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The December 20, 2004 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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In This Issue

Heard on the Net

Briefly Noted
Updates, Observations and Trends

Summing Up 2004

Portable Broadband
A Tale of Three Cities

Faster Powerline
An Interview with DS2

IPTV at FastWeb
Marketing Lessons from Europe

Upcoming Conferences -
Meet Us at CES, SCTE ET or WCA

Your Voice -
Readers' Comments


Heard on the Net

News about People and Companies Influencing The Broadband Home

People News

David E. Danielson was named VP of marketing for Bluesocket, Inc., and Jim Finucane was named VP of engineering. Danielson most recently was CEO of Altaworks and Finucane was previously with WAY Systems. ( www.bluesocket.com )

Tim Evard has been appointed to the newly created position of Senior VP and GM for marketing and applications products at OpenTV. In the past, Evard was president and co-founder of Time Warner's Road Runner business. ( www.opentv.com ) ( www.rr.com )

Tim Hanson has become EVP, Worldwide Sales and Customer Service for Cedar Point Communications. Hanson most recently had been with Accenture Ltd. ( www.cedarpointcom.com )

Sheena Hardy has been appointed ICTV's VP of International Sales, based in the UK. Sheena was previously Interactive TV Consultant for NDS Asia Pacific. ( www.ictv.com )

William Keating has been selected as CEO of Xtend Networks. Previously, Keating was with Nekei LLC. ( www.xtendnetworks.com )

Dan Maloney has been appointed head of Motorola's connected home group, when Motorola splits its businesses into four groups, effective January 1, 2005. The other groups are personal devices, networks, and government and enterprise. ( www.motorola.com )

Joe Parola has become VP of Cable Sales at General Bandwidth. Joe was previously with Jedai Broadband. ( www.generalbandwidth.com )

Douglas Sabella was named President and CEO of Veraz Networks. Sabella was previously COO at Terayon. ( www.veraznetworks.com )

David Robertson has been named VP and CFO for Narus. Previously, Robertson was the CEO and CFO of BeamReach Networks. ( www.narus.com )

Parminder Singh was named VP of worldwide market development for Ensequence. Singh moves to Ensequence from Microsoft. ( www.ensequence.com )

Gregory H. Smith is joining Mediabolic as Senior VP and CFO, and Robert W. Selzler is joining as VP of Marketing. In the past, Selzler was a VP at InnoMedia. ( www.mediabolic.com )

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


Company News

--Acquisitions

Conexant Systems Inc. acquired Paxonet Communications Inc., a semiconductor design services company, for $15 million in cash. ( www.conexant.com ) ( www.paxonet.com )

FiberNet Telecom Group Inc. is acquiring Consolidated Edison Communications Holding Co. from Consolidated Edison Inc. for about $37 million in cash. ( www.ftgx.com ) ( www.conedcom.com ) ( www.conedison.com )

Motorola is acquiring MeshNetworks. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. ( www.motorola.com ) ( www.meshnetworks.com )

Siemens AG is acquiring WLAN vendor Chantry Networks Inc. Terms were not disclosed. ( www.siemens.com ) ( www.chantrynetworks.com )

Tandberg Television is expanding its North American presence by acquiring N2 Broadband Inc. The deal, a mixture of cash and stock, is valued at $110 million to $130 million. ( www.tandbergtv.com ) ( www.n2broadband.com )

Yoomedia is acquiring iTV technology and media solutions company Digital Interactive Television Group (DITG), for £28 million. ( www.yoomedia.com ) ( www.ditg.tv )

--Funding

BroadLogic Network Technologies, a supplier of semiconductor chipsets to the broadband industry, has obtained $20 million in venture capital. ( www.broadlogic.com )

Casero, a software company that serves broadband service providers, secured $7.5 million in a Series A round. ( www.casero.com )

IP Unity received a Series E investment of about $2 million from the venture arm of Telus Corp. ( www.ip-unity.com ) ( www.telus.com )

Extricom, Ltd., a wireless LAN company, received $5.6 million in its second round of financing. ( www.extricom.com )

Gotuit Media Corp., which enables navigation of time shifted video, has secured $10 million in third round funding. ( www.gotuit.com )

Kontiki Inc., a software company that speeds digital content delivery, closed a Series C investment of $8.6 million. ( www.kontiki.com )

Orthogon Systems, a provider of broadband wireless equipment, raised $8 million in Series D financing. ( www.orthogonsystems.com )

Pando Networks Inc., a digital media sharing technology company, raised its first financing round of $4 million. ( www.pando.com )

Teknovus, Inc., a provider of broadband-access semiconductor chipsets, announced the closing of its Series B funding at $9 million. ( www.teknovus.com )

TeleCIS Wireless, a broadband wireless chipset maker, raised $4 million in second-round funding. ( www.telecis.com )


Other News

blinkx TV, a search tool company, has produced a beta video search engine that allows users to search the Web for selected video clips by keyword. Yahoo! has also entered this market, launching its test version of a similar service. Mark Opzoomer, the CEO of blinkx, was previously with Yahoo!. ( www.blinkx.tv ) ( www.yahoo.com )

CableLabs® issued a request for proposal that identifies a common set of product requirements for a CableHome®-based residential gateway. The gateway will include an integrated cable modem and router/wireless access device, and will enable delivery of value-added services for home networking and high-speed data subscribers, such as services requiring quality of service guarantees. The deadline for responses is January 31, 2005. ( www.cablelabs.com )

FastWeb announced the last step of the merger of FastWeb into e.Biscom. Formerly operating as separate companies, the merged company has taken the name FASTWEB and adopted a new logo. ( company.fastweb.it/index.php? )

Ikanos Communications entered the VDSL2 market with two new programmable chipsets. To support carrier migration to higher speeds, their new solution is interoperable with ADSL and VDSL and premises equipment. ( www.ikanos.com )

SBC selected Microsoft's IPTV software to deliver video services over SBC's coming fiber network. ( www.sbc.com ) ( www.microsoft.com )

Ucentric Systems and Entropic Communications are working together to create a combined solution for delivering whole-home digital entertainment networking over coaxial cable. Entropic provides the IP networking silicon chipsets and Ucentric supplies the software platform for sharing multiple HD, SD, DVR and personal media over a very high speed network. ( www.ucentric.com ) ( www.entropic.com )

Vonage, a Voice over IP provider, has partnered with Viseon to deliver videotelephony. ( www.vonage.com ) ( www.viseon.com )

Wavesat announced that it is shipping its WiMax baseband chip. Interoperability tests have not yet taken place. ( www.wavesat.com )

Wildblue issued an update on its satellite broadband services. During 2Q05, WildBlue expects to offer consumer service with a regional rollout plan for making access available across the continental U.S. ( www.wildblue.com )

--Standards & Alliances

The WiMAX Forum announced recent additions to its membership, including Lucent Technologies Inc., LG Electronics and Huawei Technologies. Recent service provider additions include AOL, Deutsche Telecom, SBC and Time Warner Telecom. ( www.wimaxforum.org )

The Zigbee Alliance has ratified the first ZigBee specifications for home networking and short-range wireless. The technology employs low data rates for applications such as sensor networks, monitoring and controls and automatic meter reading. ( www.zigbee.org )

-- Regulatory

US

The *Federal Communications Commission (FCC)" issued a Memorandum Opinion regarding a petition brought by Vonage Holdings Corp which agreed that a range of Internet Protocol services, such as VoIP, are not subject to state utility regulation. ( www.fcc.gov )

In a separate order, the FCC revised technical specifications in the 4.9 GHz (4940-4990 MHz) public safety band to support lower cost operations using existing wireless networking technology.


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 updates on Worldwide DSL growth, US fiber to the home and broadband anywhere.

Worldwide DSL adds over half a million subscribers each week

The DSL Forum and Point Topic's 3rd quarter 2004 results show that DSL has achieved 85 million global subscribers. The ten largest DSL population countries now account for more than 80% of DSL subscribers worldwide; the top five by DSL subscriber count are China, Japan, USA, South Korea and Germany. ( www.dslforum.org ) ( www.point-topic.com )

US Fiber Connections Growing

Render Vanderslice & Associates issued their latest report on Fiber to the Home/ Fiber to the Premise. It indicates that US homes connected to a FTTH network doubled in 2004 and the number of homes passed by FTTP more than quadrupled. It expects 2005 will be "a pivotal year" with fiber rollouts from service providers Verizon and SBC.

By Air or By Sea, Broadband Anywhere

SAS Scandinavian Airlines introduced Boeing's Connexion high-speed Web access on selected flights out of Copenhagen, with plans to equip its entire long-haul fleet by February. Meanwhile Lufthansa added Connexion to its Munich-Miami and Munich-San Francisco routes. Japan Airlines introduced the service on its flights between Tokyo and London and all Nippon Airways flights offer the service. Other airlines that have agreed to use the service include Asiana Airlines, China Airlines, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines. If you are flying a US carrier, you are probably out of luck for getting broadband right now. The airlines are under so much financial pressure that amenities like broadband don't seem to be high on their "to-do" list. ( www.connexionbyboeing.com )

Meanwhile the US FCC initiated a proceeding proposing new rules for putting satellite services on ships. The rules are expected to promote the availability of broadband services on cruise ships and other vessels. They implement the results of the 2003 World Radiocommunications Conference. The FCC also opened discussion on new uses of 800 MHz air-to-ground spectrum and have proposed an auction of spectrum for new applications.

Multimedia to cell phones

Video services are not just for TVs any more. As an increasing number of cell phone providers roll out higher speed connectivity, such service providers as 3 (Hutchison), Vodaphone and Sprint are offering an increasing mix of video content.

QUALCOMM has shown its interest in mobile video by announcing plans to build a $800 million US national network to provide multimedia to cell phones. They set up a subsidiary called MediaFLO USA to handle the project which will take an estimated 5-years to complete. The network will support 50-100 national and local content channels, including up to 15 live streaming channels and numerous clip-cast and audio channels. ( www.qualcomm.com ) ( www.qualcomm.com/mediaflo/ )

Twentieth Century Fox announced it will create a series of one-minute dramas based on its hit show "24" for wireless handsets, available through Vodafone. Vodafone plans to launch the one-minute episodes in the U.K. in January 2005. ( www.foxmovies.com ) ( www.vodafone.com )


Summing Up 2004

Year end is a good time to look back on what has happened and forward to what is coming.

2004 saw many of the trends and directions we have been covering moving toward the mainstream. A quick list includes:

  • Consumer broadband: projected to have more than 150 million residential subscribers worldwide by year end
  • Voice over broadband: VoIP offers are proliferating around the world, challenging traditional voice services
  • Converged networks: the increasing reality of voice, data and video services all moving over the same IP network
  • Home networking: consumers starting to take multimedia PCs as a given, and that home networking is nothing exceptional
  • Digital media: the increasing quantity and variety of media that are available in digital form, including music, photos, and the beginnings of streaming video

During 2005 we look forward to:

  • Mobile broadband: the early adoption of portable and mobile broadband, so that users on the road can get the same broadband services they now receive at home
  • The quadruple play: the new benchmark for service providers will be to add wireless mobility to today's voice, data and video services
  • "Whole home" networking; home networking capable of speeds approaching the 100 Mbps mark and capable of carrying the full array of voice, video and data services without compromise
  • Everything on demand: the increasing availability of on-demand content from service providers and from digital media stored in consumer's homes

And then there's our wish list for what we'd like 2005 to bring. Topping that list is ease of use: perhaps wishful thinking, for it often seems to be ignored, but we keep believing that one day we'll get it.

We look forward to continuing to hear from many of you with your comments and suggestions for coverage.

Finally, we hope 2005 will be a year of good things for each of you--health, joy and a more peaceful world!


Portable Broadband: A Tale of Three Cities

Back in about 25 B.C. Virgil said "Believe one who has tried it". We agree, so we try as much as possible to get personal experience with the things we write about. A recent trip gave us the opportunity to be in Raleigh, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and St. Cloud, Florida. That allowed us to try out three different forms of portable broadband wireless systems.

Our goal was to understand the different experiences and the types of users, usage scenarios, applications and costs that might fit with each system. We were not trying to do a quantitative comparison, although we did run some tests while looking at the various systems. We'll set the stage by first describing each system.


Nextel Wireless Broadband in Raleigh

In Raleigh, we met with Chris Baldwin of Flarion, the equipment supplier for Nextel Wireless Broadband . Flarion's technology enables truly mobile broadband--it can be used in a moving car (with someone else driving, of course). Flarion's "Flash-OFDM" technology is often grouped in the category "4G", and does not conform to any currently-approved standards.

Nextel's Web site promotes its wireless service for business use with the motto "Your office on the road". For consumers, the message is "Connect from anywhere".

Nextel's service is deployed throughout the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill geographical area -- known as "The Triangle". A map on Nextel's website shows the Triangle coverage area. Nextel has deployed an infrastructure of roughly 120 tower-mounted Flarion base stations; these currently support about 3000 users and could support many more.

Nextel desktop broadband modem kit --> Click for larger pictureNextel offers a variety of packages, differing in speed, number of email accounts and features--such as VPN connections for business, or family plans for multiple users. The packages start with "Lite" (750 Kbps downlink/200 Kpbs uplink, with a monthly usage cap of 150 MB) and move up through Standard and Deluxe to Platinum (1.5 Mbps/375 Kbps with no cap). The Platinum account gets "Platinum priority" while the Lite account gets none. Current prices range from $35 to $75 per month.

The system is designed to support users with notebook PCs. A new user connects to the service by installing a simple program and plugging a wireless PC card modem into her portable PC.

Although the system supports both portability (moving devices from place to place) and mobility (using devices while in motion), some portion of Nextel's customers buy it as an alternative to cable or DSL for use solely in their homes with a desktop PC. For that application, Nextel provides a "wireless broadband modem" which can be connected to a single PC or through a wired or wireless network to multiple PCs. For a family that wants to use wireless both at home and on the road, $75 buys a "2 unit family plan package" with a wireless modem, a PC card and two user accounts.

Antenna of Nextel PC card --> Click for larger pictureSitting with Chris in our hotel lobby, we installed the "Mobility Manager" software on our portable, plugged in Flarion's wireless PC card, and tried out the service. The installation was quick and easy, and we measured downlink speeds of about 1 Mbps and uplink speeds of about 200 kbps.

Of the three systems we tried during the trip, Flarion's is the only one specifically designed for mobility, with extensive investment in handling motion and making seamless hand-offs from one base station to another. After using the system in our hotel, Chris took us for a drive so that we had the opportunity to try out the service's mobile capabilities. While Chris was driving, we initially measured downlink speeds around 900 kbps and uplink speeds about 100 kbps; a little later, we saw downlink speeds fall to about 500 kbps -- still quite impressive. When Chris dropped us off at the RDU airport to head off on the next leg of our trip, we measured the lowest speeds of the day -- about 350 kbps; Chris said coverage at the airport wasn't as good as other places in the Triangle, since tall towers could not be built too close.

[Editor's note: The Sprint/Nextel merger announcement was made subsequent to our trip. While Nextel has been using Flarion's technology for mobile broadband wireless, Sprint had previously announced its plan to roll out its mobile data service using Qualcomm's EV-DO--the path Verizon has also chosen. What technology to use for mobile broadband wireless will be one of the many system compatibility and integration challenges that lie ahead for the combined company.]


Clearwire in Jacksonville

Since the last time we tried Clearwire's service in March 2003, almost everything about it has changed except the name and the spectrum being used. Clearwire was bought by Craig McCaw in April. In August 2004 they relaunched service in Jacksonville, using equipment from NextNet Wireless, also owned by McCaw. The first rollout had used equipment from IP Wireless.

Nate Stewart of Clearwire demonstrating their service --> Click for larger pictureWhen we expressed interest in the service and how it compares to fixed services such as cable and DSL, we were delighted to have Nate Stuart, a Clearwire sales representative, come to our daughter's house in Jacksonville and tell her why she and her friends might want to consider Clearwire for their broadband service. The field sales force brings a modem to a prospective customer's house so they can try the service under the conditions in which they will use it at home.

Clearwire has a range of offers, from 512kbps down/128kbps up to 1.5 Mbps/256kbps. Clearwire is not targeting mobile users; their current CPE consists of a comparatively large unit, which fits best with the surroundings of a desktop user. Indeed, two of their key target markets are the low-end home user who wants to switch their broadband service because it costs too much, and the dial-up customer who is willing to move to broadband if there isn't a big price differential. The selling point for their ClearValue offer at $24.99 a month is that it doesn't cost much more than dial-up--especially since they have a 3 month introductory offer for $9.99. Their highest price point offer is "ClearBusiness" which costs $65.99/month.

Clearwire's HomePlug modem --> Click for larger pictureClearwire offers a HomePlug wallmount Ethernet module (made by Asoka) to extend the service to other places in the house from where the modem is positioned to receive the best signal. This is a clever way to deliver on their promise of "broadband where you need it".

Jacksonville--the largest city in land area in the contiguous US--is not completely covered by Clearwire's equipment, currently situated at about 25 tower sites. They are broadening their local coverage by increasing the number of sites. Clearwire has already launched in more cities: on December 9th, service was launched in St Cloud MN and Abilene TX, and Clearwire's Web site indicates that Daytona Beach, FL is "coming soon".

Clearwire modem --> Click for larger pictureNate connected the modem to our notebook PC, and we ran some speed tests. Sitting in our daughter's dining room, we measured about 200 to 400 kbps downlink. Nate suggested we try closer to a window, so we moved the modem and the PC to the living room, where we measured 450 to 650 kbps down and about 130 kbps up. Nate used a tool on his PC to show us that we were about one mile from the nearest Clearwire tower, which has a 1.5 mile range.

The Clearwire service was slower and more variable than that offered by Flarion. However, despite the quantitative difference, streaming video (for example from BMWfilms.com) ran quite satisfactorily. This serves as a reminder that only techies like us go out and measure speeds--what counts for most users is the qualitative experience, not quantitative measures.


Municipal Wi-Fi in St Cloud, Florida

Cyber Spot sign in St. Cloud --> Click for larger pictureExtensive publicity about several municipal Wi-Fi projects--see for example our article on Philadelphia--has resulted in what seems like a "bandwagon" effect. The St. Cloud "Cyber Spot" project came to our attention when Jonathan Baltuch, who is deeply involved in the project implementation, contacted us. Jonathan is one of our readers and was kind enough to inform us about this project, which has been on the drawing boards for about 1 1/2 years.

This deployment is quite different in concept and implementation from the two discussed previously:

  • St. Cloud is much smaller: about 11.25 square miles with a population of roughly 23,7000.
  • It is being run by the city itself, not by a private corporation.
  • It is being run as a free service. The rationale is that it is a public service, will stimulate economic development, and addresses the "digital divide". The system is being used by St. Cloud police patrol cars in addition to the general public.
  • It does not cover the entire city. The pilot project is confined to a "hot zone" which covers an area of 12 square blocks of downtown and the lakefront about half a mile away.
  • The system operates in unlicensed spectrum with Tropos Networks Wi-Fi technology mounted on light poles. The other two systems operate in licensed spectrum from cellular towers.

Tropos unit mounted on top of light post --> Click for larger pictureDave visited St. Cloud and walked around for several hours, testing the service at many locations. He measured typical speeds of 1.0 to 1.3 Mbps down and 300 kbps up in the downtown coverage area and at the "gazebo" at the lakefront. Several blocks away from the designated service areas shown on the city web page, he measured about 300 kbps down. These speeds were measured outdoors, unlike the Triangle and Jacksonville measurements, since the objective of the Cyber Spot project is "to flood the outdoor areas with a strong signal."

The St. Cloud city council has approved the next phase of the broadband wireless project, which involves investigation of expanding Wi-Fi coverage city-wide. Jonathan expects they will have developed the business model and costs and bring it up for a vote before the city council in March 2005. If it goes as expected, the city wide project will be operational by summer 2005.


Comparisons

Our goal was to examine the three systems from a qualitative and user perspective. Here's a summary that captures some of the key similarities and differences.

( www.flarion.com ) ( www.nextelbroadband.com ) ( www.clearwire.com ) ( www.nextnetwireless.com ) ( www.stcloud.org ) ( www.tropos.com )


Faster Powerline: An Interview with DS2

Following our recent article on powerline communications The Power of Powerline : HomePlug, Intellon and Corinex, we learned that a new 200 Mbps powerline networking chipset family from DS2 had been announced as a CES Innovations Honoree for 2005. DS2 (Design of Systems on Silicon, S.A.) is a "silicon design house" focused on powerline networking, based in Valencia, Spain. DS2's technology for broadband over powerline (BPL) was described in a guest article Spain Plugs Into Broadband by Antonio Gomez of Tecnocom.

We recently talked on the phone with Jorge Blasco, DS2's CEO, to learn more about the company and the new chip. We were especially interested in the relationship of DS2's new chip with HomePlug AV and HomePlug BPL, and with the recent announcement of an 85 Mbps chip from Intellon.

Jorge said DS2 is a member of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance board of directors, and is participating in field trials with other HomePlug members. But--as we heard from Intellon and reported earlier--Jorge said the market is ready for much higher speed powerline networking products: "We're a pragmatic company, and cannot wait. We have a 200 Mbps part now; how many months will it take HomePlug AV to go from a paper spec to silicon? If it comes, and comes in time, and makes it, we'll do it." .

He said the new chip is designed for home multimedia applications. It operates at a physical rate of 200 Mbps, and has a "net throughput after taxes of more than 100 Mbps. It will reach the most remote plug in a big American house and still have 20 to 25 Mbps after tax."

The chip is specifically designed for video and voice networking. It has low latency (about 10 milliseconds), low jitter (less than 100 milliseconds), a low packet error rate, and includes a priority-based QoS conforming with IEEE 802.1q. And it supports IP multicasting, allowing a set top box to send a single IP video stream simultaneously to multiple TVs.

DS2 for BPL

DS2's chips are the core of many powerline networking systems used for broadband access over power lines (BPL). As we described in HomePlug AV and BPL, the "coexistence" between BPL and PLC for home networking is one of the key issues HomePlug plans to address with its new HomePlug BPL effort. Jorge said "we've already solved the interoperability problem." He said DS2's chips conform with ETSI specification TS 101867 for coexistence (sharing) arrangements between in-house and last-mile systems. "This permits the maximum aggregated data rate for neighbors and for access BPL."

He explained this needs to work adaptively, using "differing frequencies in differing topologies" since countries use different standard wiring schemes. The DS2 chips select appropriate operating frequencies and power levels to provide the highest performance to connected devices, with the lowest interference with neighbors. In Spain, electrical cables run from each flat to the bottom floor ("floor 10 to floor 0"), which helps to isolate the flats from one another. In France and Italy, cables run from each apartment to a distribution point on each floor ("floor 10 to floor 10"), creating higher potential for interference. Because higher frequencies don't travel as far as lower ones, the DS2 chips will select lower operating frequencies in Spain, and higher frequencies in France and Italy.

We asked Jorge which companies have used DS2 chips in BPL products, and he mentioned many leading companies including Sumitomo and Mitsubishi in Asia; Schneider Electric and Ascom in Europe; and Amperion and Ambient in North America.

DS2 and Intellon--the leading makers of chips for powerline networking--both believe that the time has come to create "whole home" networks operating over the existing electrical wiring. Both have decided to bring chips to market in advance of industry standards, expecting that consumer electronics companies will incorporate their chips in consumer products.

Jorge said DS2 will be on the floor at CES, and several companies will be demonstrating products based on DS2 chips. We're looking forward to seeing them there and reporting on them in the next issue.

( www.ds2.es ) ( www.homeplug.org )


IPTV at FastWeb: Marketing Lessons from Europe

We were unable to attend this fall's TelcoTV conference in Orlando, and were disappointed to miss the session "Successful Marketing Lessons from Europe". This session featured Francesca Mari, Director, Marketing and iTV Services of FastWeb in Italy, and Ervin Leibovici, CEO of Bitband. BitBand, based in Israel, provides its Vision™ video servers to FastWeb, and together they have many years experience with VOD over FTTH and ADSL.

We have previously written about FastWeb (see Fastweb's Success: Innovation Plus Results) and BitBand (see VOD Over Broadband - BitBand Inc.), and were very interested in hearing about their shared experience with VOD.

Leibovici was kind enough to provide the following summary, capturing some of the key take-aways discussed in the session:


"FastWeb, Italy’s leading provider of commercial converged triple-play services via FTTH and ADSL, recognized the great potential of VOD and is now a world leader with greater than 450,000 subscribers in more than ten major Italian cities and some 25 percent penetration of IP-TV. The joint European experience of FastWeb and BitBand proves that VOD for IP-TV is real and profitable. By deploying VOD, FastWeb has been able to quickly move into new markets and achieve sustainable higher levels of customer satisfaction, resulting in faster return on investment cycles.

Video Via Broadband – The Building Blocks

Commercially successful IP-TV depends mainly on offering and marketing to the consumer the right mixture of content, including new and popular movies and TV series. To achieve a compelling user experience via its FTTH and DSL infrastructures, FastWeb has chosen a solution which is scalable, offers quality of service and allows easy integration into its existing hardware and software environment. BitBand provides FastWeb with this combination through its video servers which can be scaled to the customer’s service characteristics, such as initial number of streams and amount of content, and their growth patterns.

BitBand servers at FastWeb --> Click for larger pictureBuilding upon these characteristics, FastWeb launched its VOD services in 2001 using a cluster of 1U BitBand Vision 190 servers integrated with FastWeb’s own iTV application. In a short time, scaling the system by clustering, it grew into large clusters distributed in four cities.

When FastWeb launched ADSL services in addition to its original services over fiber, one of the requirements was to refrain from doubling the server infrastructure and employ the same content from the same servers for all subscribers, connected by fiber or ADSL alike. Indeed, in August 2003, FastWeb made all of its services available to all subscribers.

Creativity in Marketing – Focus on Innovation and Differentiation

FastWeb's main focus in marketing its offering has been service innovation and differentiation. FastWeb provides its services to all market segments (large, medium and small sized business, small offices and home offices, residential clients) in the main Italian cities of Milan, Rome, Turin, Genoa, Naples, Bologna, Padova, Reggio Emilia and Bari. VOD services offer more than 5,000 online titles on-demand, with new programs available on a weekly basis. This is a combination of prime studio content provided by e.BisMedia, and the RAI video archive (RAI Click). FastWeb integrates these services with an Electronic Program Guide (EPG) containing all the information on current and upcoming programs and a virtual network video recording system (VideoRec).

FastWeb customers receive constant updates on the TV offerings through various marketing tools such as the online program guide, search engines, monthly paper guide distributed to all subscribers and available in stores, and a newsletter notifying customers of new premium content available.

FastWeb Today

FastWeb cities in Italy --> Click for larger pictureFastWeb is a world-leading, new-generation service provider, with a half million subscribers in more than ten major cities in Italy and more than 25 percent penetration of IP-TV. It is a fast growing and successful business, attracting subscribers with its compelling offering of triple-play services, based on leading edge technologies."

( company.fastweb.it/index.php? ) ( www.bitband.com )


Upcoming Conferences -- Meet Us at CES, SCTE ET or WCA

In January, we're moderating a session at CES, speaking in two sessions at SCTE Emerging Technologies and attending the WCA conference.

At The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we've organized and Dave is moderating a conference session "Broadband on Steroids" on January 6 at 3:00. The session will cover MIMO/802.11n (the next generation of Wi-Fi), WiMAX and Wireless USB.

At the SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies (ET), we're speaking about new wireless technologies in two conference sessions on Wednesday, January 12:

  • Sandy is speaking on "Wi-Fi, WiMAX, Why Care?" in the session "Did Somebody Say ‘Competition’?" 9:45 am - 11:30 am.
  • Dave is speaking on "Wireless Technologies in the Home - The Invisible Cable Plant" in the session "Emerging Wireless Technologies– Friend or Foe?" 3:45 pm – 5:30 pm.

Finally, we'll be at WCA's 11th Annual International Symposium & Business Expo, the annual winter conference and exhibition of the wireless broadband industry.

If you're attending any of those conferences, please look us up.

There's lots more coming in the new year:

  • For those of you interested in IPTV and can get to London, note that IPTV World Forum will take place 8/9th March at Earls Court, London.
  • In April, we're looking forward to San Francisco and NCTA's National Show, 3/5 April.

  • Your Voice -- Readers' Comments

    We heard from one reader about IPTV in Manitoba, and from another about a new collaborative project on MIMO and QoS.


    Update on IPTV in Manitoba

    Roy Sherbo, Vice-President of MTS TV, sent us "a brief update of MTS TV's progress. We now have exceeded 28,000 customers as of a couple of weeks ago, which exceeds our year end target. That represents over 15% penetration and over 10% market share in our serving area of Winnipeg. This all in just over 1-1/2 years. Our network build also continues ahead of target with over 66% of Winnipeg eligible for this service at the end of September, also our year end objective.

    We have just launched our first truly interactive service, which we call MTS Centre On Demand. Available November 8, our customers can get information on a new arena about to be opened called the MTS Centre. This venue hosts our primary hockey team and will be the premiere venue for concerts and other similar special events. Currently information is text, graphics and still photos. Into 2005 we plan on adding video from a VOD server. I think looking forward, on demand services whether video or interactive are going to be a major differentiator for TV based services.

    We continue to be pleased with the progress we have made and our overall customer interest and satisfaction with the service."


    QoS and MIMO

    After reading our recent article on The Digital Living Network Alliance, Peter Thompson wrote from the UK: "I have read your latest report with great interest, and particularly agree with you on your statement that QoS is one of the critical missing pieces for achieving true wireless multimedia services in a home network (or indeed any network which runs multiple real-time and non-real-time applications).

    I am Chief Scientist at U4EA Technologies, a UK-based specialist QoS company I helped to found after a career in the semiconductor industry and commercial research.

    You may be interested to know that U4EA is a partner in Osiris, a collaborative project that is developing a highly efficient and reliable broadband wireless home networking solution using advanced Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) radio technology as well as integrated QoS between radio and traditional networks. Other partners in Osiris include Sony's competitor Toshiba (who are interestingly not a member of the DLNA), QinetiQ (formerly DERA, a major contractor for the British Ministry of Defence) and the University of Bristol, England, who have a strong reputation in wireless technology."


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