News summary for 11/19/07

Mon, 11/19/2007 - 8:55am
CED staff

Charter joins switched digital video club
By Mike Robuck

With today’s announcement that Charter Communications is trialing switched digital video (SDV) in part of its Los Angeles area system, all of the top five MSOs in the U.S. now have SDV percolating in some form.

Charter is using SDV pioneer BigBand Networks’ SDV management server and the company’s third-generation Universal edgeQAM, the BEQ 6000. Charter has approximately 420,000 customers in Southern California, and the trial includes a portion of those.

With SDV, cable operators are able to send just the digital signals that are being watched in a service group or node instead of the entire lineup of channels. Cable operators use this reclaimed bandwidth for more HD channels or other services.

Charter, the nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, said it would use SDV to expand HDTV and other programming options.

“The whole cable industry is being driven to deliver more HD content,” said Doug Ike, Charter’s VP of advanced video and applied engineering. “In the middle of 2007, Charter started aggressively deploying more HD across our entire footprint. Over the next 12 to 24 months, there will be a huge proliferation of HD content becoming available to us. Switched digital video is a mechanism that we can use to free up any bandwidth pains that may exist.”

Ike said Charter will have 40 to 50 HD linear programs, up from around 20, over the next few years.

This past summer, Cox Communications announced its first SDV deployment, with technology from BigBand, in its Northern Virginia system. Also this year, Cablevision announced the single-largest SDV deployment to date when it installed BigBand’s technology across its New York City metropolitan-area footprint.

Time Warner Cable, which had the first SDV trial in its Austin, Texas, system in 2004, has said it plans on having SDV in half of its divisions by the end of the year. Comcast currently has SDV trials in its Denver and New Jersey systems. Comcast also plans on using eQAMs from Arris and Harmonic to deliver SDV, VOD and other services over a shared infrastructure.

Since Charter has both Scientific Atlanta and Motorola systems in its headends, Ike said the company wanted to take a cautious approach to deploying SDV. The Los Angeles system uses Scientific Atlanta.

“I think the current thinking is that the Motorola solution is just now maturing to the point of deployment,” Ike said. “I think it’s a safe bet to say that Charter will be aggressively deploying switched digital video in its larger competitive markets over the next two years.”

As for using eQAMs to share SDV or VOD at the edge of a network, Ike said Charter needs to get comfortable deploying SDV before looking at the next level of technology.

Video, interactivity could ensnare Web users by 2010
By David Lieberman, USA TODAY
Copyright 2007 Gannett Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
November 19, 2007 Monday

NEW YORK – Enjoy your speedy broadband Web access while you can.

The Web will start to seem pokey as early as 2010, as use of interactive and video-intensive services overwhelms local cable, phone and wireless Internet providers, a study by business technology analysts Nemertes Research has found.

"Users will experience a slow, subtle degradation, so it's back to the bad old days of dial-up," says Nemertes President Johna Till Johnson. "The cool stuff that you'll want to do will be such a pain in the rear that you won't do it."

Nemertes says that its study is the first to project traffic growth and compare it with plans to increase capacity.

The findings were embraced by the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a tech industry and public interest coalition that advocates tax and spending policies that favor investments in Web capacity.

"We're not trying to play Paul Revere and say that the Internet's going to fall," says IIA co-Chairman Larry Irving. "If we make the investments we need, then people will have the Internet experience that they want and deserve."

Nemertes says that the bottleneck will be where Internet traffic goes to the home from cable companies' coaxial cable lines and the copper wires that phone companies use for DSL.

Cable and phone companies provide broadband to 60.2 million homes, accounting for about 94 percent of the market, according to Leichtman Research Group.

To avoid a slowdown, these companies, and increasingly, wireless services providers in North America, must invest up to $55 billion, Nemertes says. That's almost 70 percent more than planned.

Much of that is needed for costly running of new high-capacity lines. Verizon is replacing copper lines with fiber optic for its FiOS service, which has 1.3 million Internet subscribers.

Johnson says that cable operators, with 32.6 million broadband customers, also must upgrade. Most of their Internet resources now are devoted to sending data to users—not users sending data. They'll need more capacity for the latter as more people transmit homemade music, photos and videos.

"Two years ago, nobody knew what YouTube was," Johnson says. "Now, it's generating 27 petabytes (27 million gigabytes) of data per month."

Schools, hospitals and businesses could add to the flood as they use the Web for long-distance education, health care services and videoconferencing.

Service providers might not appreciate how fast Web demand is growing, Johnson says: "Comcast doesn't know what's going on in AT&T's network, and vice versa. Researchers are increasingly shut out. So nobody's getting good, global knowledge about the Internet."

Scientific Atlanta’s SDV platform passes 7 million homes
By Mike Robuck

While BigBand Networks was announcing its switched digital video (SDV) deployment with Charter CommunicationsScientific Atlanta (SA) issued a press release that said its SDV platform has exceeded commitments for seven million homes passed.

SA is in pre-launch mode with Time Warner Cable and did not say what other cable operators have committed to using its SDV platform. Earlier this year, the company introduced its universal session and resource manager (USRM). The USRM is a software upgrade to existing SDV servers in any network system, according to the company.

By extending and distributing the management of the video and data network control plane all the way to the edge of the network, cable operators can share bandwidth between services, such as VOD and SDV, over narrowcast QAMs.

"Scientific Atlanta's SDV solution provides our customers with increased service velocity, which is a top priority for them today," said Greg Hardy, SA’s VP of business development. "Because our SDV product is one in a wide suite of our digital video products, it can get lost in the digital buzz relative to competing devices from single-product companies. We have gone beyond just switched video by including total edge-resource management for an increased return on investment."

Verizon, Alcatel demo single-wavelength 100 Gbps on 10 Gbps fiber
By Brian Santo

Verizon has wrapped up a field test of 100 Gbps transmission on a live, in-service, 312-mile optical network route between Tampa and Miami in Florida. The test was designed to demonstrate the ability to upgrade a 10 Gbps optical network to 100 Gbps.

The company said it successfully transmitted a live video feed from FiOS TV on a Verizon Business optical system carrying other live traffic at 10 Gbps.

Verizon used Alcatel-Lucent's 1625 LambdaXtreme Transport system for the test. There are two ways to achieve 100 Gbps. One is to use 10 separate 10 Gbps wavelengths to carry an aggregate 100 Gbps. Verizon demonstrated the other method, a 100 Gbps signal on a single wavelength.

The test was conducted on a line originally conditioned for 10 Gbps transmission, without any changes to the fiber, amplifiers or other embedded equipment, according to Verizon.

Fred Briggs, EVP of network operations and technology for Verizon Business, said, "This trial proves what we've been saying: The move from 40 Gbps - available from Verizon Business today - to 100 Gbps will be exponentially quicker than the move from 10 Gbps to 40 Gbps.”

Survey: If Internet video not monitored, bottom-line at risk 
By Traci Patterson

Broadcast and Internet video content owners are putting their financial bottom-lines at risk if they don’t employ technology to track, monitor and measure content, according to a survey released by Myers Publishing and Teletrax.

More than 80 percent of the media and entertainment executives surveyed in the poll foresaw this risk, and 55 percent favored eliminating digital rights management and allowing online content to be distributed freely - with “tagging” and tracking of the material via digital watermarking and fingerprinting technologies.

“These survey results reinforce key trends we are seeing in the media and entertainment marketplace,” said Teletrax CMO Peter Winkler. “Rather than locking up video content with restrictive digital rights management technology, major media companies are turning to tracking and monitoring solutions, such as digital watermarking, to ensure content protection and monetization.”

Eighty percent of the executives polled said that at least 40 percent of video content will be consumed on the Internet (vs. TV) in 2012. But only 26 percent said that video content will be distributed freely, without content owners mandating royalties, by 2012.

Nearly 300 executives responded to the Digital Video Barometer Executive Survey, which was conducted online in September by Myers’ survey research team and commissioned by Teletrax.

SyncTV launches beta trial of downloadable TV service 
By Mike Robuck

SyncTV announced today that it has launched a private beta trial of its TV download service.

The service is based on open standards and is designed to work with Windows PCs, Apple computers and Linux operating systems, as well as with TVs and portable devices at some point in the future. Currently, the content can be played on up to five home devices.

"This beta period will allow us to fine-tune the system and get feedback on how we can improve the user experience,” said John Gildred, president of SyncTV. “We are going to be listening carefully to what our users are saying so we can give them the service they want and need."

SyncTV said the service will provide home-theater-quality TV shows on an unlimited download basis. The minimum video quality will be comparable to the same content on a DVD, and the company will make HD shows available across the different channels. SyncTV will also have programming available in 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.

The company is looking for volunteers for its beta test on its homepage.

Broadband Briefs for 11/19/07

* Analyst upgrades EchoStar from “Hold” to “Buy”
By Traci Patterson

EchoStar Communications Corp. got an upgrade on Friday - from “Hold” to “Buy” - from Citi Investment Research analyst Jason Bazinet, who speculated that there is a 65 percent chance that AT&T will buy the satellite provider within a year, the AP reported.

Bazinet kept his $52 price target.

Previously, AT&T has allegedly offered $65 a share, while EchoStar has demanded $75 a share, according to Barron's financial newspaper.

Before year’s end, AT&T will choose the satellite provider that it will use to offer video services to its telephony customers. According to Barron’s, AT&T wants to close a deal quickly because it wants an agreement in place before the presidential election - when a victory for the Democrats may lead to increased scrutiny of mergers and acquisitions.

* Cisco OKs $10B stock repurchase, completes buy of Securent
By Brian Santo

Cisco’s board has authorized up to $10 billion in additional repurchases of its common stock, increasing the total authorized amount under the program, begun in 2001, to $62 billion.

There is no fixed termination date for the repurchase program.

At the end of Cisco's Q1 2008 on Oct. 27, the company had repurchased and retired 2.3 billion shares, at an average price of $19.89 per share, for an aggregate purchase price of $46.2 billion.

Separately, Cisco closed its acquisition of Securent, which specializes in policy management software for enterprises. Securent's scalable, distributed policy platform will help allow enterprises to administer, enforce and audit access to data, communications and applications in heterogeneous IT application environments.

* French provider builds Ethernet backbone with Juniper routers
By Brian Santo

Juniper Networks announced that French IP services operator Neo Telecoms has deployed Juniper’s MX960 Ethernet Services Routers (ESR) to create a new high-performance IP backbone to support hosting, IP and MPLS-based connectivity services. The MX960 ESR can deliver up to 960 Gbps of switching and routing capacity, and it is optimized for emerging Ethernet network architectures and services.

Separately, Juniper added Mary Cranston to its board of directors. The firm senior partner and immediate past-chair of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP brings more than 30 years of management and corporate governance experience to the board.

“It is a privilege to have Mary join the Juniper Board of Directors,” said Scott Kriens, Juniper Networks’ chairman and CEO. “Her proven leadership ability combined with her extensive legal experience will prove a great asset to us as we scale our business to meet the escalating demands of our high-performance business clients around the world.”

* Verizon expands mobile network in N.J.
By Brian Santo

Verizon Wireless has expanded its network in New Jersey with new cell sites - one serving Bergen County, another Hunterdon and Warren counties. The service supports not only cellular telephony but also the company’s VZ Navigator direction service, and V Cast Mobile TV and data services.

* AT&T’s U-Verse service brings interactive features to Detroit 
By Traci Patterson

AT&T Inc.’s customers in the Detroit area now have access to new TV features: AT&T U-bar, which brings customizable weather, stock, sports and traffic information to the TV screen; TV, a new way to search for local businesses and other information on the TV; and AT&T Yahoo! Games, which are also available on the TV screen. On Thursday, AT&T introduced the interactive features in the San Francisco Bay area.



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