In This Issue
A Deep Gulp
News about People and Companies Influencing The Broadband Home
Paul Chermak has joined Symmetricom as EVP, Global Sales and Support. Chermak was previously with I2 Technologies. ( www.symmetricom.com )
Jack Fijolek was named VP, Corporate Business Development, UTStarcom earlier this year. ( www.utstarcom.com )
Craig J. Garen has joined Conexant Systems as senior VP and GM of Broadband Access. Garen was previously at LSI Corporation. ( www.conexant.com )
Mike Johnson was appointed CFO of wireless networking company Trapeze Networks. ( www.trapezenetworks.com )
Peter Low has been appointed president and COO of Ensequence. Low is a veteran of MTV Networks and Cablevision Systems. ( www.ensequence.com )
Walt Ungerer has been promoted to EVP, Corporate Strategy and Investor Relations at Vyyo Inc, and Christopher Graham was named VP of Sales. ( www.vyyo.com )
Mark Warner has joined Advanced Broadcast Solutions (ABS) as VP. He was previously director of Microsoft Studios. ( www.advancedbroadcastsolutions.com )
Padmasree Warrior has been named CTO of Cisco Systems. She was previously head of technology at Motorola. ( www.cisco.com )
Atheros Communications signed a definitive agreement to acquire u-Nav Microelectronics, a privately held fabless semiconductor company specializing in global positioning system (GPS) chipsets and enabling software. The cash and stock transaction is valued at approximately $54 million. ( www.atheros.com ) ( www.unav-micro.com )
D&M Holdings has sold most of the assets of DVR pioneer ReplayTV to DirecTV. Terms of the agreement were not released. Tokyo-based D&M said it will continue to service existing contracts for current ReplayTV subscribers "for the foreseeable future" while DirecTV will assume most of the other assets. ( www.dm-holdings.com ) ( www.replaytv.com ) ( www.directv.com )
DivX has acquired MainConcept, a provider of encoding systems. The purchase is valued at $22 million in stock and cash, with a further incentive payment of up to $6 million. Adobe recently licensed MainConcept software for the MPEG-4 AVC codec H.264 for its Flash product. ( www.divx.com ) ( www.mainconcept.com )
Occam Networks has completed its purchase of certain assets of Terawave Communications for $3.2 million in cash, cancellation of bridge financing of $1.9 million and the assumption of certain liabilities and purchase commitments of Terawave. ( www.occamnetworks.com ) ( www.terawave.com )
SureWest Communications is buying closely held Everest Broadband for $173 million in cash. SureWest will now pass about 281,000 customers in two markets. ( www.surewest.com ) ( www.everestbroadband.com )
Alloptic, an optical networking equipment firm, announced it has received $24 million in Series B funding. ( www.alloptic.com )
Avail Media, a provider of IPTV and advanced media services to broadband operators, closed the final tranche of a $25 million Series B round of funding and secured $5 million in debt financing. ( www.availmedia.com )
Backchannelmedia, a provider of advanced software solutions for the TV advertising industry, has secured $3 million. ( www.backchannelmedia.com )
BrightRoll, a video advertising network, has secured $5 million in Series B funding. ( brightroll.com )
Enure Networks Ltd., a home networking management software firm, has secured $5 million in bridge financing and a new CEO. ( www.enure.com )
Gigle Semiconductor,a high definition networking chip company, has secured $20 million in Series B financing. ( www.gigle.biz )
GridNetworks Inc., a company focused on delivering video content over broadband networks, has closed a $9.5 million Series A financing. ( www.gridnetworks.com )
Imagine Communications, a company focused on maximizing bandwidth efficiency and capacity of operator video networks, raised $15 million in second-round funding. ( www.imagine-com.com )
Invidi Technologies, which provides targeted advertising to video service providers, has raised $25 million. ( www.invidi.com )
Quantenna Communications, a fabless semiconductor company creating advanced, chipsets for wireless technology, started by Ikanos founder Behrooz Rezvani, has secured $12.7 million in Series B funding. ( www.quantenna.com )
Ruckus Wireless Inc., a WiFi technology supplier, has raised $7.5 million in Series E funding. ( www.ruckuswireless.com )
Russia's telecom operator Comstar has signed an agreement with Intel to jointly develop the first mobile WiMAX network in Russia. It will be launched by the end of 2008 and will initially cover Moscow. ( www.comstar-uts.ru ) ( www.intel.com )
Cox Communications has announced plans to raise plant bandwidth to 1 Gigahertz, take over operation of its own fiber backbone and consolidate linear TV and video-on-demand services into two national hubs. The initiative, called the Extended Optical Network (EON) is designed to move Cox into the 2010 service world, a place that will require far more bandwidth and diversity of content. ( www.cox.com )
EarthLink has announced it is considering "strategic alternatives" for its troubled municipal WiFi business. It is ceasing investments in new muni Wi-Fi networks, and stopping investments in existing or partially completed networks. ( www.earthlink.com )
The Nielsen Company and Digimarc Corporation announced Nielsen Digital Media Manager which will use digital watermarking and fingerprinting to track content and assure copyright compliance. The new service will focus initially on online distribution of U.S. TV content. Subsequent phases will focus on DVD’s, movies, music, video games and other content. The solutions are expected to be available in mid-2008. ( www.nielsen.com ) ( www.digimarc.com )
Pioneer Electronics announced its online TV platform SyncTV, an a la carte video service that allows users to download high-quality video from subscribed channels. SyncTV will charge between $2 and $4 per month for channels from which they can then download as many episodes or titles as they wish. ( www.pioneerelectronics.com ) ( www.synctv.com )
Sprint Nextel and Clearwire have dropped plans to jointly build a nationwide WiMAX network. This event, together with the resignation of Gary Forsee as CEO of Sprint, has led industry watchers to question whether the success of mobile WiMAX is in jeopardy. ( www.sprint.com ) ( www.clearwire.com )
A new ViP-TV IPTV platform from EchoStar has been announced. ViP-TV offers over 300 local and national channels, push and pull video on demand and associated infrastructure support to telcos, private and rural cable operators, and municipal and community video providers that have obtained the rights for distribution of such programming over their wire-line networks. The service will be a competitor to SES Americom's IP-Prime. ( www.echostarviptv.com ) ( www.echostar.com )
The newly created Yassini Broadband Knowledge Center is a $10 million facility located in Boston, which will host teams of student investigators looking beyond current broadband applications. Commercially successful ideas will be sold and the money reinvested in the center. The facility is intended to serve as an executive scholarship and broadband policy center. ( www.yas.com )
Alliances, Consortia, Standards
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has created protocols that will enable Bluetooth to use WiFi as it waits for ultra-wideband technology to develop in handsets. The Bluetooth SIG is using WiFi alongside UWB as a stopgap measure. ( www.bluetooth.com )
The DSL Forum has made public its BroadbandSuite Release Plan, a roadmap of Forum work that addresses issues ranging from interoperability to remote management of the digital home. The goal of the new plan is to identify which Technical Requirements (TRs) are associated with specific milestones of broadband development. ( www.dslforum.org )
The Femto Forum, launched in July, with a base of seven members, has grown to 40 in three months. New members include Alcatel-Lucent, NEC, Nokia Siemens Networks, Motorola, and ZTE. ( www.femtoforum.org )
The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) ratified and announced immediate availability of MoCA 1.1. This new extension incorporates PQoS (parameterized quality of service) for bandwidth management and prioritization of multiple streams of HD content, and packet aggregation achieving net throughputs of 175 Mbps. MoCA 1.1 also includes an increase in network size from the current eight nodes to 16 nodes (see more in MoCA article below). ( www.mocalliance.org )
The Open Handset Alliance, whose members include Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Motorola, Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm, has committed to working with Android, an open and free mobile platform. Google announced plans to provide Android, an open-source software for mobile phones. ( www.openhandsetalliance.com ) ( www.google.com )
The Radiocommunication Sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R) has accepted IEEE 802.16 (which it terms "IMT-2000 OFDMA TDD WMAN") as a 3G standard. It is the sixth technology it has accepted as a 3G wireless standard. Others include W-CDMA, CDMA-2000 and TD-SCDMA. Some observers noted that what the ITU approved was 802.16 as a Time Division Duplex (TDD) technology but didn't accept 802.16 for use in Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) bands. The latter represent the preponderance of licensed frequencies. ( www.itu.int/ITU-R )
Navini, Beceem, Fujitsu and Runcom announced the formation of the "Smart Antenna RF Test Alliance* (SMART) which is designed to promote beamforming and beamformed MIMO, technology included in the mobile WiMAX Wave 2 standard. The SMART Alliance will publish a system performance baseline for the mandatory Smart Antenna features adopted by the WiMAX Forum for Mobile WiMAX.
The IEEE P1901 Working Group, which is developing a Draft Standard for Broadband over Power Line Networks, voted in November among submissions for the final technology to be sent to the P1901 committee for approval as the BPL in-home and access standard. The group was scheduled to meet again in San Diego in December. Outcomes have not yet been disclosed. ( grouper.ieee.org/groups/1901 )
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month's briefs focus on the demise of the payphone and the greening of broadband.
The Threatened Payphone
AT&T is discontinuing its payphone business which has been in place for 129 years. The steady drop in the number of US public payphones has been a result of the popularity of cell phones and the high cost of maintaining pay phones. In 1960 Bell Telephone had approximately one million payphones installed. That number swelled to about 2.6 million in 1998 and dropped back to one million in 2005. The count has been steadily declining since then. Of the major U.S. communications companies, Verizon is the sole surviving payphone provider.
Broadband: Color Me Green
There has been a flood of recent news about environmentally conscious efforts in the telecommunications/consumer electronics world. Although slow to join this move, an increasing number of US efforts have recently joined the broader movement.
Countries like France, Italy and Hong Kong have been offering telco subscription video services for years, while in the US until recently there has been far more talk than action. That has changed.
Several signposts indicate that telco-provided video services are near the tipping point in the US. One is how the discussion time is split between technology and services. A second is how many consumers are actually paying for the services. A third is how many markets the services are offered in. All have advanced a long way in the past year.
When we covered TelcoTV 2006 a year ago, several technology issues were front and center in the conference discussions. These included:
This year, those issues appear to be well along toward resolution.
SoC-based set top boxes (especially those based on Sigma Designs chips) have stabilized, and high-volume chip makers like Broadcom are entering the IPTV SoC market. Second-generation IPTV has matured considerably with global deployments of millions of set top boxes. Improvements in efficiency of the video codecs used in these boxes have resulted in on-going reduction of the bit rate required to provide good quality high-definition video.
In 2006 it was difficult to find many vendors who recognized the critical importance of isolating the causes of quality-of-service problems. This year we visited with several vendors, including IneoQuest and Tektronix, which offer test systems to isolate traditional quality-of-service problems such as packet loss, packet delay, and jitter.
Other vendors, such as Symmetricom, are extending their test suites to include objective field measurements of so-called "Quality of Experience" (QoE), which extends traditional network-oriented QoS with additional measures such as channel change delay and audio/video synchronization. Symmetricom asserts that their metric reflects perceptual quality analysis in real-time, as experienced by end-users. Their products are based on the "Motion Picture Quality Metrics (MPQM) model adapted specifically for end-to-end video quality scoring", and is supposed to take into account both network and content impairments.
During 2006, we heard doubts about the scalability of AT&T's Microsoft IPTV system at every turn. This year, all the AT&T speakers, including Peter Hill, AT&T’s VP of Video and Converged Services, and Paul Whitehead, Executive Director-Project Management, went out of their way to assert that their 126,000 deployed U-verse customers and continuing expansion demonstrated that the Microsoft system will scale.
AT&T's U-verse customers are spread thinly across 33 markets. While their total numbers may indicate scalability of provisioning and installation, we don't believe they yet show the ability of a single system to operate effectively at peak load times. Several AT&T speakers said that they were continuing to make progress in expanding the number of users supported by each server.
Our discussions with knowledgeable sources convinced us that several new techniques promise further improvement. In particular, we came away from our discussion with Alcatel-Lucent convinced that bringing its century of experience in “traffic engineering” to bear will make a major contribution to Microsoft's server scalability.
Compared with last year, this year's show had significantly more air-time devoted to describing services -- both those available today and some of those anticipated in the future.
AT&T's speakers emphasized how the services provided to its U-verse customers already have features not available from cable:
AT&T's Peter Hill gave a well-received talk on "The Future of Telco TV". Starting with existing U-verse applications, he moved quickly to show forward-looking work by AT&T Labs on new converged services concepts. He described and demonstrated fourteen service concepts illustrated with screen shots.
One example was "Family Finder" which lets you select a member of your family. It then shows on a map the location of the cell phone of the person you are looking for. You can zoom in and out of that location by using Google maps and GPS, see a history of where he or she has been, and click once to call that person.
Another interesting application was "Video Share Mode" which allows customers to share video between cell phones. One person can see what the other is pointing their cameraphone at. The video share can be transferred and displayed on the TV or on the Web, so the person at receiving end doesn’t need a video share-capable phone.
AT&T's plans to use such services to distinguish themselves from the incumbent cable and satellite providers.
Verizon chose a different approach for its video services. Viewing any DSL approach (even VDSL2 used by AT&T) as a stop-gap, Verizon invested heavily in a PON-based fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) infrastructure. Rather than using IPTV, it launched its FiOS Video service with conventional RF video while waiting for IPTV to mature.
We missed the talk by Tushar Saxena, Verizon's Director Home Networking Technologies, but caught up through her slides. The talk was focused on the importance Verizon places on remote management of customer home networks for all their TV, PC and telephone services in the home. A key emphasis is that Remote Management via TR-069 "enables Verizon to take the 'IT' out of customer’s homes". Verizon's Broadband Home Router acts as the home gateway and router for all data services. [See the MoCA article below for more on Verizon home networking.]
Other Verizon talks focused on additional aspects of their services, including widgets (on-demand access to real-time local weather and traffic info, without interrupting the program they are watching), media manager and multi-room DVR. The focus was more on services than the underlying technology.
The Numbers: Consumers and Markets
At the end of 3Q07, AT&T had 126,000 U-verse IPTV customers (up from 51,000 3 months earlier) and was launched in 33 markets. AT&T says it is installing new U-verse customers at the rate of almost 10,000 per week. During AT&T's recent Analysts Day presentations, the company said it expected to have 1 million U-verse customers by the end of 2008. John Stankey, AT&T's group president of telecom operations, indicated that their installation rate will accelerate to reach 40,000 installations per week by the end of 2008. By the end of 2008, AT&T expects to have its IPTV service available to 17 million homes and is targeting 30 million homes passed by its fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) rollout by 2010.
Verizon, which launched about one year earlier than AT&T, added 202,000 new subscribers to its FiOS TV service in the third quarter, giving it a total of 717,000 subscribers at the end of 3Q07. It is now adding customers at the rate of 3,200 per day. FiOS TV is now offered in 13 states; the availability doubled in 2007 to cover 15% of households in the Verizon serving area. The service was available for sale to 4.7 million premises, and penetration averaged 15.2 percent across all markets.
Standards continues to be a key open issue for the telco TV industry. The opening session of the conference--"TelcoTV Standards Roundtable: The Road to Seamless Services"--focused on IPTV standards for Telcos and the consumer electronics industry. An alphabet soup of organizations was represented on the panel, including the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions IPTV Interoperability Forum (ATIS IIF), Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), the DSL Forum, and the International Telecommunications Union Focus Group IPTV, (ITU-T, FG-IPTV). While there appear to be some attempts at coordination and collaboration, the panel acknowledged that there are numerous overlaps and gaps. It is far from clear to what extent these organizations will collaborate with each other rather than fighting for turf.
Management of the home network highlighted differences between the groups. The telecom service providers view management of home networks as crucial to their successful provision of end-to-end services, and want to see their management protocols embedded in consumer devices. The Consumer Electronics industry disagrees, saying that adding these protocols is in conflict with the economics of consumer electronics--they can't afford to increase the component, software and power budget to support telco network management. Nobody represented the view of the consumers themselves, who might be unhappy about accepting decisions about their home networks imposed from the outside.
Another issue which sits in the background is how non-traditional broadband video content is going to fit into the video service mix. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that broadband video (from Joost, NeuLion, Vongo, YouTube and Veoh, to name just a few) is a reality. What is not at all clear is the formula for making it a commercial success. Ad supported models and "direct to TV" products from Sony and Hewlett Packard are a couple of the mechanisms that are being tried. Incumbent video providers like Comcast as well as new entrants like Verizon are experimenting with where and how these types of video fit in their offerings. Such a direction will be a departure from previous "walled garden" approaches.
Although not a major topic at TelcoTV, it was raised by a number of speakers. The increasing availability of content, the increasing speed of broadband connections and the efforts to simplify the way content gets to viewing devices are all indicative that this trend will continue. Multiple methods and lots of experimentation are the order of the day. We expect a mix of business models--user-paid, ad-supported, licensing agreements--will continue to play out over the next few years.
The folks at the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) invited us to participate in an analyst panel in their first annual conference in Austin Texas last month. After some hesitation--we felt "conferenced out" after attending four conferences in as many months--Dave decided to go and was glad he did. It was a great update on current MoCA technology and applications, and a good view into the future.
We have been following MoCA from its inception, and started talking with Entropic Communications, its founding technology company, even earlier. We've long believed that coaxial cable could provide the best physical platform for "no new wires" networking. Unlike any other existing wiring, coax is designed for the very high bandwidth needed to carry multichannel video. Because it is shielded, coax is largely free from noise. Even when fully occupied by a full video lineup, coax has lots of unused bandwidth suitable for data networking.
The main drawback of coaxial cable is that there are comparatively few coax outlets in the home. Thus we have long believed in a home networking approach which uses coax both to connect the TV sets--which require the most bandwidth and are highly sensitive to noise--and to provide a "backbone" network for the whole home. Wi-Fi could then be used to reach mobile devices and other devices that aren't close to coax outlets.
Verizon's Use oF MoCA in FiOS
For all its promise, MoCA has still not been deployed very widely. Its primary application to date has been for telephone companies providing video services to the home. Its largest deployment has been by Verizon for its FiOS service.
Verizon's CTO and Senior VP-Technology Mark Wegleitner delivered a keynote talk at the conference. One of his slides illustrated how Verizon uses MoCA over the existing coaxial cable, with two MoCA channels operating on different frequencies.
One MoCA channel (the "WAN" channel) links the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) mounted outside the home with a Broadband Home Router (BHR) inside. The second "LAN" channel connects the BHR with video set top boxes. PCs connect to the BHR with Wi-Fi or optional "MoCA dongles". Having two separate MoCA channels isolates the WAN channel used for Verizon services from the LAN channel which can be used for additional consumer applications.
Wegleitner said Verizon is using MOCA as part of "The Verizon Managed Home", managing all video, voice and data communications for PCs and TVs through the BHR. He said more than 700,000 FiOS subscribers are using MoCA today, with more than 3 million MoCA nodes installed in FiOS homes.
To match the speed of FiOS, Verizon required at least 100 Mbps. The WAN and LAN channels each operate at more than 100 Mbps over the same coax infrastructure.
Shortly before the conference MoCA announced that the latest MoCA chips support 175 Mbps throughput. At the end of his talk, Wegleitner emphasized "the need for additional bandwidth in the home", saying "the next generation MoCA must support ~400 Mbps of actual throughput in less than two years" with "a roadmap to 1 Gbps within 4 years".
A session on MoCA protocols provided more details on MoCA than we've seen before. The recently announced addition of parameterized quality of service (PQoS) makes it possible to mix multiple streams and adjudicate their priorities if they cannot all operate simultaneously within the available bandwidth. This is already incorporated in MoCA 1.1, the basis of the latest chips.
The active participation of speakers from Broadcom and Conexant--in addition to Entropic Communications, the original developer of the technology--made it clear that major semiconductor manufacturers see a bright future in networking over coax. Broadcom and Conexant are on the MoCA board as promoter members, with Intel and Texas Instruments participating as contributing members.
Extending MoCA to Retail
Until now, MoCA has been deployed only by video service providers. Without MoCA-based products available for consumer networking, other technologies--especially Wi-Fi and various forms of powerline networking--occupy all the space on retailer's shelves.
"Extending MoCA to retail" was a recurring topic at the conference. Several sessions covered the potential for retail products. Keynote presentations by speakers from Intel, Scientific-Atlanta/Cisco, and Motorola touched on consumer applications. Speakers from Radio Shack, D-Link and Actiontec participated in a panel discussion on retail applications.
In the product demonstration area, D-Link showed the use of MoCA to transfer video from a networked attached storage (NAS) device to a high-definition screen. Scientific-Atlanta and Linksys (both now divisions of Cisco) showed a Linksys home router equipped with a DLNA media server working over MoCA with an S-A set top box equipped with a DLNA player. None of these are as yet on the market as retail products, but the implication was that they were close.
Consumers are starting to use home networking to move video from consumer-owned PCs and DVRs to flat-screen TVs throughout the home--both video recorded on the PC hard drive and streaming video from the Internet. MoCA is moving to retail just as video is moving rapidly to high definition and consumers are installing flat-screen HD sets in large numbers.
This move to retail appears to pose some problems for video service providers, who will need to grapple with several issues:
We came away from the conference looking forward to seeing some of these retail devices at CES next month, and playing with MoCA-based networking in our own home and condos.
For More Information
Network Problem Solving with HomePlug
At the MoCA Technology Conference--see the previous article--Dave participated in an analyst panel "From the Press Box". Kurt Scherf of Parks Associates moderated the panel, and asked the panelists to describe how they use home networking in their own homes. Each of the panelists--the others were Rick Merritt of EE Times and Jeff Baumgartner of Cable Digital News--told a similar story about how they had used HomePlug to solve a networking problem-typically creating a broadband connection from a PC in one room to another somewhere else in the house.
Dave described how even though we strung half a mile of Category 5 cabling through the walls of our house in the summer of 1996, we had failed to provide an Ethernet outlet in our dining room, where we house our main audio system. We used HomePlug to provide the network connection for an AudioTron Digital Music Player to access all our CDs stored on a hard drive. We wrote about this application nearly five years ago in HomePlug - Problem Solving and More Test Results (BBHR 1/21/2003).
Soon after the MoCA conference, we closed on the purchase of a second condo on Sanibel Island. As we had done with our first condo, we moved quickly to install a cable modem and set up a PC for our rental guests. But we found that the cable modem would not connect to the cable network properly in the master bedroom where we wanted to install the PC.
We traced the cable wiring, and found that the cable connection came into the guest bedroom and went through two splitters before it reached the master bedroom. The two splitters dropped the cable signal to a level too low for the cable modem. We tried connecting the cable modem to the first splitter in the guest bedroom and it worked fine.
So we ran out and bought a kit with two Linksys PLE200 PowerLine AV Ethernet Adapters based on HomePlug AV chips. We installed the Linksys configuration software on one of our laptop PCs and quickly configured both adapters with a secure password to reduce the risk of someone in the condo complex spying on our network. We connected the output of the cable modem to one AV adapter in the guest bedroom, and connected our VPN gateway/router to the other AV adapter in the master bedroom.
The new PC was online immediately, as were our two laptop PCs connected to the router with Wi-Fi. We quickly established a VPN connection to our home network to access our files at home and maintain the new PC remotely.
It felt like the cable modem and the gateway were connected with an Ethernet cable. HomePlug solves another networking problem! Our first renters are arriving for the holiday week, so we'll soon see how well it works over time.
2008 International CES
Most of us have some signpost that tells us that the New Year is on its way. For us, the sure sign is the meeting invitations we start receiving for the January Consumer Electronics Show. After the hundredth one arrives in our inboxes we start to wish we were past this yearly landmark. The PR folks struggle to make their invitations stand out from the crowd. This year’s winner was clearly the one with the subject line: “Attack of the CES PR People, Run for Your Life”.
This year’s show takes place January 7-10 in Las Vegas, NV, USA. For any of you who have somehow missed this extravaganza, be forewarned. You’ll need to pack your best walking shoes and a large dose of good humor to withstand the long taxi lines and crowded halls. Despite all this, we wouldn’t miss it for the world. We hope to see you there.
( www.cesweb.org )
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