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News summary for 12/04/07

Tue, 12/04/2007 - 9:00am
CED staff

Comcast, TWC bail out of 700 MHz auction; Cox still in
By Brian Santo

The two biggest cable companies are taking a flyer on the upcoming 700 MHz spectrum auction, but No. 3 is still in. Bidders had to register by the end of the day Monday.

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt told the audience of an investors’ conference that TWC does not plan to bid.

Comcast SVP D'Arcy Rudnay said in a statement: “Comcast Corporation has decided not to bid in the 700 MHz wireless auction. The 20 MHz of spectrum acquired in the wireless auction last year with our cable partners in SpectrumCo provides us with significant long-term flexibility and many strategic options. We will continue to explore how wireless can complement our services through various partnerships and consumer trials.”

SpectrumCo is the joint venture (JV) between Comcast, TWC, Cox, and Bright House Networks. That JV experienced a reverse a month ago when erstwhile member Sprint dropped out.

Cox said it plans to bid on licenses for the 700 MHz spectrum, however. The only other newcomer to register was Google. Among the traditional cellular companies, AT&T and Verizon Wireless were widely expected to bid.

A new cellular company, Frontline Wireless, said it will bid. The vice chairman of Frontline is former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. The company plans to build a 4G network and sell wholesale services – and thus may be another potential ally for any other company that might want to get into wireless, including MSOs.

The news from Comcast and TWC buoyed the values of both of their stocks (Cox is private). Investors were apparently unhappy at the prospect of the MSOs spending hundreds of millions of dollars – if not billions – on licenses, and probably billions more on the infrastructure necessary to use those licenses.

Rep. Dingell orders investigation of FCC
By Traci Patterson

Representative John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, saying that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had suffered “an apparent breakdown in an open and transparent regulatory process,” has ordered an investigation of the agency, The New York Times reported.

“Given several events and proceedings over the past year, I am rapidly losing confidence that the Commission has been conducting its affairs in an appropriate manner,” Dingell said in a letter, dated Monday, to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

The investigation will be conducted by the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, headed by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the NYT said.

The letter follows a Nov. 27 public meeting of the Commission, in which Martin was accused of selectively withholding data from a report on competition in the cable industry to favor his position.

Cox, Bresnan roll out HD channels
By Traci Patterson

Cox Communications and Bresnan Communications have added a slate of HD programming options to their respective lineups.

Cox has added 11 HD channels in Fairfax County, Va., bringing the operator’s total HD channels in the region to 31. The new channels are The History Channel HD, The Science Channel HD, Animal Planet HD, CNN HD, Versus/Golf HD, TBS HD, Food Network HD, HGTV HD, TLC HD, Discovery HD and NHL Network HD.

Cox said, in a press release, that it will launch dozens of additional HD channels next year. Earlier this year, Cox President Pat Esser announced the MSO’s plan to offer 50 HD programming options by year’s end.

And Bresnan has rolled out nine new HD channels in all of its HD markets. The additions include The Movie Channel HD, Food HD, HGTV HD, TBS HD, The History Channel HD, USA Network HD, The SciFi Channel HD, Lifetime Movie Network HD and HDPPV, which includes GameHD and TeamHD. The Gospel Music Channel will be launched in SD.

TWC enhances Road Runner Turbo e-mail service
By Traci Patterson

Time Warner Cable is making enhancements to its Road Runner e-mail service for its customers. 

Road Runner Turbo—which will include additional mailboxes, increased storage, enhanced security and parental controls, an integrated address book and calendar, and sophisticated spam filters—will allow customers to better organize and protect their e-mail and enjoy access from any computer. 

TWC began to introduce the enhancements to all of its divisions earlier this year. 

Road Runner Standard now offers 10 mailboxes and 2 Gigabytes of storage. Road Runner Turbo subscribers can create up to 25 mailboxes and enjoy up to 5 Gigabytes of storage. 

Bristol Virginia Utilities rings up Integra5’s TV Caller ID  
By Mike Robuck

Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU) will bolster its triple-play offering by serving up a TV Caller ID service powered by Integra5.

BVU launched Integra5’s i5 Converged Services Platform (CSP) across its footprint, which includes Bristol, Washington County and Abingdon, all in Virginia. BVU is a municipally-owned utility with a telecommunications division, BVU OptiNet, which provides triple-play services over a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) architecture.

The TV Caller ID service, which BVU has dubbed OnScreen CallerID, displays the names and numbers of incoming phone calls on up to three TVs before the phone even rings. The application is free and automatically activated for BVU OptiNet customers who subscribe to a triple-play combination of telephone with caller ID, digital cable and high-speed Internet. BVU is also offering the service separately for a monthly fee of $1.99.

“Converged communications services are gaining momentum with operators of all sizes, and TV Caller ID is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the new services that consumers are ready and looking for,” said Integra5 CEO Meredith Flynn-Ripley, in a statement. “By deploying the i5 CSP, industry pacesetters like BVU are able to quickly and easily take advantage of more advanced converged services that span multiple devices – such as PC Caller ID, Visual Voicemail and Text Messaging to the TV – to stay ahead of competitors, forge lasting customer connections and secure their position in this rapidly evolving market.”

BVU OptiNet is considering other Integra5 services for deployment next year, including Visual Voicemail to the TV, Message Waiting to the TV and adding pictures to TV Caller ID.

Integra5 has been deploying converged services applications since 2004, including top-20 MSOs such as Knology and Wide Open West. 

Sprint CEO: Cancellation rate to improve in 2008
By Traci Patterson

Sprint Nextel’s acting CEO, Paul Saleh, said on Monday that he expects the wireless service provider's customer cancellation rate to improve in 2008 as the company works to boost customer service, according to a Reuters report.

The third-largest U.S. wireless carrier has been losing ground to AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

"I would expect us to show some steady improvement as we get into 2008, quarter after quarter," Reuters reported Saleh, also the company's CFO, as saying.

Sprint has been looking for a new CEO to replace Gary Forsee, who stepped down on Oct. 8.

The company has been criticized for its plan to invest $5 billion in the build out of a WiMAX-based network. Sprint is committed to moving ahead with plans to deploy the network, branded Xohm, but some analysts speculate that the company’s interest in Xohm is cooling, especially after the departure of Forsee.

Verizon plans to support Google’s Android platform
By Traci Patterson

Verizon Wireless plans to support Google’s Android platform, a fully integrated mobile “software stack” that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications. The first Android cell phones are expected to be available in the second half of 2008.

In November, Google – along with T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm, Motorola and other companies – announced the companies’ collaboration for the development of Android through the Open Handset Alliance. The alliance’s goal is to foster innovation on mobile devices and give consumers a better user experience through open standards.

Verizon, among other wireless giants, had been withholding support from the Android initiative. But last week, Verizon announced that it will allow outside mobile handsets, applications and other devices on its network by the end of next year.

Verizon’s decision to open up its network is expected to be a boon to smaller companies and developers, while also appeasing U.S. lawmakers and consumer groups who have called for wireless providers to allow outside devices and applications on their networks.

Broadband Briefs for 12/04/07

* Comcast promotes Maxfield, Wagner to VP positions
By Traci Patterson

Comcast Corp. has promoted Melissa Maxfield to VP of federal government affairs, effective Jan. 1, and the MSO has added Jennifer Yohe Wagner as VP of strategic business procurement.

Maxfield will oversee Comcast’s lobbying efforts with Congress. She joined the company in July 2003 as the senior director of federal government affairs in Washington, D.C. Wagner most recently served as VP of business affairs with Time Warner Cable. She will spearhead many of Comcast’s negotiations with technology-related vendors.

* Optimum Lightpath sees 90 percent growth in Ethernet revenue
By Traci Patterson

Optimum Lightpath, a division of Cablevision Systems Corp., announced that its business unit has experienced a 90 percent year-over-year increase in Ethernet revenue in the third quarter. The company transitioned to a pure Metro Ethernet strategy in January 2005.

According to the Insight Research Corp., the U.S. Ethernet services market is expected to grow from $940 million in 2006 to more than $5 billion in 2012.

* Bright House promotes Hyman to EVP of cable operations
By Traci Patterson

Bright House Networks (BHN) announced that Kevin Hyman, BHN’s Tampa Bay division president since 2003, will assume the role of EVP of cable operations, effective Jan. 1.

BHN’s Bakersfield, Calif., Birmingham, Ala., Central Florida, Detroit, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay divisions will report to Hyman.

* Synacor names Turner VP of product management
By Mike Robuck

On Monday, Synacor named Jim Turner VP of product management. Turner will be responsible for the development and implementation of product strategy and direction across Synacor’s product line.

Prior to joining Synacor, Turner was VP of digital media at A&E Television Networks, where he led the development and management of the company’s Internet, advanced TV and other digital media properties across the company’s brands.

* thePlatform promotes two execs to VP roles
By Traci Patterson

thePlatform has promoted two executives to VP posts. Alex Glass will assume the role of VP of operations, and Marty Roberts has been appointed to VP of marketing.

Glass has previously served as a solutions architect, as the director of customer service and as the VP of client services with thePlatform. Prior to joining the company, Glass worked as both a project and program manager with Digeo. Before coming to thePlatform, Roberts held product management and marketing roles at RealNetworks and GiftCertificates.com.

* TandbergTV’s DTT headend system goes to New Zealand
By Traci Patterson

Tandberg Television’s digital terrestrial TV (DTT) headend system has been selected by KordiaT and TVWorks for the delivery of the Freeview New Zealand DTT service.
 
New Zealand's Freeview DTT network will deploy the latest MPEG-4 AVC solutions to provide about 75 percent of New Zealanders with a new HDTV service, as well as SD programming. Trials are set to commence early this month, with a launch date set for early next year.

* Aethera Networks adds 13 VARs
By Traci Patterson

Aethera Networks has expanded its worldwide sales coverage with the addition of 13 value-added resellers (VARs) in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The VARs will address increasing customer demand for the recently introduced Aegis-V networking platform—designed for service providers, cable operators and wireless carriers—which delivers scalable, protected TDM and packet-based services over Carrier Ethernet and next-gen SONET/SDH infrastructures. 

The VARs are Neotronix SRL in Argentina, Triomhtec in Mexico, Dymeq in Chile, Instrumentacion in Columbia, Impelsa Inc. in Guatemala, Thai Transmission Industry Co. in Thailand, SC Telecom Korea, Commstar Communications in Hong Kong, Bluetooth Technologies in Malaysia, Communications Test Solutions (CTS) in the Middle East, Arabia Inc. in the U.K., Certacom in Italy, Azimuth Systems in Africa and Lambda Test Equipment in South Africa. 

* European Commission clears CommScope-Andrew deal
By Traci Patterson

The European Commission has issued an unconditional clearance for CommScope Inc.’s acquisition of Andrew Corp. The European Commission's decision was made within the standard statutory review period.

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