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News summary for 1/03/08

Thu, 01/03/2008 - 8:40am
CED staff

Insight CTO Dietz to retire
By Brian Santo

Charlie Dietz, who has run technical operations for Insight Communications since signing on with the company in 1996, will retire effective Jan. 11. Dietz joined Insight as VP of engineering and had been CTO since 2001.

Insight provided no information on succession.

“Charlie and I first started working together back in 1973 at Vision Cable when I was a college intern and he was climbing poles,” said Insight CEO and Vice Chairman Michael Willner. “Since then, both the industry and Charlie have come a very long way. Charlie has been instrumental in our ability to achieve some of our most remarkable successes over the past decade. It was Charlie who rebuilt our systems, it was Charlie who tied disparate technologies together as we acquired more cable systems, and it was Charlie who spearheaded our early technical efforts to diversify our product offering and enable us to offer our three-product bundle. He will be sorely missed.”

Dietz led the company’s pioneering move into VOD and interactive TV (iTV) services – in partnership with Source Media and Diva in 1999 in Rockford, Ill., according to Insight. He also spearheaded the company’s launch of phone services in 2000, making Insight one of the first MSOs to provide circuit-switched phone, as well as making it one of the first cable companies to commercially deploy the triple-play bundle – video, telephony and high-speed data.

Dietz was credited with getting Insight back into data services within three months when @Home went out of business in 2002.

Dietz’s first job out of college in 1969 was with Vision Cable Communications in New Jersey; Vision was later acquired by Newhouse. At Vision, Dietz eventually rose to VP of operations.

Willner had earlier left Vision to co-found Insight, and when Insight’s chief of engineering decided to retire, Willner hired Dietz.

Insight and Comcast announced Wednesday the completion of the previously announced agreement to divide the Insight Midwest partnership in which each party held a 50 percent interest.

Motorola gears up for CES
By Mike Robuck

Motorola will be showcasing a host of products at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, including its first MPEG-4 set-top box (STB) for the cable industry.

The new STBs, called the DCX series, feature HD video and surround sound audio capabilities, as well as whole-home DVR functionalities, which allow video content to be played out on multiple DVRs in a home with a DCX box serving as the multimedia hub. The DCX will also allow customers to share their own multimedia content across multiple DVRs.

The DCX are hybrid boxes that have both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 technologies, which allows cable operators to transition over to MPEG-4 at their own pace.

"Based on more than 20 years of technology innovation in the video industry, Motorola's DCX product line will allow consumers to enjoy the latest video services at home," said John Burke, SVP and GM for Motorola's Digital Video Solutions group. "The Motorola DCX series brings today's applications to life, with the capacity to host new applications in the future, and enables cable companies to effectively manage the transition from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4."

Motorola will also be showing its next-generation Surfboard SBV5422 Digital Voice Modem and Integrated DECT Cordless Phone System at CES. The system is designed to deliver whole-home telephone and data services over cable's broadband connection to the home. The SBV5422 enables IP telephony, high-speed data and new cordless phone technology that Motorola said can be installed by consumers, which will help cable operators eliminate unnecessary truck rolls.

On the mobile video side, Motorola will introduce its Mobile TV DVBH-compatible DH01 device and mobile TV broadcast portfolio at CES. The lightweight, pocket-sized personal media player lets subscribers watch live TV, on-demand clips and programs saved on a DVR.

Lastly, Motorola has added the CPEi 100 to its portfolio of wireless WiMAX customer premises equipment (CPE). The CPEi 100 is a single data port, 2.5 GHz "plug-and-play" WiMAX device that delivers wireless broadband Internet connectivity. It is designed to sit on a desktop and serve as the interface between a computer and the WiMAX network.

NCTA names Assey EVP
By Mike Robuck

James M. Assey Jr., a former senior Democratic counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, has been named executive vice president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA). Assey will start his new job at the NCTA on Feb. 1.

He succeeds David Krone, who recently joined Comcast Corp. as SVP of corporate affairs.

"Throughout his professional career, James has demonstrated deep and insightful knowledge of telecommunications issues, as well as great personal integrity,” said NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow. “Widely respected on both sides of the aisle and at the FCC, James will represent our industry at a very high level.”

Assey served on the staff of the Senate Commerce Committee from 2001 until his departure at the end of December. 

Netflix hooks up with LG Electronics to deliver movies to TVs
By Mike Robuck

Netflix is joining the fray of companies that are offering up movies to customers’ TVs via Internet connections.

Netflix announced yesterday that it has teamed up with LG Electronics for a partnership that will stream Netflix movies and other Internet content to LG Electronics’ set-top boxes (STBs). Netflix said it would provide the video Internet service to its 7 million customers at no additional charge, but the two companies didn’t say what the cost of the STB would be.

With the availability of the networked LG product planned for later this year, Netflix subscribers can watch movies streamed from the Netflix Web site on their large-screen home theater HDTVs, in addition to the current capability to watch movies instantly on their PCs.

“Internet to the TV is a huge opportunity," said Netflix founder, Chairman and CEO Reed Hastings.

"Netflix explored also offering its own Netflix-branded set-top boxes, but we concluded that familiar consumer electronics devices from industry leaders like LG Electronics are a better consumer solution for getting the Internet to the TV."

The video-over-Internet field has become crowded over the past few years, starting with user-generated content on sites such as YouTubeApple introduced its STB device, called Apple TV, in March of last year, but a November study by Forrester Research said that Apple TV sales had been disappointing and that the company would be lucky to hit Forrester’s original target of one million devices sold in 2007.

Last year, Akimbo abandoned its plan of selling its $99 Internet video player. Instead, Akimbo is focusing on selling its VOD service through PCs and multi-use STBs, such as the ones used by AT&T’s Homezone service.

Apple has priced its STB at $299, while Vudu’s box is $399, although the latter was free for customers who purchased certain models of Sharp HDTVs last month and early this month.

Unlike some of its competitors, Netflix has a large library of video content with more than more 6,000 movies and TV episodes available for download on TVs and PCs.

ABI Research said in December that retail-based Internet video delivery devices have had difficulty resonating with consumers, but it still predicted shipments of 1.2 million of the devices this year.

2Wire intros multi-service home networking server
By Brian Santo

2Wire has a new home server, aimed at xDSL service providers, that the company claims is the industry's first fully integrated, multi-service connectivity solution. The system incorporates an ADSL or VDSL modem, high-speed router, firewall, integrated VoIP and a flexible home networking configuration.

Other features of the 2Wire platform include automated storage, backup and universal access to all media types, from purchased video to photos, music and user-generated video. Content and services are accessible via a single Web portal, whether at home or away.

The server incorporates the 2Wire Shifter, a feature incorporated in an adapter described as the size of a deck of cards. The combination makes the 2Wire home server interoperable with a variety of networked devices, including set-top boxes (STBs). It enables Web-based remote access of any multimedia content, including live streaming TV, to any content-capable device, including computers and mobile phones.

Microtune, Auvitek join for DTV converter box solution
By Traci Patterson

Microtune Inc. and Auvitek have unveiled a joint solution for manufacturers targeting the coupon-eligible DTV converter box program.

The manufacturing-ready system solution increases the time-to-market and time-to-certification for manufacturers, and it has already been implemented in two Sansonic DTV converter boxes (the FT-300A and the FT-300RT).

The Sansonic boxes have received certification from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and they will be on display at Auvitek’s suite during next week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

“Based on our proprietary and patent-pending Fade architecture, Auvitek’s DTV demodulator ICs, combined with the sophisticated high-performance TV tuner of Microtune, ensure the absolute best possible reception of digital television signals,” said Pete Birch, CEO of Auvitek. “Together, we enable digital TV converter set-tops to receive more channels, more consistently and more often for an excellent user experience.”

Broadband Briefs for 1/03/08

* Cox promotes McGuire
By Traci Patterson

Cox Communications has promoted Mark McGuire to VP of solutions delivery. He will oversee the teams supporting customer care and field services, engineering, billing, administration systems and the enterprise data warehouse.

McGuire joined Cox in 2001 as director of enterprise applications. Prior to joining Cox, he served as the CTO for MetalSpectrum.com. Most recently, he served as the executive director of Enterprise Applications at Cox.

* SCTE names Haigh Young Engineer of the Year
By Traci Patterson

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) has named David Haigh as the 2008 Young Engineer of the Year Award recipient. Haigh, 33, is a senior RF engineer for Midcontinent Communications. He will receive $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to the SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies (ET) 2008 in Los Angeles, set for Jan. 14-16, where the award will be presented.

The annual award recognizes an engineering professional under the age of 35 who has demonstrated outstanding achievement within the cable telecommunications industry, the SCTE said.

* APA Cables & Networks renamed Clearfield
By Brian Santo

APA Enterprises has combined its several operating units, among them APA Cables & Networks, and given the integrated group a single new name: Clearfield. The company offers fiber optic, optoelectronic and laser products. The new structure eliminates administrative redundancies, streamlines management functions and clarifies the operational focus of the organization.

* Broadcom bows new single-chip format for satellite STBs
By Mike Robuck

Today, Broadcom unveiled a single-chip, multi-format HD satellite set-top box (STB) technology that enables manufacturers to develop low-cost satellite STBs with personal video recorder (PVR) functionality.

The new Broadcom satellite system-on-a-chip (SoC) is manufactured in 65 nanometer (nm) process technology and features a dual tuner/demodulator and the latest generation of advanced video coding (AVC) decoder that supports multiple video formats. By reducing the number of components required to develop satellite STB products, Broadcom said it had reduced power consumption by more than 50 percent compared with competing devices.

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