In This Issue
The Open Systems Dilemma
Your Voice -
Matthew J. Aden has been named Senior VP of Worldwide Sales and Customer Service at Terayon. He was previously with Motorola’s Connected Home Solutions business. ( www.terayon.com )
David Brott has been appointed CEO of Meedio. Brott was formerly with DivX. ( www.meedio.com )
Andre Chartrand has been appointed VP of engineering at Entropic Communications Inc. Chartrand was previously with TranSwitch Corp. ( www.entropic.com )
Mike Fidler has been named CEO of Digeo and Greg Gudorf has been named President and COO. Both Fidler and Gudorf were previously with Sony. ( www.digeo.com )
Manish Gupta has been named VP of marketing and alliances for Aperto. Prior to joining the company he was with Megisto Systems. ( www.apertonet.com )
Ron Harden has joined VoX as EVP-Sales & Marketing. He was previously with Volo Communications ( www.voxcorp.net )
Al Johnson has been named VP, Technology and Advanced Architectures at Xtend Networks. Johnson was previously with Cablevision Systems Corporation ( www.xtendnetworks.com )
David Leonard has joined WildBlue Communications as CEO. Leonard was previously with Liberty Global. ( www.wildblue.com )
Jeff Miller has been promoted to President and CEO of ICTV. Miller was previously Senior VP of engineering. ( www.ictv.com )
Judith Muhlberg has been appointed Senior VP of corporate communications for Sprint Nextel Corp. Muhlberg previously served as a consultant for privately-held Gagen MacDonald. ( www.sprint.com )
Alan Scott has been named General Manager, Europe, for Eyeball Networks. Scott was previously with Intrinsyc Software. ( www.eyeball.com )
Neil Smit has been appointed CEO of Charter Communications. Smit was previously with AOL. ( www.charter.com )
Mark F. Spagnolo has been appointed CEO of AirBand Communications, and Jim Timmer was named CFO. Spagnolo was previously CEO of Broadwing Communications and Timmer was at Birch Telecom.( www.airband.com )
John D. Waclawsky has been appointed cross product software architect for Motorola. He was previously at Cisco. ( www.motorola.com )
(Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to report a change in your position.)
Cisco is acquiring Denmark-based KiSS Technology A/S, a provider of networked entertainment devices. The company will become part of Cisco's Linksys division. The acquisition was valued at about $61 million in cash. ( www.cisco.com ) ( www.kiss-technology.com )
eBay has agreed to buy Skype Technologies for $1.3 billion in cash and $1.3 billion in stock, with up to an additional $1.5 billion more if Skype meets financial targets by 2008 or 2009. ( www.ebay.com ) ( www.skype.com )
Intelsat is acquiring PanAmSat for $3.2 billion. The press release indicates the consolidated company will provide "Expanded Delivery of HDTV, Broadband and IPTV". ( www.intelsat.com ) ( www.panamsat.com )
Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd announced that Vision Technologies Electronics, part of their US headquarters, is acquiring iDirect Inc. for $165 million. ( www.stengg.com ) ( www.idirect-tech.com )
Akros Silicon, focused on enabling intelligent appliances, has raised $9 million in its first round. ( www.akrossilicon.com )
Cedar Point Communications, a provider of telephony solutions for cable operators, has raised $15 million in additional financing. ( www.cedarpointcom.com )
DiBcom, a French provider of mobile TV chipsets, obtained $30 million in its fourth round of financing. Intel Capital was one of the investors. ( www.dibcom.net )
Ellacoya Networks has raised $13.5 million in the second round financing. ( www.ellacoya.com )
Gracenote, a provider of media recognition technology, has raised $10.9 million in Series E financing. ( www.gracenote.com )
Inlet Technologies, a provider of content encoding solutions, has closed a $5 million B round of financing. ( www.inlethd.com )
Intellon, a provider of powerline communications chips, has raised $24.5 million in new equity financing. ( www.intellon.com )
Unwired Australia received $27.9 million in funding from Intel Capital to expand its services beyond Sydney. The companies agreed to jointly promote WiMAX mobile broadband capabilities throughout Australia. ( www.unwired.com.au )
Veoh Networks, which bills itself as an Internet Television Peercasting Network, has completed Series A financing. ( www.veoh.com )
Blinkx is offering a free search service that scans video and audio content from the Web, content partners and user-generated sources and delivers the shows to a user's computer. Program content has been expanding and is processed by their automated finding, transcribing and indexing technologies. ( www.blinkx.com )
Cablelabs announced that its Open Cable Applications Platform (OCAP) has reached a milestone with the certification of a Samsung OCAP-enabled, two-way interactive digital TV set. Previous Open Cable certifications have been for one-way devices. The OCAP goal is to have a common platform, available at retail, for deploying interactive services. ( www.cablelabs.com ) ( www.samsung.com )
Intellon is supplying its HomePlug 1.0 chipset to Motorola for use in Motorola’s Powerline LV (low-voltage) Broadband over Powerline (BPL) solution for the utility market. The solution combines wireless to the utility pole with low-voltage PLC into the home. Motorola Ventures has also participated in Intellon’s Series B equity financing round. ( www.intellon.com ) ( www.motorola.com )
Separately, Intellon announced that BPL service provider Current Communications Group, selected Intellon’s HomePlug 1.0 with Turbo chipset for the company’s BPL product line. ( www.intellon.com ) ( www.currentgroup.com )
TelEvolution has announced PhoneGnome, a SIP-compliant appliance that connects to the owner's traditional phone service, and augments it with free calling and advanced VoIP capabilities over a broadband connection. The user retains their original phone number, phone, 911 and directory services. ( www.phonegnome.com )
Vonage announced it has exceeded one million lines in service on its network. ( www.vonage.com )
Standards and Forums
The FLO Forum was announced by its members and is headed by Qualcomm and others. Its goal is the standardization, equipment compliance and certification for Forward Link Only technologies, intended for terrestrial mobile multimedia delivery to wireless devices. ( www.floforum.org ) ( www.qualcomm.com )
The HomePlug Powerline Alliance has finalized its specification for HomePlug AV, the powerline standard for distributing multimedia entertainment content in the home. The standard is designed to enable simultaneous HD and SD video distribution, whole-house audio, VoIP traffic management and data networking. ( www.homeplug.org )
The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) has added Verizon and Cox Communications to its board of directors. MOCA now has Tier 1 members from the cable, satellite, telecom, networking equipment, consumer electronics and retailer segments. They position MoCA as a high-speed, reliable home network to connect digital services to TVs, set top boxes, and other entertainment devices. ( www.mocalliance.org )
US: The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to classify phone companies' broadband operations as an "information service". This is the same classification applied to cable modem services. After a one-year transition, phone companies DSL services will be exempt from "common carrier" rules, which currently require them to share their infrastructure with competitors. ( www.fcc.gov )
UK: Ofcom's Communications Market report showed that 2005 was the year in which the number of UK households and businesses with broadband (almost 30%) exceeded those with dial-up internet connections. ( www.ofcom.org.uk )
EU: A recent decision by the European Commission, to be implemented by the end of October, will open up a significant amount of radio spectrum throughout the European Union for wireless access systems. The decision makes two frequency bands (5150-5350 MHz and 5470-5725 MHz) available in all member states for wireless access systems and includes provisions for advanced spectrum management.
Australia: The Australian government has allocated an additional $37.4 million to fund its program to bring broadband to rural areas of the country. The Higher Bandwidth Incentive Scheme (HiBIS) program has reportedly spurred deployment of broadband in the bush so that penetration adoption in regional Australia "is keeping pace with metropolitan areas—about 20 per cent and growing."
New Zealand: New Zealand Telecom and Alcatel have announced a project to build the IP Voice platform for Telecom's Next Generation Network. The first residential customers will migrate onto the new network by early 2007 and all of New Zealand's 2.2 million customer lines are expected to be transitioned to the new platform in 2012. A consumer Next Generation Voice Trial is has begun, with 120 customers. ( www.telecom.co.nz ) ( www.alcatel.com )
India: A research center in India, for broadband and WiMAX technologies, has been announced. The center is 49-percent owned by the Indian government's Centre for Development of Telematics (C-Dot) and 51-percent owned by Alcatel. ( www.cdot.com ) ( www.alcatel.com )
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations that you might have missed. This month we feature Katrina's aftermath, Verizon's Broadband campaign and a mobile TV trial in Finland.
For those of us who have attended many conferences at the New Orleans convention center, the post-Katrina TV images were hard to connect with our memories of the place. Our hearts go out to any of our readers who have been affected by this tragedy.
We want to thank all those in our industry who have contributed labor and equipment for creating and restoring the area's communications infrastructure. For example, wireless broadband networks based on Wi-Fi and pre-WiMax technologies are being set up for emergency crews in several of the affected areas. Financial contributions are sorely needed and can be made to the Red Cross.
Verizon's Broadband Push
To judge from the TV ads in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, Verizon is laser focused on broadband. Verizon Mobile's ads show a variety of comical problems using Wi-Fi at hotspots. They push the virtues of BroadbandAccess, their EV-DO based mobile solution, and the recent price reduction to $60 per month (from $80).
Other Verizon TV ads have been selling the benefits of Verizon Broadband (this time wired) for businesses.
Mobile TV Trial in Finland
To find out more about what programming people want on mobile TV and their willingness to pay, Nokia, TeliaSonera Finland and five other companies ran a trial, using Nokia 7710 smartphones and DVB-H technology. Results showed that 41 per cent of the pilot participants would be willing to purchase mobile TV services, and that a monthly fee of €10 ($12) is reasonable. Participants watched 20 minutes of mobile TV per day during the pilot, preferring familiar programming to new content, and sports and news broadcasts. ( www.nokia.com ) ( www.teliasonera.com )
Minerva Networks is one of the "old-timers" in IPTV. It was involved in the early days of FastWeb, when IPTV was still a pretty radical idea. Since then, it has been part of deployments in over 40 countries. To learn more about where Minerva sits in the IPTV value chain and how they see their future prospects, we interviewed Mauro Bonomi, Minerva's CEO.
Bonomi told us that Minerva had its first IPTV platform in 2000 and has been honing its capabilities ever since. Some of their big installations along the way include Shanghai Telecom, Hong Kong Telecom, Telefónica de Espana and many independent US telcos. He believes Minerva can enable a telco to offer IPTV as good, robust and scalable as any competitive solution. As an example, he points to the SureWest system in Sacramento, California, which competes against Comcast.
But enabling competition against MSOs was not the main topic on Bonomi's mind. His much more pressing issue is how to win in the presence of Microsoft. He observed that "the big guys are falling in love with the Microsoft story" which includes seamless management of delivery of services over multiple platforms ("convergence in the back office"), instant channel change and custom mosaic screen EPGs. To judge by SBC's, Swisscom's and BT's (to name three) choices of Microsoft, he seems to be right.
Bonomi points out that Minerva's software is deployed in many installations and working well today. He also believes they provide a more cost-effective and scalable approach. But the key reason Buonomi believes the Minerva approach is better is its open platform design. "Open" in this context means the telco can "mix and match" system elements from different vendors--e.g., you can unplug one vendor's VOD server and plug in one from another vendor.
Minerva's approach is in contrast to Microsoft's, where (quoting from Microsoft's Ed Grayzck in Interactive TV Today "some things ... are just so intrinsic to the core service level of what we deliver--like DRM, like VOD, like the broadcast-delivery infrastructure, like the IPG and client- side experience" that the system prevents you from unplugging one of those elements and plugging in some third-party module.
Bonomi believes the big problem in gaining acceptance for Minerva's open approach is clear. In the old days you could never go wrong buying IBM; today the same is true for Microsoft. Managements of big telcos are reluctant to base their success in video services on small companies like Minerva. They want a big reliable name company to be the integrator--someone whom they can tell their board and investors stands behind their chosen IPTV solution.
If you look at what makes up an IPTV system today, it seems clear why big telcos want to have the name and resources of a big player like an IBM or other big integrator. Telcos see the open alternative as handing them the responsibility for selecting and integrating systems for many kinds of elements:
To further confuse things, many of the vendors listed above also supply other IPTV system elements.
How does Bonomi think open IPTV solutions can successfully compete against Microsoft? He envisions "best of breed" solutions put together by "kieretsus"--company groupings led by major players such as Accenture or Lucent. To envision who some choices might be, he pointed out that "the enemies of my enemies are my friends". He predicted announcements by the end of 2005 or early in 2006.
We've got our antennas tuned and hope that at TelcoTV 2005 (see upcoming events below) we'll get a better handle on whether and how this scenario will play out.
( www.minervanetworks.com ) ( www.surewest.com ) ( www.microsoft.com ) ( www.thomson.com ) ( www.aminocom.com ) ( www.i3micro.com ) ( www.tandbergtv.com ) ( www.harmonicinc.com ) ( www.bitband.com ) ( www.c-cor.com ) ( www.ncube.com ) ( www.orca.tv ) ( www.kasenna.com ) ( www.irdeto.com ) ( www.widevine.com ) ( www.latens.com )
In Planning Our "Broadband Condo" (BBHR 5/23/2005) we wrote about our purchase of a Florida vacation condo earlier this year. That article described our first project: installing a broadband connection and a PC to meet both our needs and those of our rental guests, and trying to get a VPN link working between the condo and our house.
Now we're into the second phase of our project. We've started a complete renovation of our condo, and we're rewiring and equipping the condo for digital media. Since so much of the technology and applications has changed since we wired our New Jersey house nearly ten years ago, this project gives us a "second chance" to improve on some of the ways we did things back then.
Digital media—much of it delivered over broadband to and in the home—is the wave of the future. At home, we're already using networked digital audio and video. We started testing digital telephone services three years ago. Lots of people have subscribed to Vonage and other digital phone services; digital telephones and video telephony are coming soon. In our new condo, we want to start installing digital media now and be prepared for what will come in the future.
Our priority in this phase of our project is to make sure we've thoroughly thought out what will be go in the walls, since once they are up, you can't (easily) go back. As a result, our emphasis is on making sure we provide the wiring that will be good for now and into the future. What's outside the walls—the electronics—should serve us for at least a few years, but we know they will change over time.
We want the wiring and the electronics we choose to support a variety of media and communications services: data, video, audio and telephone. Data is comparatively easy; planning for all other forms of media and communications is harder. While there's little doubt that video, audio and telephone services will be mostly digital in the future, they're mostly analog today. The cabling required to interconnect all these is still being sorted out.
We started planning the new wiring as part of our remodeling plan. We first considered the user needs: what we want to provide for guests staying in our condo, and what in addition we want for ourselves. We expect to address some of these needs now, and more as new technologies become available.
Then we examined the key technologies, including structured cabling, multi-room audio, digital television and more.
We'll keep you posted on our progress in the Our Broadband Condo section of our website.
Planning for Today and Tomorrow
Since pulling wires through existing walls is expensive, we'd like to do it once and not have to think about it again for a long time to come.
Much of our planning has been in the wiring and outlets, including spare cables for future needs. The state of digital video interfaces is very confusing, and the standards for interoperability of digital media devices are still in process. To hedge our bets, we decided to provide "cable chases" between rooms where we suspect we might need new cables once the standards settle down.
We found wiring for multi-room audio particularly interesting. We eventually settled on A-BUS as a good compromise; although it uses analog rather than digital audio, it uses Category 5 cable to carry the audio, infrared for remote controls and power to integrated amplifier modules in each room. We think the wiring will work for A-BUS now, and for digital multi-room audio in the future.
Flexibility vs. Ease of Use: The Designer's Dilemma
Because we rent our condo to guests when we're not using it ourselves, we faced several ease of use issues. We know from our home experience that many emerging products and services are confusing (to say the least). We don't want our guests calling for help every time they use the PC, TV, sound system and telephones. So we have the added challenge of making anything we install in our condo suitable for the guests who rent it much of the time.
Although digital telephones are starting to appear on the market, we think most of our guests would find them unfamiliar and difficult to use. Although we will probably subscribe to a digital telephone service, for now we'll stick with analog telephones that everyone knows how to use.
For similar reasons, we're electing to use A-BUS for mulli-room audio, rather than one of the emerging digital audio systems. We'll select A-BUS components that make it obvious how to use the volume controls and remote controls.
We've been surprised by the amount of time and research it has taken to get us to this stage. In trying to get answers to "simple" questions, like compatibility between digital video outputs of PCs and the digital video inputs of flat-panel screens, we've found there are many potential booby traps lurking. Hopefully, we'll uncover most of them before the walls are closed and the electronics are purchased!
In the days before cellphones, Blackberry's and broadband, we understood the distinctions between business and personal, home and office. New technologies are changing all that. Industry structures, people's lifestyles, consumer devices and applications are all morphing in front of us and the old boundaries are disappearing.
Soon our children won't recall that people used to call things called "telephone companies" for telephone service and "cable companies" for video entertainment. Nor will they recall that a "game console" was used only for playing games, not for telling your opponents what you think of them. Or that a "broadcaster" simply transmitted a series of radio or television programs according to a schedule they determined.
Our concepts of "real time", "at home" and "living room TV" are being changed by PVRs, devices like Slingbox, and MobiTV .
In consumer electronics, we've watched the mobile phone turn into the Swiss Army knife of communications. Recent additions are the iTunes-enabled cell phone called the Rokr, courtesy of Apple and Motorola, and the subscription-based Napster To Go service on several mobile phones for $14.95 a month.
Broadcasters are also changing what they do. Satellite subscription broadcaster XM announced their new "XM + Napster" service which works on Samsung devices and others to be announced. Think of the service as a combination PVR for radio and MP3 player, that can make play lists mixing music from multiple sources. You can connect the XM/MP3 player to a home or car docking station to store audio content, and if the station plays a song you like you can mark it, then connect the device to your PC to see which songs are available for purchase from the XM+Napster downloading service. XM subscribers will be able to listen to (stored) satellite radio programs in places where satellite doesn't reach (like subways) or use the MP3 player function for on-demand music.
Another blurring is happening in the UK for video. The BBC has announced an online download service called MyBBCPlayer, to be available next year, which will allow viewers to download any program they missed over the previous seven days. Viewers would also be able to purchase items via the site. A simulcast of BBC One or BBC Two is also planned.
Some US cable operators are also thinking about the "simulcast on PC" notion. Time Warner Cable is trialing a service called "Broadband TV." TWC customers who subscribe to high-speed data can view TWC’s expanded basic tier (75 channels) on their home computers at no additional charge.
Many of these developments are a real plus for consumers. However, we're hoping that in the mad pursuit of all this "mix and match" technology, everyone remembers that the real trick is not inventing all these wonderful products and services, but in making them easy and intuitive enough that real people can actually use them.
You won't get much chance to unpack your suitcase. Several very interesting conferences are coming up in the next few months.
Broadband Cities 2005
Broadband Cities 2005 comes next week in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conference attracts civic leaders, city managers, and broadband decision makers from the U.S. and around the world to experience best practices and innovations in community broadband deployment. ( www.broadbandcities.com )
HomePlug Powerline Technology Conference
THe HomePlug Powerline Technology Conference "Proven Worldwide Standards" sponsored by the HomePlug Powerline Alliance takes place September 27-28, 2005, at the Embassy Suites San Francisco Airport in Burlingame, California. It will feature the new HomePlug AV for inside the home, and HomePlug BPL for broadband delivery to the home over power lines. ( 2005tc.homeplug.org/en/agenda.asp )
Communication Technology in HealthCare
At about the same time, September 26-27, we'll be in Boston getting updated on Communication Technology in HealthCare, a conference sponsored by Partners Telemedicine. ( telemedicine.partners.org/telemedicine/ )
In October, CABA is sponsoring the Connected@Home 2005 conference & Expo, October 3-6 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. ( www.connectedathome2005.com )
TelcoTV 2005, November 8-10, in San Diego should be particularly relevant with the heightened interest in IPTV. The event is focused on video via broadband from a telecom service provider’s point of view. All signs point to this being the biggest year yet for IPTV, so we'll be there. ( www.scievents.com/telcotv05 )
We heard from readers commenting on cable bandwidth as well as seeking answers on mixed mode Wi-Fi, HomePlug problems and Dynamic DNS for VPNs.
We heard from Dave Large and Ron Shani, whose recent NCTA paper we credited in last month's article.
Dave wrote "I think you have inadvertently overstated the bandwidth gain possible with 1024QAM. Most operators are already using 256 QAM, which transmits 8 "bits" of information in each symbol period. Upgrading to 1024 QAM increases that only to 10 bits per symbol, a maximum potential increase of 25% ... as a practical matter, the increase is not that large, as more aggressive error correction would probably be used to partially compensate for the increased sensitivity to noise.
Similarly, channel bonding, while it provides higher peak speed capability for data services doesn't do anything to solve the bandwidth crunch or increase system throughput. All channel bonding does is to effectively combine the capabilities of several data channels so that selected individual customers can have speeds greater than possible through a single channel."
And Ron wrote "I believe that DOCSIS 3.0 will be a very significant addition to the MSOs toolbox when they come to compete with FTTx. I’m not sure that having better spectral efficiency is what the industry currently needs (e.g. 1024 QAM), but am more sure that having virtual wider channels (the channel bonding) will provide higher data rates and better statistical usage, leading to more competitive service offerings."
Does b Degrade g?
Joe asked "I've heard that having a 802.11b client on a network will cap the throughput of 802.11g clients. So, if I have a Tivo hooked up using a 'b' adaptor, all my other systems will have a max throughput of the Tivo?"
We replied "That's a very good question. I'm afraid the best answer is 'it depends on exactly what 802.11g equipment you have'. All 11g equipment is degraded somewhat by 11b, and 11b is degraded by 11g.
It's not that the 11g equipment will have 'the max throughput of the TiVo', but the 11g performance is reduced in mixed mode. How much depends on which manufacturers chips are used in all the devices and which version of firmware and client software is running.
It's getting even worse now with many 'super-G' and MIMO products coming to market. They all seem to have mixed-mode problems with each other."
Problems with HomePlug
Gregg Zupcsics wrote "I recently installed a whole house standby electric generator. When we did that, half of our Homeplug/Powerline network stopped working. I suspect the problem is that half of the network is now isolated from the signals on the other half of the network where the WAN connection resides. Do you know whether an X10 signal bridge would also serve to bridge Homeplug signals between two parts of an electrical network?"
We pointed him to test tools from Corinex. He later reported "A 'phase coupler' (aka 'phase bridge') ... intended for use with X10 networks works fine, and gives just as good throughput as before."
Getting Dynamic DNS Working for VPN
Chris had a question about our website discussion of VPN between our Florida condo and our house: "I successfully setup a VPN between two FVS318 v2.4 firmware routers. Personally I ran into the same problem you did with dynamic DNS. The router would not update the Dynamic DNS when the IP changed and the router was not retrieving the proper IP address from the dyndns addresses. I personally think it is a bug in the firmware that is yet to be resolved. If you find a way to get the dynamic DNS working please let me know.
We replied "I did get dynamic DNS working on the FVS318 -- after a lot of digging and experimenting. The correct approach is described on the Netgear support forum. The posting says Netgear routers don't support Custom DNS, but only regular Dyndns.org subdomains. The trick is to register for a free subdomain at Dyndns, then make a "cname record" under "Advanced" to point to it: (eg home.yourdomain.com --> home.dyndns.org). This does seem to work fine."
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