IN THIS ISSUE:
Two Approaches to Networked Digital Video
Don't Let My TV Crash
Your Voice -
Roland Josef Bopp is joining Billing Services Group Limited as CEO. Bopp was previously President and CEO of the Americas for Deutsche Telecom. ( www.bsgclearing.com )
Paul Forostowsky has been named CEO of Bluestreak Network. He was previously EVP and head of the company's mobile division. ( www.bluestreaknetwork.com )
Neil Gaydon has been promoted to the role of CEO of Pace Micro Technology. Gaydon has most recently been Director of Worldwide Sales and Marketing. ( www.pacemicro.com )
Don Gordon has joined ICTV as CTO and Senior VP of Engineering. He was previously with Microsoft and DIVA Systems. ( www.ictv.com )
Dale Knoop has joined MobiTV as Sr. Director of Business Development. He will focus on content for Wi-Fi and mobile networks. Knoop was previously Sprint's GM of Multimedia. ( www.mobitv.com )
Steve Martin was appointed to head the engineering organization at Ruckus Wireless. He was previously with Airespace (acquired by Cisco in 2005). ( www.ruckuswireless.com )
Don Mathison is joining the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) as Executive Director of Marketing and Programming of its IPTV service. He was previously President of Broadband Solutions Group. ( www.nrtc.coop )
Chuck Newby was hired as VP of Engineering at Digeo. Newby was co-inventor of the VideoCipher and DigiCipher conditional access/encryption systems. ( www.digeo.com )
Dan Schoo was appointed VP of engineering at RGB Networks. Schoo was previously co-founder of ZRON Networks. ( www.rgbnetworks.com )
ntl and Virgin Mobile announced agreement on the terms of an offer, valued at £962 million, to acquire Virgin Mobile. Virgin Mobile will be integrated into the NTL portfolio but will bear the Virgin brand, which NTL can use for the next 30 years. The deal would create a full service communications company, offering mobile, fixed-line, broadband and TV services. ( www.ntl.com ) ( www.virgin.com/mobile )
VeriSign is acquiring Kontiki, a broadband content services firm, for $62 million. Kontiki uses peer-to-peer technology to deliver large amounts of digital content over the Web and has worked with VeriSign since 2002. Separately, VeriSign is acquiring privately held m-Qube, which helps companies deliver and bill for mobile content. The acquisition price is $250 million dollars net of cash. ( www.verisign.com ) ( www.kontiki.com ) ( www.m-qube.com )
Airgain, a developer of smart antennas for the WLAN market, secured $4.1 million in additional financing to expand its smart antenna product line. ( www.airgain.com )
EarthLink is investing $50 million in Covad Communications to assist Covad in building a line-powered voice over DSL network in cities including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. EarthLink offers line-powered voice as part of a DSL Internet access and home-phone service bundle starting at $50 a month. ( www.earthlink.com ) ( www.covad.com )
H-Stream Wireless, a developer of low-power wireless semiconductor solutions, has secured $12.55 million in Series A funding including an investment from Intel Capital. ( www.hstream.com )
Intel Capital is investing $25 million in a joint venture with Pipex Communications, a British company, to sell long-range wireless broadband based on WiMAX. The new company will be called Pipex Wireless. Pipex is transferring its 3.6GHz license to Pipex Wireless. ( www.intel.com ) ( www.pipex.com )
Roundbox, a maker of software to broadcast TV and data to mobile phones, has raised a $15 million Series B round of funding. ( www.roundbox.com )
Siano Mobile Silicon, a fabless semiconductor company developing mobile digital television (MDTV) solutions, has closed its Series B funding of approximately $23 million. ( www.siano-ms.com )
Ubicom, a wireless communications processor and software company, has secured $20 million in funding at the conclusion of its Series 3 financing round. ( www.ubicom.com )
Vyyo, a supplier of broadband access equipment for cable and private wireless broadband networks, announced an agreement for $25 million equity and long term debt from Goldman, Sachs & Co. ( www.vyyo.com )
WiQuest Communications, a developer of ultra wideband wireless chips, has closed $18 million in Series B capital. ( www.wiquest.com )
YouTube, a site for hosting and watching video clips uploaded by its users, has received $8m in second-round funding. ( www.youtube.com )
Alcatel and Lucent announced merger plans. The new company will be valued at about $25 billion in revenue, will be headquartered in Paris and will have Lucent's Pat Russo as CEO. ( www.alcatel.com ) ( www.lucent.com )
Bell Canada and Rogers began rolling out wireless Broadband in 20 Canadian cities, including Toronto, Hamilton and Windsor. The services are delivered via their joint-venture Inukshuk Wireless and use "pre-Wi-Max" technology.
BSkyB confirmed that the first installations of Sky HD are scheduled to begin in May 2006. The Sky HD box will cost £299 with a £10 monthly subscription for the Sky HD channels, in addition to a Sky digital subscription. ( www.sky.com )
Deutsche Telekom has chosen Microsoft for its upcoming IPTV service to 10 major German cities. The services will be delivered over a new VDSL network, which T-Com is currently extending. ( www.telekom.de ) ( www.microsoft.com )
i3 micro technology, developer of IP CPE, has taken Tilgin as its new name. ( www.tilgin.com )
Intel's GM of mobility, Sean Maloney, announced at the Intel Developer Forum that it plans to start shipping the first WiMax PC cards in the second half of this year. ( www.intel.com )
MobiTV announced that more than one million users now subscribe to its mobile television services worldwide. In the last 6 months, MobiTV has doubled the number of paying subscribers. ( www.mobitv.com )
Movielink and CinemaNow have started selling downloadable versions of movies which can be kept, in addition to their download rental business. New movies will cost approximately $20 to $30 to download -- generally more expensive than the DVD versions. There are also technical constraints regarding transfer to other devices. The downloads will be available the day the DVD is released. ( www.movielink.com ) ( www.cinemanow.com )
Wavesat and HCL Technologies Ltd. announced a partnership to develop high-performance and low-cost 802.16 compliant solutions. The first of several products to be jointly developed by the two companies will be launched in the first half of 2006. ( www.wavesat.com ) ( www.hcltech.com )
Standards and Trade Associations
IEEE 802 wireless standards news:
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has selected WiMedia UWB as its future radio platform. The technology will run in unlicensed radio spectrum above 6GHz to avoid concerns of regulatory bodies in Asia and Europe. The result will be to significantly boost transfer speeds to be equivalent to USB or FireWire cables at distances up to 10 feet. ( www.bluetooth.com ) ( www.wimedia.org )
HANA, the High-Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance, announced that Warner Bros. Technical Operations Inc. and Texas Instruments have joined the group. HANA is a cross-industry collaboration addressing the end-to-end needs of connected, high-definition, home entertainment products and services. [See the article below.] ( www.hanaalliance.org )
The HomePlug Alliance announced that:
MoCA, the Multimedia over Coax Alliance
The FCC, by not acting on a petition Verizon filed in December 2004, has deregulated the company's high-end broadband services. The lack of FCC action to modify Verizon's request allowed Verizon's offerings to move from common-carrier to information-services status. The decision faces a legal challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals. ( www.fcc.gov ) ( www.verizon.com )
Ofcom released a proposal to stop regulating the retail prices for fixed-line rental and calls charged by British Telecom. The proposal would allow all phone operators, including BT, to set their own prices. ( www.ofcom.org.uk ) ( www.bt.com )
BT is increasing its top download speed from 2 Mbps to 8 Mbps. The higher speed is now available on their top package and is being sequentially added to their other pricing packages.
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month we feature a WiMAX white paper, statistics on DSL and European broadband and some more observations on mobile video.
New WiMAX White paper
The WiMAX Forum has released a white paper titled "Mobile WiMAX — Part I: A Technical Overview and Performance Evaluation" ( www.wimaxforum.org/news/downloads ). Part 2, which will follow, will compare WiMAX technology with 3G cellular systems. ( www.wimaxforum.org )
Point Topic has published the latest edition of their World Broadband Statistics report ( www.point-topic.com/content/dslanalysis/DSLanaq405060317.htm ), providing DSL country numbers to the end of 2005. Some of their key observations include:
Broadband Connections in Europe
The e-Media Institute has published statistics on the number of European broadband connections. The total number of European lines as of the end of the first half of 2005 was in excess of 50 million. The top 10 countries by number of broadband lines were UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark. However, the more meaningful metric of diffusion, as measured by the ratio between broadband lines and population, ranged from a high in the Scandinavian countries of about 200 lines per 1,000 inhabitants, to Great Britain with 136, France with 134, and Italy with 95. Since broadband growth has been on the move since the date of these statistics, the ratios are probably now higher. ( www.e-mediainstitute.com )
Mobile Video -- How Interested Are Consumers?
Last month we included some thoughts about a survey on consumer interest in mobile video commissioned by Royal Bank of Canada's RBC Capital Markets. TDG Research looked at what had been asked and of whom and wrote The Appeal of Mobile Video: Reading Between the Lines ( www.tdgresearch.com/tdg_opinions_the_appeal_of_mobile_video.htm ), a thoughtful review of the survey. Saying "We're not trying to be hypercritical here, but simply wish to point out that black and white/true or false research is not the best way to understand consumer interest in novel services such as mobile video," the review casts doubt on some conclusions drawn in the RBC report. ( www.tdgresearch.com )
Digital video is taking its place front and center in the home. Digital TV sales are accelerating. Analog broadcast TV is disappearing in favor of digital broadcast; satellite TV is all digital, and cable is moving in the same direction. Digital audio and video are carried over the Internet. DVR technology appears in consumer electronics equipment, set-top boxes and PCs.
Millions of consumers are using DVRs to watch what they want, when they want. Now they want to choose where to watch--they'd like to watch video that's been recorded and stored on a device in one room on a screen in another room. (They also want to view it from outside the home, but that's a subject for another article.)
Moving video from room to room while providing DVD-like controls (play, stop, pause, fast forward) is quite complex, especially if the equipment and video service come from different companies. Standards are clearly required to make this work.
New networking technologies will provide the underlying infrastructure for mass-market video networking. Now the issue is getting these products to talk properly with each other -- especially to enable top-quality video and audio, and to allow proper controls.
The emergence of networked video is bringing three technology worlds closer together. The information technology, consumer electronics and multichannel video industries have traditionally operated fairly independently of each other. Working out the standards for networked digital video forces them into contact. Each brings a different world view and therefore sees different requirements and priorities for networked digital video.
Two industry standards are emerging to address these needs. We've long followed the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), which is promoting a standards-based approach coming largely from the IT world. The High-Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance (HANA) is a new alliance from the consumer electronics and multichannel video industries with a more video-centric approach.
Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)
With members drawn from across the IT, CE and mobile industries, the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) has taken on the all-encompassing goal of providing interoperable sharing of all digital content "such as photos, music and videos" across all PC, CE and mobile devices inside and outside the house. DLNA announced its first set of interoperability guidelines nearly two years ago, and has since extended the guidelines several times. DLNA says more than 30 devices have now passed its interoperability tests, and 11 have been announced.
In a press conference last month, DLNA announced the latest extensions to its guidelines, and provided a roadmap for the future. The earlier guidelines were focused on servers and players for digital media -- think of PCs providing digital music for remote MP3 players in a standardized way. The new guidelines add many new device classes, including printers and a wide variety of mobile devices--both servers and players. Previous guidelines supported networking over Ethernet and Wi-Fi; the new guidelines add Bluetooth. Devices built to these new guidelines will support the ability for consumers to upload and download media between mobile devices and audio/video products, and to print directly from a mobile phone.
To support digital video, the new guidelines add MPEG4/AVC, one of the primary digital video formats for the next decade, as a mandatory video format. They provide an approach to QoS based on prioritization, and add support for the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) often used to carry streaming audio and video over the Internet.
DLNA's roadmap includes new guidelines for content protection, described as "link protection for commercial content". DLNA says these guidelines, anticipated for release in the middle of this year, will "lay the necessary groundwork to introduce commercial content into the DLNA network."
High-Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance (HANA)
The High-Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance (HANA) was formed in 2005 specifically to address the networking of high-definition audio and video. HANA is focused on "the end-to-end needs of connected, high definition, home entertainment products and services." Its founder members include JVC, Mitsubishi and Samsung from consumer electronics; NBC Universal and Charter Communications representing multichannel video content and distribution; and Sun from information technology.
Last month we talked on the phone with Jack Chaney of Samsung, chair of HANA's technical work group, and Bill Rose, President of WJR Consulting Inc. and Chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) R7 Home Networking Committee. When we asked about the relationship between DLNA and HANA, they said "there's a philosophical difference -- DLNA is trying to do everything with one network." HANA believes that entertainment content has different networking needs than data and personal content, and that different networks are required to fully meet these different needs.
Like DLNA, HANA is not inventing new standards, but selecting those it believes appropriate for its applications. Its narrower focus has led HANA to select a different set of proposed standards than those chosen by DLNA.
As the basis for its networking, HANA has chosen IEEE 1394 (FireWire), which HANA believes is much better for streamed audio and video than the data-oriented IEEE 802 standards (Ethernet and Wi-Fi) chosen by DLNA. 1394 is a synchronous network designed to carry isochronous streams, ideal for audio and video, which are highly sensitive to timing. 1394 includes the ability to reserve bandwidth, so that each stream runs in its own bandwidth without sharing. 1394 also includes support for the DTCP content protection standard accepted by content providers.
HANA's approach is to have the entertainment video stored at its originating CPE and to use 1394 to deliver and render it wherever needed. IEEE 1394b is designed to operate over distances of 100 meters and can be carried over many forms of cabling including fiber and Category 5e and 6 UTP. HANA is enthusiastic about using existing coax to connect clusters of consumer electronics equipment throughout the home. Many technologies for data over coax can carry 1394; ultra wideband (UWB) over coax should provide at least 400 Mbps and perhaps 800 Mbps.
To support the higher levels of networking, HANA has embraced a set of home networking specifications developed by CEA R7 over the past few years. These include CEA 2027-A (a TV-based user interface for control of networked devices), CEA 931-B (for communicating remote control commands between devices), and CEA 851-A (which specifies network architecture and communications protocols).
HANA is trying to address two key consumer problems: the complexity of interconnection, and the multiplicity of remote controls. Its theme is "One Cable/One Remote".
Using 1394 would simplify interconnection. Today, A/V components are connected with a wide variety of analog and digital interconnect cables, each going from the output of one device to the input of another. By contrast, 1394 is a simple bus system--each device needs only a single 1394 connection to connect to all other devices. In a digital A/V network, the vast maze of confusing and expensive A/V cables could be replaced with a single 1394 cable to each device and an inexpensive 1394 hub to connect them together.
HANA wants to do away with the separate remote controls for A/V players in the same room. Using a single remote control, the consumer will sit in front of the HDTV, access the program guide from a cable set-top box, and then select and watch a TV program. Later, with the same remote control, the consumer can play audio and video content stored on the hard drive of a PC or a DVR.
Many of HANA's decisions are based on timing. Jack and Bill stressed that "HANA wants to launch NOW" and plans to move quickly to complete the specs and bring products to market. Its roadmap shows HANA-ready product introductions--including HDTVs, HD DVD players, and HD PVRs--at CES 2007.
Some of the needed ingredients for HANA's approach are already in place. In the US, the FCC requires cable operators to equip HD set-top boxes with IEEE 1394 interfaces and to support the CEA 931 remote control pass-through standard. Many desktop and notebook PCs are already equipped with 1394 interfaces, and adding them is inexpensive.
Carrying multiple streams of high-definition audio/video around the home is by far the most challenging home networking problem. Audio and video are very sensitive to data losses and delays, which appear as defects in the sound and picture. If the content is coming from a server, buffering and retries could be used to mask the impairments. If the content is streamed in real time, the consumer will hear and see the effect.
HANA questions DLNA's "single network" approach. Rather, it believes the digital home will need two networks--one for data and one for commercial high-quality entertainment--for years to come. In their view, a DLNA-based network is fine for data and personal content, but commercial entertainment content will be isolated to a HANA-based network. A single point connection will provide a bridge between the networks, allowing content from the DLNA network to be viewed on the HANA screens.
Over time, a single network as envisioned by DLNA may satisfy all the needs HANA has identified. Jack and BIll stressed that "In the long run, HANA is not tied to 1394; in the long term, HANA could embrace DLNA." But HANA members seem determined to solve today's problems as quickly as possible.
DLNA and HANA: A Comparison
DLNA and HANA are both trying to give consumers interoperable access to content in a way that fits their needs, rather than operating within the constraints of a given individual device. They are not competitive organizations, but rather groups with different scopes of interest and different priorities regarding what needs to be accomplished and in what timeframe.
DLNA represents very broad interests and has a much wider scope, which includes connecting consumer mobile, entertainment and computing devices both inside and outside the home. DLNA wants to enable any consumer media device to access shared media stored on any other device. Its approach does not reflect a sense of urgency; it appears willing to proceed in a stepwise fashion over multiple years to achieve the full scope of its ambitious goals.
By contrast, HANA represents the narrower interests of the consumer electronics and multichannel video industries. With both the content and distribution sectors of the multichannel video industry represented on its board, HANA is tightly focused on video entertainment devices within the home, and perceives an immediate need to create the network for high quality protected video. It draws a sharp line between protected (commercial) content and personal content and is focused on carrying protected content without consumer complaints. HANA acknowledges the broader needs by advocating separate networks for the two types of content; a bridge between them allows personal content to flow anywhere, but keeps protected content within the HANA network.
These different world views lead to different standards choices. HANA has selected 1394 (FireWire) connectivity while DLNA has chosen 802 IP and Ethernet networks. 1394 is isochronous with integral QoS and DTCP content protection; 802 is asynchronous and needs additional mechanisms to provide QoS and content protection. HANA has chosen a deterministic "reservation" approach to QoS while DLNA is satisfied with probabilistic "priorization". DLNA's initial content protection focus is on "link control" which is necessary but may not be sufficient to assure security of high quality entertainment.
Some key companies are members of both groups. To see how this plays out, we'll keep watching whether and how companies incorporate each of these approaches into their interfaces and products.
Both groups expect to have products and demonstrations at next year's CES. We're looking forward to seeing them next January.
For More Information
If you ask people to provide 10 words they associate with "software" or "computer", the answers would likely include "crash," "bugs," "update" and "new version". Users have come to accept that PC programs need to be upgraded from time to time to fix bugs and support new features. PCs are equipped with CD-ROM drives and high-speed Internet connections so consumers can install the latest software upgrades and firmware drivers.
Until now, consumers wouldn't associate words like "crash" and "update" with "television". But as television sets transition from analog to digital, and start hosting complex menus and web browsers, their firmware grows from less than 100 Kilobytes to tens of megabytes. Code this big is likely to have bugs that don't surface until sets are in many homes. Digital TV standards are changing, and screens are increasingly used for much more than watching broadcast TV.
A young company named UpdateLogic believes TV manufacturers need a way to upgrade the complex firmware in digital TVs in order to "fix bugs, support the latest changes in the broadcast stream, and comply with updated specifications from still-evolving DTV standards." We recently talked on the telephone with Tripp Blair, UpdateLogic's CEO.
Tripp said this is not a theoretical problem. He noted that the digital transition is happening all around the world, and the average frequency of firmware updates for digital TVs in Japan is 2.5 per year, done by exchanging flash memory cards. Updates requiring customer intervention or live vendor support are clearly untenable in the long term.
UpdateLogic's answer is a network technology which allows digital TV manufacturers to automatically distribute patches and upgrades directly to consumer devices. The product, called UpdateTV, is targeted at answering TV manufacturer's questions about "how can I fix it if something (in the firmware or software) is broken?" and "how can I add new features and conform to changing technical requirements?"
UpdateLogic's technical solution is a digital datacast of the updates using National Datacast's nationwide network of PBS stations. UpdateLogic servers format this data and insert it into the terrestrial and cable broadcast streams. The updates are then transmitted along with the video and audio signals to the DTV set.
To receive the updates from the the UpdateTV datacast, TV manufacturers include the UpdateTV Agent in their digital sets (and other devices such as digital converter boxes and DVRs). The devices must have digital tuners and be able to receive digital TV signals over the air or over cable. UpdateLogic wants to enable all digital TVs, whether they get their signals from satellite, cable or digital terrestrial. In the US, the FCC requires all TVs to include digital tuners by 2007.
Tripp said technical trials of UpdateTV with digital TV manufacturers are underway: Hitachi, Samsung, Sharp and Sony are participating in field trials and Mitsubishi and Panasonic are evaluating the SDK. UpdateLogic says the field trial "is occurring at stations within PBS and at locations within the areas of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Insight Communications." There are, to date, no agreements with satellite companies.
We're convinced that UpdateLogic is addressing a real problem. We're about to attend the annual National Cable TV Association meeting in Atlanta, so we will be interested in learning cable operators' views on the problem and on UpdateLogic's solution.
Digital Interconnects for PCs and TVs
A reader sent helpful comments and suggestions on our VPN problems, including:
A reader suggested that we add a forum for users to interact and solve practical problems similar to the one we wrote about. We have considered doing so, but feel the effort required to moderate these discussions is more than we're willing to take on at this time.
One reader asked that we "put report on one web page. Annoying to have to bring up separate windows." The reader was receiving our report in the HTML summary version, which points you to a separate page for each article. We replied that our report is published in multiple formats; anyone who wants a single-page HTML version of an issue can click on "View Full Issue" from the Table of Contents page. A single-page plain text version is also available.
We appreciate both your suggestions and compliments. Our biggest smile came from an email that began: "I am a huge fan of your newsletter." Blush.
Those who are cheering for the resurgence of interactive services should consider attending The Red Button Interactive Show. If you're going to NAB, there's a one-day IPTV summit in Las Vegas later this month.
Red Button Interactive
Although interactive TV services have become part of the landscape in some countries, the US has been slow to get on the bandwagon. Interactive applications are taking on new life in the US and the Red Button '06 event, sponsored by Shorecliff, will feature new interactive TV applications over all types of digital distribution. The event takes place in Seattle, Washington on May 16 and 17. ( www.shorecliffcommunications.com/redbutton )
If you are heading to Las Vegas for NAB, you might want to attend IPTV World, a one-day summit at the Las Vegas Convention Center on April 26, 2006. It will focus on IPTV opportunities, competition and ingredients for success. ( www.ihollywoodforum.com/iptvworldApril2006.htm )