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Verizon Wireless plays full-court press on broadband

Wed, 01/05/2011 - 7:40am
Brian Santo

Verizon Wireless orchestrated an avalanche of product and service announcements demonstrating how very, very serious it is about competing vigorously in the broadband market with its new LTE network.

Verizon Wireless lined up a wide range of partners and customers, including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Hitachi and Panasonic, to leverage its national wireless broadband network for a range of applications that run from prosaic to innovative – everything from videoconferencing and collaboration services to networked jukeboxes to connectivity for cars and other vehicles.

Hitachi Communication Technologies America and Sierra Wireless stand out not for picking a specific application to leverage the Verizon network, but for enabling other companies to develop any number of products and applications.

Hitachi said its unified applications deployment platform, the SuperJ Applications Environment, for creating applications can operate on and be managed through the Verizon network.

Hitachi said it will be at CES showing applications it developed on its development platform. One is a home control server that manages home security and monitoring, automation and control, and energy management; another is a standalone LTE-enabled camera for remote security and monitoring. Other potential applications cited by Hitachi include energy management and health monitoring.

Sierra Wireless announced the availability of a module that OEMs can integrate into just about any electronic product to give that product LTE connectivity. Sierra Wireless suggested its AirPrime MC7750 embedded wireless module, designed to connect to the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE mobile broadband network, could be integrated into routers, netbooks, notebooks and tablet computers.

Commercial shipments of the AirPrime MC7750 are scheduled to begin within the first quarter of 2011.

Sierra also said it has collaborated with Harman to bring 4G/LTE broadband connectivity to the car. Harman said it will use Sierra Wireless' AirPrime to offer in-vehicle wireless connectivity, enabling high-bandwidth telematics, navigation and online infotainment applications.

In-vehicle connectivity is an ongoing theme with LTE. OnStar said it equipped a Buick LaCrosse research vehicle to show in-vehicle entertainment, communications and safety applications. These might include vehicle monitoring, impact detection, home monitoring and control, an Electronic User's Guide for the vehicle and video chat (e.g., Skype), among others.

TouchTunes Interactive Networks said it will leverage the Verizon Wireless LTE network in its fleet of Digital Jukeboxes nationwide. At CES, the company will demonstrate an LTE-connected jukebox and LTE-connected TouchTunesTV system. TouchTunes said it provides entertainment and marketing solutions to more than 45,000 bars, restaurants and retailers.

Connecting remote cameras is an obvious theme. Ericsson and Nomad Innovations partnered to provide a 4G LTE delivery system for the latter's LiveEdge product for mobile camera crews. The LiveEdge unit weighs 1.5 pounds and attaches to news cameras to enable live coverage for broadcast, cable or the Web, via high-bandwidth wireless and/or wired broadband networks. The device would replace microwave networks, live trucks, and satellite and production vehicles, with the potential to cut costs significantly. The product could also be used in education, medical, military and first-responder applications.

The basic idea of a remote camera was picked up by Panasonic also. The company announced a portable High Definition Visual Communications System (Mobile HDVC).  Panasonic cited the medical sector as one that may immediately find benefits. The company provided the examples of videoconferencing appointments, and of emergency medical technicians transmitting essential visual patient data from a remote location to awaiting teams in the ER so those teams can prepare.

Panasonic said its mobile HDVC solution is flexible and scalable to accommodate multiple display, camera and recording configurations.

Digital signage has become a thriving market for broadband connectivity services, and video kiosks in stores, banks, hotels and other locations are now common, but the MediaTile Co. has a new twist: video kiosks that allow consumers to directly contact a representative of the company providing a product or service to get information directly. The product, called the HumanKiosk with MediaCast Video Presence, leverages the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Broadband network.

Librestream's Onsight has a collaboration system that can now also use the Verizon LTE network. With the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network, the company said, field workers can stream high-resolution video, speak and draw onscreen with remote experts for immediate decision making.

"This combined solution provides our customers with a high-quality video collaboration experience to remotely inspect equipment, diagnose and repair problems, and, most importantly, improve business performance and velocity through location-independent collaboration," said Kerry Thacher, chief executive officer of Librestream.

Also at CES, Alcatel-Lucent will be demonstrating two video communications services that take advantage of the Verizon Wireless network.

A-L has what it's calling Augmented Reality Video Conferencing. Developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology through a sponsorship of the Alcatel-Lucent University Innovations Program, the experimental service provides a videoconferencing experience, which feels, the company said, "as if the person is looking at other participants through a window rather than viewing a computer screen."

A-L is also showing what it's calling Mobile Video Routing, which is the ability to deliver scalable, fast video switching and distribution. The specific idea is to enable the addition of video from a wide range of sources (webcams, cell phone cameras, IP cameras) into social networking applications.

Motorola Mobility's 4Home Connected Solutions is at CES using Verizon's LTE network to demonstrate real-time remote monitoring and control of consumers' homes and their energy consumption, all using smartphones as controllers. Services currently include energy management, home security and monitoring, home health and media management, the company said.

Verizon advertises 5 to 12 Mbps on the downstream and 2 to 5 Mbps up. Various organizations that have conducted speed tests and reported the results say Verizon's LTE network has occasionally achieved peak rates in excess of 30 Mbps.

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