BBH Report Home Page
September 15, 2004 Provided by System Dynamics Inc.

IN THIS ISSUE:

Heard on the Net

Briefly Noted
Updates, Observations and Trends

The New "Broadband Cities"

DSL Forum -
New Specs to Beat Cable

Upcoming Conferences -
Broadband World Forum and OSGi World Congress

Your Voice -
Readers' Comments


Heard on the Net

News about People and Companies Influencing The Broadband Home

People News

Bernard Aboussouan was named VP of Marketing and Business Development at Sequans Communications, a WiMAX fabless semi-conductor company. Aboussouan was previously at BeamReach Networks. ( www.sequans.com )

Ralph Brown, Senior VP of Broadband Access at CableLabs, has added the title of CTO. ( www.cablelabs.com )

Francois Le was appointed VP, Carrier and International Sales, and Mike Bailey was named VP, Operations at Tropos Networks. Le was previously with Aperto Networks and Bailey was at Nishan Systems. ( www.tropos.com )

Dave Davies was promoted to VP Strategic Planning and Development and Jeff Seebeck has become VP of Product Management and Development at Scientific-Atlanta. ( www.sciatl.com )

Shawn Lightfoot has been promoted to VP, Technology at Wi-LAN Inc. ( www.wi-lan.com )

Greg Peters has joined Mediabolic, Inc. as VP of engineering and Richard Bullwinkle has been hired as senior director of product marketing and chief evangelist. Brad Dietrich was promoted to CTO. ( www.mediabolic.com )

Michael J. Pristas was named Senior VP of Business Development for ACcess Broadband. Pristas was previously VP of Utility Solutions with the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. ( www.accessbroadband.com )

Normand Tremblay has joined Cirpack as Senior Vice President in charge of worldwide sales and business development. Tremblay was previously with Apple Canada. ( www.cirpack.com )

(Please email people@bb-home.com to report a change in your position.)


Company News

--Acquisitions

Cisco is acquiring P-Cube Inc. for about $200 million in cash and options. Separately, Cisco will pay $55 million in cash for Dynamicsoft and assume the vendor's $3.8 million in debt. ( www.cisco.com ) ( www.p-cube.com ) ( www.dynamicsoft.com )

Radvision has agreed to acquire the intellectual property and key developer assets of VisionNex Technologies (Beijing). A number of VisionNex employees will join RADVISION and will form the core of a new RADVISION China office based in Beijing. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. ( www.radvision.com )

Yahoo is acquiring digital music software and services provider Musicmatch in a cash deal valued at $160 million. ( www.yahoo.com ) ( www.musicmatch.com )

--Funding

Adaptix, a newly-formed manufacturer of broadband wireless product lines, secured a major round of funding from Baker Capital. Adaptix assets include the OFDMA patent filings and intellectual property of Broadstorm. ( www.adaptix.com )

Airspan has successfully completed a $29.2 Million private placement of preferred stock with Oak Investment Partners XI. ( www.airspan.com )

Speakeasy has received an undisclosed amount of investment from Intel Capital for expanding network endeavors related to WiMAX. ( www.speakeasy.net ) ( www.intel.com/capital )

Vonage, provider of broadband phone service, announced the closing of a $105 million series D financing. ( www.vonage.com )


Other News

ACcess Broadband LLC has been selected as the name for the joint venture formed by Cinergy Broadband, LLC and Current Communications Group, LLC to market broadband over powerline (BPL) technology exclusively to municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives in the US. ( www.accessbroadband.com ) ( www.cinergy.com ) ( www.current.net )

Homeportal, creators of a software-based system for delivery of services to the networked home, has changed its name to Extrada. ( www.homeportal.com ) ( www.extrada.com )

Intel continued its wireless thrust by announcing:

  • a tri-mode 802.11a/b/g wireless module for the Centrino notebook chipset. The new chip is called the PRO/Wireless 2915ABG Network Connection.
  • its first chipset with integrated WiMax (code-named Rosedale). The chip is sampling with early customers and will be offered as an option on the Centrino platform by 2006. ( www.intel.com ) ( www.wimaxforum.org )

Microsoft has launched its MSN Music online digital music store. ( www.microsoft.com )

Pace Micro Technology announced PVR2GO, a mobile personal video recorder (PVR) for payTV services. With a 5" widescreen display and a 40 GB hard drive, PVR2GO makes it possible to view conditional access protected digital TV content when and where a subscriber wants. ( www.pacemicro.com )

SBC Communications and EchoStar Communications are reportedly jointly developing a TV set-top box that will allow users to download movies, probably via a third-party movie-download service such as Movielink. The device also will have built-in DVR capabilities. ( www.sbc.com ) ( www.echostar.com )

Tandberg Television launched their High Definition encoding platform for MPEG-4 part 10 (H.264/AVC) and Windows Media 9 Series Advanced Profile at IBC 2004. The solution enables satellite and terrestrial broadcasters, cable operators and telcos to harness the power of the new advanced codecs to achieve real-time delivery of High Definition images at substantially lower bit-rates than MPEG-2. ( www.tandbergtv.com )

Tut Systems provided the most recent results of digital TV subscriber growth at its customer, Hong Kong-based PCCW, with 316,000 subscribers for its Broadband TV service which operates over fiber and DSL. PCCW has signed up approximately 30,000 subscribers per month since launching its digital TV service in September of 2003 and anticipates maintaining that pace through the end of 2004. ( www.tutsys.com ) ( www.pccw.com )

Unwired Australia Pty Limited has launched its wireless broadband service in Sydney, Australia using technology from Navini Networks. Unwired is delivering broadband services to both the Australian wholesale and retail markets. Unwired has targeted Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and other key regions in Australia for service expansion. Australia continues to be one of the leaders in deploying high-speed wireless broadband service. ( www.unwired.com.au ) ( www.navini.com )

--Standards & Alliances

The Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) introduced its Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) brand and announced the first nine products that support it. The capability is designed to improve the user experience for audio, video and voice applications over a Wi-Fi wireless connection. WMM offers the packet prioritization component from the upcoming 802.11e QoS standard, allowing packets which contain time-dependent data, such as audio or video, to be sent ahead of data that can wait a few microseconds. The first certified products include kits from Atheros, Broadcom, Cisco, Conexant, Instant802, Intel and Philips.

Separately, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced the first round of products that are Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ for WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2™). WPA2 builds on WPA, and is designed to provide stronger security protection. Products obtaining the first WPA2 certification included ones from Atheros, Broadcom, Cisco, Instant802 Networks, Intel and Realtek. ( www.wi-fi.org ) ( www.atheros.com ) ( www.broadcom.com ) ( www.cisco.com ) ( www.conexant.com ) ( www.instant802.com ) ( www.intel.com ) ( www.philips.com ) ( www.realtek.com.tw )

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance has posted a new FAQ section (http://www.homeplug.com/news/HomePlug-AV-BPL-FAQ-v2[1].01_FINAL.pdf) on its Web site to answer questions about the upcoming HomePlug AV specification and it new BPL effort. The HomePlug Access BPL Working Group is chartered to create a "Market Requirements Document" including a BPL specification and input into how resources are shared between in-home and access BPL uses of powerline technology. ( www.homeplug.com )


Briefly Noted: Updates, Observations and Trends

Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations that you might have missed. This month’s tidbits include online healthcare in Florida; an "area code" for broadband voice in the UK; Blending Mobile and Fixed Telecom and more.


Broadband Applications

Healthcare online

A Wall Street Journal article September 2nd proclaimed: "the doctor is online: secure messaging boosts the use of web consultations". Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS) of Florida is offering 3000 doctors the option to be reimbursed for online medical consultations, using secure password protected Web visits. It will be available to Florida patients this winter. Its goal is to encourage doctors and patients to conduct non-urgent healthcare interactions online and cut the frequency of expensive office visits--addressing an issue we have written about in past articles. Pilot programs have been held by eight large health plans including Empire BC/BS of New York. A study of the Stanford University School of Medicine noted that one system from RelayHealth cut total health care claims by over $3/month per member. ( www.wsj.com )

Broadband Voice gets "area code"

On September 6, 2004 Ofcom (The UK Telecommunications Regulator) published its approach to new voice services, including Voice over Broadband (VoB) phone services. Ofcom believes these new services will offer important benefits to consumers -- including innovative features and reduced costs. Ofcom's approach, which is to minimize regulatory burdens, includes: 1. Setting out the telephone numbering available for new voice services, allowing providers to:

  • Offer their customers geographic phone numbers (beginning with 01 or 02), making it easier to switch from a traditional service to a VoB service without having to change telephone number.
  • Offer their customers a non-geographic phone number beginning with a new code, 056, which would not be linked to any location and could be used anywhere in the country. 2. Publishing a consumer guide to new voice services. 3. Beginning a public consultation on the appropriate level of consumer protection measures which should apply to new voice services.

One of the interesting questions raised by this proceeding is whether businesses will want geographic numbers or will be interested in having a broadband voice "area code". According to an article in Boardwatch, Inclarity, one UK provider of Voice over Broadband (VoB) telephony services, has published research results showing that: -95 per cent of businesses would prefer to have geographic numbering for VoB services -85 per cent of these business would not take up voice over broadband services without it We are not clear how Inclarity's business is affected by these different options but Inclarity believes that geographic numbering is crucial for the development of VoB services.

( www.ofcom.org.uk/media_office/latest_news/nr_20040906 ) ( www.inclarity.co.uk )

Broadband Growth

Nielsen//Netratings reported that in July 2004 the number of people accessing the Internet via broadband in the US was 63 million -- for the first time exceeding the number using dial-up (61.3 million). Overall, growth for broadband connections rose 43% while dial-up dropped 13% on an annual basis. Analyst Marc Ryan said "We expect to see this aggressive growth rate continue through next year when the majority of Internet users will be accessing the Internet via a broadband connection." ( www.nielsen-netratings.com )

King bed and broadband, please

According to the "2004 Lodging Survey," from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), Internet connectivity is rapidly becoming an expected amenity in hotel rooms across the US. High-speed Internet connectivity in guest rooms jumped from 23% in 2001 to 50% this year, with the percentage even higher in higher-priced rooms. 88% of luxury chain hotels offer high-speed Internet access in guest rooms, 75% of upper upscale hotels, 73% of upscale hotels, and 54% of mid-scale hotels. ( www.ahma.com )

...and include a TV or stereo with that broadband

A new study published by Parks Associates states that "over 15% of all Internet households in the U.S. have a stereo or TV connected to their home computer. Further, 75% of households with these PC/CE connections play music on their PC through a stereo and over 40% have viewed digital photos on their TV." The study was based on an Internet survey of over 4,000 households. Editors Note: We wonder if the results would have been different if the study was done by telephone or mail instead of over the Internet. ( www.parksassociates.com )

Blending Mobile and Fixed Telecom

Over the last several months, the buzz level has been growing around how mobile and fixed-line telecom are coming together. In mid-July the Fixed-Mobile Convergence Alliance (FMCA) was formed by a group of six telecom carriers; founding members include BT, Brasil Telecom, Korea Telecom, NTT Com, Rogers Wireless and Swisscom. BT, which holds the rotating chairmanship for the first year, also announced that it was working with a number of major infrastructure and handset suppliers and operators to establish a new worldwide open standard for fixed-mobile convergence communications. BT had already announced its work on Project Bluephone, which will allow people to make fixed and mobile calls from the same handset. Similarly, KT has been working on One Phone (KT’s “DU” service).

In early September the next shoe dropped, with the announcement of the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) specifications by 14 participating companies, including BT and Rogers Wireless from the FMCA. UMA participants include telecom operators, infrastructure manufacturers like Alcatel and handset manufacturers like Nokia. Kineto Wireless, one of the UMA members, obtained $35 million in additional funding in June. It creates convergence solutions for mobile, VoIP and WLANs. By deploying UMA technology, "service providers can enable subscribers to roam and handover between cellular networks and public and private unlicensed wireless networks using dual-mode mobile handsets. With UMA, subscribers receive a consistent user experience for their mobile voice and data services as they transition between networks."

( www.bt.com ) ( www.kt.com ) ( www.rogers.com ) ( www.umatechnology.org ) ( www.kinetowireless.com )


The New "Broadband Cities"

Earlier this month, a news item from Philadelphia received lots of attention in the US. That city's ambitious plan to make wireless broadband access available over all its 135 square miles has made lots of people sit up and take notice. While some smaller cities have moved in this direction, this is the first time that a major US city has announced plans for city-wide wireless broadband.

Over the past two years, we've written from time to time about cities that have made broadband access ubiquitous -- or at least available over large swaths of their geography -- by deploying some form of wireless broadband. Last year, in "Broadband Anywhere: The Extended Broadband Home" (http://www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0308_4.html) we summarized many of the technologies--Wi-Fi, WiMAX, 3G and a variety of proprietary approaches--being used to provide broadband services in cities. In separate articles before that, we mentioned a number of locations offering area- or city-wide broadband access, using a variety of technologies:

  • "Afitel - Wi-Fi in Zamora" (http://www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0306_5.html#link5d) described an early city-wide Wi-Fi network in Spain (shown in the picture).
  • "ArrayComm -- Another Approach to Ubiquitous Wireless" (http://www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0212_12.html) described ArrayComm's iBurst technology now launched in Sydney by Personal Broadband Australia (PBA).
  • Clearwire in Jacksonville: A Wireless Case Study in Progess (http://www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0303_4.html) described Clearwire's initial launch in Jacksonville, FL using IPWireless technology.

In more recent news,

  • Clearwire relaunched last month using NextNet Wireless technology after Craig McCaw bought both Clearwire and NextNet.
  • Nextel is running a large-scale trial in Raleigh-Durham using technology from Flarion.
  • Unwired launched in Sydney using technology from Navini.
  • WiMAX is making progress, and many "pre-WiMAX" systems have received much recent attention.
  • 3G mobile systems, although slow to start, have now been deployed to over 118 million subscribers worldwide and deployment is accelerating in North America.

The market opportunity for city-wide or what might be termed "medium range broadband networks" is the focus of "The Portable Internet" (http://www.itu.int/osg/spu/publications/portableinternet/Portableinternetoverview_2004.pdf), a newly published report and presentation from the ITU. Released at the Telecom Asia show in Korea, the report focuses on the "market opportunity situated between the high speeds of fixed line broadband and the high mobility of 3G."


Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, the likely path involves placing thousands of small Wi-Fi transmitters around the city atop lampposts. The system would leverage Wi-Fi's popularity and use a wireless mesh technology. Such a technology, from Tropos Networks, is already deployed in Philadelphia's Love Park, Reading Terminal Market and anywhere on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The city has a Web site showing the current limited deployment (http://www.wirelessphiladelphia.net/?target=wheretouse&ipaddress=). The cost of the first-phase rollout has been estimated at $10 million with annual maintenance charges of about $1.5 million. We have not seen details of the financial arrangements for supporting the network, but have read that plans call for a mix of public and private funds.

What is different about this deployment is that its impetus comes from the city government as opposed to coming from a commercial company, such as Clearwire, seeing a market opportunity. The driving force for the project, according to Dianah Neff, Philadelphia's Chief Information Officer, is to make broadband available to everyone in Philadelphia for a very low price. The thrust is that all residents, including those with low incomes, should be included.

Advocacy groups for community (free) networks have existed in many locations around the world. Generally, however, they are Wi-Fi "clouds" that cover limited districts, rather than a city which is 135 square miles. Those who have "for pay" services in the city, such as Verizon, are not enthusiastic about this model of "broadband for free" just like roads and other city infrastructure--Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe was quoted in Investor's Business Daily as saying: "No one should have to give up trash collection or police patrols for free broadband."

There is clearly a broader issue than one city or municipality here. On the one hand, cities want to serve their residents well, especially those with lower incomes. In rural areas, the argument is often that there is no service or the prices are unaffordable, and having broadband access can make or break a town's development. On the other hand, companies that have invested a great deal of money and effort to provide communications services understandably think it is unfair for ventures sponsored by public money to come in and compete with them. This issue has been playing out in the US and many other countries and is far from settled in many geographies.

Although public policy questions are complicated, technology solutions are more straight-forward. Many technologies can be used to provide city-wide broadband networks. Each has some advantages and disadvantages, which must be evaluated against the particular location, objectives and business plan associated with it. The applicable technologies include:

  • Wi-Fi, sometimes combined with mesh networking
  • 3G technologies from the mobile carriers--Korea and Japan have been among the most aggressive to roll this out and the US is finally starting
  • Pre-certification WiMAX technologies (sometimes in combination with Wi-Fi)
  • Proprietary or not-yet-standard technologies, which are generally faster than 3G and are sometimes loosely termed 4G, such as those from Flarion and Arraycomm

( www.phila.gov ) ( www.verizon.com )


Wi-Fi Mesh Networks

We have written previously about many of these technology categories, but have not talked much about mesh networking with Wi-Fi. For those not familiar with it, the key attribute of a mesh network is that there is no central device that controls what happens. Instead, each node has radio communications equipment and acts as a relay point for other nodes. (The Internet is an example of another system without central control.) One advantage of mesh networks is high reliability--if one node goes down, others are available to take over. Some people question, however, whether mesh networks scale well, especially in dense urban environments. The concern is that as the number of users increases, the amount of bandwidth left for user communications -- as opposed to mesh overhead -- declines significantly. Some of today's mesh networking companies assert that their protocols are designed that the overhead does not become problematic. Since we have not measured traffic in real-world situations or seen a model of carrying capacity versus usage, we haven't been able to draw definite conclusions.

What we can note here is that since the time 802.11/Wi-Fi was first introduced, successive enhancements of the standard have enormously improved its performance. A great deal of entrepreneurial vigor is going into finding ways to improve and leverage this technology, given that it has gained such significant presence in homes, offices and laptop computers.

The other feature that separates different wireless technologies and systems is whether they work in licensed or unlicensed spectrum. Most of the low cost or free networks use the unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum, since there is no business case to pay for buying spectrum.


Current Projects and Technologies

To show the breadth of activity in this arena, we provide a quick snapshot of some of the projects that focus on this opportunity, the technologies they use and some of the recent product or standards announcements related to them. Our goal is not to make judgments, but simply to present some possible alternatives.

Wi-Fi "Clouds" and Wi-Fi Mesh:

  • BroVis Wireless Networks, (previously known as Air Manage Networks) is integrating technology from Atheros for an outdoor 802.11-based broadband wireless system destined for the Indian Subcontinent market. The Broadcell system also incorporates 802.11a capability that can be turned on in the future. ( www.brovis.com )
  • "Hotspot Amsterdam" is both the name of the service provider and a description of what its project is about. The first seven base stations are running and the entire city center will be covered by 40 to 60 antennas within three months. The project uses mesh networking from Hopling Technologies. The charging structure is 4.95 euros a day or 14.95 euros a month for a connection of 256 kilobits per second and 24.95 euros a month for 512 kbps service. ( www.hopling.com )
  • Chaska, MN (a southwestern suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul) has installed Tropos Networks equipment and covers the 16 square mile footprint of the community. The city says the service can deliver symmetric data rates of 1-3 Mbps, with mobility, but lower speeds may result when users are farther from an access point or when the usage of the system is very heavy. The service costs $15.99/month. It is provided by chaska.net, a wireless internet service provider (WISP) owned and operated by the city. ( www.tropos.com ) ( www.chaska.net )
  • In early August PacketHop and Nortel signed a joint marketing agreement. They plan to initially target the U.S. homeland security market, with peer-to-peer mobile mesh communications systems for law enforcement and public safety agencies. A joint solution combining the two companies’ products is scheduled to be offered in the fourth quarter of 2004. The public safety/homeland security market has been attracting more interest as it prepares to invest in new wireless technologies to improve public safety and security. ( www.packethop.com ) ( www.nortel.com )
  • Another technology partnership addressing both public safety and more general use applications has been formed by Motorola and MeshNetworks -- Motorola will integrate MEA (MeshNetworks Enabled Architecture) technology into its products. ( www.motorola.com ) ( www.meshnetworks.com )
  • According to Wi-Fi Planet and ComputerWeekly, Tropos and MeshNetworks have each teamed up with system integrators and are contenders for the New York City RFP for a proposed $1 billion wireless municipal network for emergency workers. The network would provide mobile users from NY police and fire departments and the emergency services with broadband access to mug-shot and fingerprint databases, building floor plans and other information.

Wi-Fi plus mobile service

  • Cellular providers such as T-Mobile provide both cellular and Wi-Fi hotspot service, including joint billing.
  • Mobile phone makers like Nokia are starting to add Wi-Fi to some of their handset models, allowing much faster Internet access when in range of a hot spot compared with GPRS and UMTS connections offered by mobile operators.
  • Both T-Mobile and Nokia are participants in UMA (see briefly noted: Blending Mobile and Fixed Telecom) signalling their intentions for more integrated services in the future. ( www.t-mobile.com ) ( www.nokia.com )

Wi-Fi plus pre-WiMax technology for backhaul

  • The Mantsala regional in southern Finland is being expanded to cover an area of over 800 km2 in the Municipality of Mantsala plus neighboring cities and municipalities.. The network is owned and operated by Mantsalan Sahko, the local energy company. The system combines Wi-LAN's pre-WiMAX technology and Radionet's Wi-Fi technology. ( www.msoynet.fi ) ( www.wi-lan.com ) ( www.radionet.com )

WiMAX

  • The WiMAX Forum continues to rapidly increase its membership, which now includes nearly 140 companies. Nortel and Lucent are the most recent companies to join the group. ( www.wimaxforum.org )
  • At its Developers Conference earlier this month, Intel Corp. announced that it is sampling its WiMAX chipset to "strategic partners" in preparation for a wide-scale rollout in 2005. Code-named "Rosedale", it will include the 802.16-2004 MAC and OFDM PHY, plus a security coprocessor, TDM controller interface for streaming data and voice, and a 10/100 Ethernet core. Intel also shared its WiMAX plans, which include incorporating 802.16 into laptops by 2006 and handsets by 2007. ( www.intel.com )
  • Fujitsu Microelectronics America said it is on target for an early 2005 launch date for a single-chip WiMAX solution that integrates both PHY and MAC functionality. They also said they are working closely with leading equipment and infrastructure vendors for deployment in base stations and subscriber stations. ( www.fma.fujitsu.com )
  • picoChip is providing complete software implementations for 802.16 (WiMAX) base stations to its lead customers. The solution, known as PC8520, runs on their currently available PC102 picoArray digital signal processor and will be generally available this December. ( www.picochip.com )
  • Speakeasy received an investment from Intel Capital to test to begin technical tests of WiMAX later this year. ( www.speakeasy.com )

Just as this was not our first article on making broadband ubiquitous in cities, we're sure there are many more chapters yet to come.


DSL Forum -- New Specs to Beat Cable

A July headline in Variety.com read “Telcos beat cable in broadband growth”. For the first time, North American DSL providers added more net residential high-speed data subscribers than cable operators, who had held the lead since the initial broadband rollouts.

The cable operators got out in front by embracing broadband as a new revenue opportunity, using CableLabs to create a standard set of buying specifications (DOCSIS) which drastically cut the costs of cable modems, and making broadband services available to most of their subscribers. The telcos were slow off the mark, each operated independently with different buying specifications, and were only able to reach customers fairly close to central offices. As a result, US cable operators captured about 2/3 of the broadband market, with the telcos getting about 1/3.

Recently the tide has turned as telcos fought back. The initial basis of competition was obvious: the telcos cut their prices. Cable generally did not join in the price-war game, but instead started using their plant capabilities to raise broadband speeds. New advances in DSL technologies allowed telcos to start raising their speeds as well.

After competition has gone thru the pricing and speed games, the next logical battleground becomes the fight over which is “better”. The DSL Forum has recently published new specs designed to change the rules of the game.

We've talked with people in the DSL Forum over the years, but until now we have not looked closely at their reports. With titles like "Recommendation for Physical Layer of ADSLs with a Splitter", they were very low-level specifications for the underlying DSL infrastructure.

In June, we received a press release from DSL Forum about several new specifications which seemed much more about home networking than DSL. That led to a telephone interview with Michael Brusca, Vice-President, Strategy, DSL Forum Board of Directors; and Distinguished Member of Technical Staff:DSL and Broadband at Verizon Communications. We also talked with Tom Anschutz of BellSouth Telecommunications, an active participant in DSL Forum and the editor of one of the key specifications.

In the interview, Michael told us about the new family of Technical Reports published by DSL Forum over the past year. After the interview, we took the time to download and read through the reports we had discussed. Taken as a whole, they represent a dramatic change in the role of DSL Forum -- from engineers defining the nitty-gritty of wiring and bits, to strategists defining what may well be the future course of the telephone companies.

We've been around the telecommunications industry for some time, and we remember reading reports like these published years ago by the old Bell Labs when AT&T was the US telephony industry (how many of our readers remember "BSPs"?). It certainly appears that DSL Forum is filling -- on a more-or-less volunteer basis -- the vacuum left by the inability of BellCore to play the role envisioned for it when AT&T broke up and BellCore took on the coordination responsibility for the network.

Michael walked us through the whole family of Technical Reports. They envision a multi-services network connecting multiple users in the home, working with multiple devices over a home network, to multiple services provided by a variety of service providers. These services all operate simultaneously over the same DSL line without getting in each other's way, and some have requirements for quality of service. The reports define the complete end-to-end architecture for this network, and specify the operation of each of the key elements -- eventually working down to a level of detail permitting formal testing.

What comes across loud and clear is the explicit goal of developing technology to compete effectively with cable. This is mainly a North American requirement -- outside North America, DSL is far ahead of cable in the battle for broadband subscribers. The telcos have already deployed a lot of expensive technology; the challenge is to put new technology in place while maintaining as much as possible of the existing underlying technology.

We'll describe the new strategy by reference to the reports, which are all public. The current versions of these reports, and many more, are available for download from .


Overall Architecture

The architecture is described in two reports, TR-058 and TR-059, both published in September 2003. Taken together, these establish the framework for the next generation of DSL services designed to meet the needs of network and application service providers offering a wide range of services to customers.

TR-058: Multi-Service Architecture & Framework Requirements (http://www.dslforum.org/aboutdsl/Technical_Reports/TR-058.doc) describes the overall architecture, the business rationale and the roles of the various players: Network Service Provider, Application Service Provider, Loop Provider and Access Network Provider. The key to the architecture is the provision of "many-to-many access through a common Regional/Access network" shown in the following diagram. A variety of services from many NSPs and ASPs pass simultaneously through a common interface to several users with different devices in the home.


Figure 11 - Many-to-Many Access (from TR-058)

TR-059: DSL Evolution - Architecture Requirements for the Support of QoS-Enabled IP Services (http://www.dslforum.org/aboutdsl/Technical_Reports/TR-059.doc) moves down a level and describes the reference architecture, including how QoS is provided for those applications which require it. It describes the need for several different kinds of QoS, ranging from a "turbo" button for a customer wanting to speed up downloading, differentiated services to provide priority for business customers paying more for DSL, to real-time applications like VoIP and streaming video which require tight control over jitter and packet loss. Since DSL is based on ATM and most applications today are based on IP, it defines how the IP QoS mechanisms are handled by the underlying ATM layers. Although the ATM infrastructure is "non-IP aware", it describes how traffic engineering of the ATM layer can support "IP-aware" functions in the network and the customer premises.


The BRAS, the DSL Gateway and the Home Network

Two devices play a central role in the new architecture: the "Broadband Remote Access Server (BRAS)" at the core of the network, and a "DSL gateway" at the customer premises. The BRAS is the connection point to the network and application service providers, while the DSL gateway is the connection point to the network in the customer premises. These two devices work together to implement the architecture of TR-058 and TR-059 while preserving the existing deployed DSL infrastructure.

The BRAS is defined in TR-092: Broadband Remote Access Server (BRAS) Requirements Document (http://www.dslforum.org/aboutdsl/Technical_Reports/TR-092.doc). Published a year after TR-059 in August 2004, TR-092 goes somewhat beyond TR-059 reflecting additional thinking about the supported services and their requirements. It envisions an elaborate regional server for large central office deployments: "A large CO device will typically support between 64K to 128k subscriber sessions and an aggregate downstream bandwidth of 2.5 Gbps."

Its peer on the customer premises is the DSL gateway described in TR-068: Dual Port ADSL Router (DSL Gateway) (http://www.dslforum.org/aboutdsl/Technical_Reports/TR-068.doc) published in May 2004. This document completely defines a residential gateway device down to the location, labeling and color of the front panel lights and the color of the ports on the rear.

Finally, the most recent report TR-094: Multi-Service Delivery Framework for Home Networks (http://www.dslforum.org/aboutdsl/Technical_Reports/TR-094.doc) describes how home networking completes the picture. It defines "a functional home networking architecture that permits multiple residents within the home to use multiple applications and devices with differing connectivity requirements (QoS) and at the same time minimizing poor application performance that could result from conflicting or competing application demands."


Next Steps

These reports, and others on the DSL Forum site, go a long way to defining the new architecture. We understand more reports are in process to further flesh out the new architecture.

Since the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA - formerly DHWG) has been working on many of the issues in TR-094, we asked Michael about the relationship between DSL Forum and DLNA. He told us that the service-provider members of DSL Forum have played a major role in defining these requirements, and that consumer electronics companies are now "recognizing where the service providers are going." While DSL Forum is not itself a DLNA member, he said "a group of DSL Forum members are working with DLNA."

Michael pointed out that the DSL Forum architecture "is useful not only for DSL - the same specs can be applied to any other access mechanism." As telcos roll out new flavors of DSL -- ADSL2, VDSL, VDSL2 -- and several variations of fiber including fiber to the home (FTTH), most elements of the new architecture can be applied.

Now that these documents have been published, the next step is for the telcos to write RFPs based on them and for vendors to respond. We have been told that the telephone companies participating in the DSL Forum are moving forward to implement this new approach; we note active involvement from Bell Canada, BellSouth, BT, SBC and Verizon. There may well be some changes as the telcos and their vendors iterate the requirements and the associated costs.

The new architecture suggests that the telcos' approach to the "triple play" may be very different from that of the cable operators. While it is not called "open access" it certainly comes close -- allowing many providers to offer whatever services they want to provide, over a common network, with whatever specific facilities they need.

A big unknown in this new approach is whether network and service providers really want to deliver the types of services contemplated in the new architecture -- and whether they are willing to pay for the network delivery services, especially QoS. There have been many discussions of the "open access" model, and many companies have been pushing for it for years. Now they should be willing to come forward and participate.

While the implementation of this new approach will take some time, and there will undoubtedly be some changes along the way, DSL Forum certainly appears to be providing its members with the framework for DSL to become a formidable competitor to cable. At the end of the day, results are what counts. We’ll all need to keep watching as the competitors contend for customers and their money.

( www.dslforum.org ) ( www.verizon.com ) ( www.bellsouth.com )


Upcoming Conferences -- Broadband World Forum and OSGi World Congress

Our travel schedule had originally called for time at both Broadband World Forum in Venice (September 20-23) and the OSGi Alliance World Congress in Barcelona (October 11-15). Some unplanned circumstances have forced us to cancel--but we hope that readers who attend or speak at these events will share their reactions.

Broadband World Forum

At Broadband World Forum, one of the talks we were particularly interested in will be by Alison Ritchie, Chief Broadband Officer of BT Group. The September 11-17 issue of The Economist included an article on broadband in Britain called "Another surprising success" which notes how over the last two years Britain has changed from being a "high speed laggard" to one where BT takes more than 40,000 orders per week and broadband is widely available. We'd love to hear Allison's view on how the turnaround was accomplished.

OSGi Alliance 2004 World Congress

Meanwhile, the OSGi Alliance 2004 World Congress is focused this year on "Convergence: Going Mobile, Driving, and Staying Home with OSGi Solutions." Last time we were in Barcelona we missed a visit to eNeo Labs, where they have a real family living in a connected home. The sponsors tell us that many of the innovations developed and trialed at eNeo Labs will be unveiled during the OSGi World Congress; eNeo Labs is sponsoring a tour of the home in connection with this event.

TelcoTV Conference & Expo

And for those who plan further ahead, don’t forget TelcoTV, November 16-18 in Orlando, Florida. TelcoTV Conference & Expo is the annual event where Independent Operating Companies, Telcos, LECs and CLECs gather information about offering "Triple Play" services over broadband networks.

Telcos are approaching the video services market with a new seriousness and new ingredients at their disposal. MPEG 4, new types of set tops and movie-download services are just a few of the assets they can use this time around.

We’re planning to attend to find out whether this might finally be the time telco TV happens (in more than isolated spots) for real.

( www.iec.org/events/2004/bbwf ) ( www.osgiworldcongress.com ) ( www.bt.com ) ( www.eneo.com ) ( www.shorecliffcommunications.com/telcotv04/ )


Your Voice -- Readers' Comments

Vincenzo Gullŕ, market director of Aethra, wrote to say: "I regularly read your news letter with great interest and I see that you often talk about Telemedicine. I share your view and believe that broadband will play a really important role in this field. ... Many years ago Aethra started to "play around" with telemedicine solutions, mainly based on video conference equipment, gaining a discrete interest from professional medical organizations. As the time has become more mature we decided to "play around" with home care solutions, based on low cost video telephony and electro medical equipment, all working over ADSL (H323 or SIP based). If you had the opportunity to be at the Supercomm 04 you might have seen our demo at the DSL HOME road show. In that occasion we implemented an ADSL link between a patient in Ancona, Italy and the doctor in Chicago, and see in real time vital parameters such as blood pressure, temperature, OS2 etc while talking and watching the patient with the video phone. We will make the same demo at the BBF04 next September in Venice." ( www.aethra.com )