriber capacity.

Each Sapphire server provides a solution for ad insertion, program play-out, recording, playback and on-demand applications. The new release brings additional features, including jitter-free streaming, IP packet loss recovery and support of variable bit streams. And the Sapphire Cluster Manager is now available to manage groups of Sapphire VOD servers located either in points of presence (PoP) or nodes.

* Zhone’s MSAP gives Cavalier triple-play 
By Traci Patterson

Zhone Technologies’ multi-service access platform (MSAP) has been chosen by Cavalier Telephone and TV for the operator’s triple-play service, Three On.

Cavalier is a CLEC with 650,000 lines in a 16-state region.

The operator’s selection follows a phase-one deployment of Zhone’s MALC, which simplifies the provisioning and management of multi-play services. Zhone’s consolidated platform allows Cavalier to deliver voice, video and data services from a single, high-density and compact MSAP architecture that is provisioned, monitored and controlled through a single management interface.

* In memory of Nick Meko of Coast CATV Supply

Nicholas (Nick) Meko, president of Coast CATV Supply, a Trilithic Company, passed away Monday Oct. 15 after a three-and-a-half year battle with cancer. He was 62 years old. 

Starting as a linemen in 1962, Nick worked for Jerrold, Buckeye, Texscan and others before starting Coast CATV Supply in 1990. A member of the SCTE and The Loyal Order of the 704, Nick loved the cable industry and the people in it that gave him back so much.

Nick is survived by his wife Saundra, son Nick Jr., and daughter, along with many grandchildren.

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