Thursday, November 18, 2004

U.S. Congress Extends Internet Tax Moratorium

The House of Representatives voted to approve a new three-year ban on state and local governments' taxation of the monthly fees that Internet providers charge their customers. The moratorium cover Internet access, regardless of speed or access technology, but does cover the imposition of taxes Internet voice or similar services. A similar measure had already been approved by the Senate.

Some industry reaction:

Earthlink: "We applaud the efforts of the House and Senate to renew the Internet tax moratorium. This legislation will help make broadband Internet access more affordable and accessible for all Americans by preventing any new state taxation on Internet services," Dave Baker, vice president of law and public policy.

UK Regulator Seeks Changes from BT, Not a Break-up

Ofcom, the official telecom regulator in the U.K., published its proposals to support the growth of greater competition, innovation and investment certainty in the UK telecommunications sector. The proposals are intended to prepare the ground for a new regulatory framework as the market undergoes a migration to next-generation networks based on IP.

Following a strategic review of the market, Ofcom said it has identified two key problems:

  • Firstly, an unstable market structure in fixed telecoms, dominated by BT and with alternative providers that are, in the main, fragmented and of limited scale.

  • Secondly, the continuance of a complex regulatory mesh, devised over twenty years of regulation and in many areas dependent upon intrusive micro-management to achieve its purposes, yet which, in aggregate, has failed effectively to address the core issue of BT's control of the UK-wide access network.

Rather than a breakup of BT, Ofcom said it prefers an approach that requires BT to deliver real equality of access. Ofcom is proposing that the most effective way to deliver the changes required will be for regulation to address head-on the barriers preventing competitive wholesale access to BT's network. Real equality of access would mean that BT must offer competitors the same or similar wholesale products and prices, as are made available by BT to its own retail businesses, and; transactional processes, as are made available by BT for the use of its own retail businesses. Ofcom would require BT to make changes to its wholesale products, product development process and transactional processes; it would also require BT to commit to substantive behavioural and organisational changes.

Ofcom is proposing that if a fit-for-purpose Wholesale Line Rental product is successfully introduced in 2005, a staged withdrawal of retail voice regulation would follow. This would also be accelerated as converged voice and data services develop and competition between fixed and mobile services increases.

Ofcom also intends to re-examine the scope for deregulation of telecommunications services directed at larger businesses, opening up the prospect of BT having greater flexibility to package services for the largest corporate customers.

In response, BT's Chief Executive, Ben Verwaayen said: "We welcome Ofcom's call for a new settlement where regulation is tightly focused on the parts of the market that need it, with deregulation elsewhere. This would be a real prize for the industry, consumers and for British competitiveness. We will engage constructively with Ofcom and the industry during the final phase of the Strategic Review, looking forward to achieving regulatory certainty that will encourage investment and innovation."
  • The UK government licensed the first telecom competitor (Mercury) in 1980s and encouraged the company to build its own network. From 1994 to 1997, the regulator at that time (Oftel) favored competition between fixed-line companies that owned their own networks - and particularly those with networks that actually came into homes and offices, such as cable operators. Oftel also licensed two extra mobile networks, so that there were four network operators competing from the mid-1990s. However, in the mid-1990s Oftel was less favourable to companies that did not own a network. In fact, it has only been since 1998 that regulation has made it easier for service providers such as Centrica and Carphone Warehouse to launch phone-call services.

  • There are five mobile network operators in the UK, plus others which offer services by using another company's network. On the other hand, BT has an 80% share of the residential phone market, and supplies most business lines as well. For Internet access, it seems at first glance that there's a whole variety of internet service providers (such as AOL and Freeserve) supplying narrowband and broadband services to homes and offices. However, almost all of them use just one of two networks -- cable or DSL.

BT Launches Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) business

In what it described as its first major step to creating the world's first fully converged fixed-mobile service, BT launched its Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) business to the corporate market. The range of new BT mobile services includes a mobile Virtual Private Network service, Business Circle and Conference on Demand, as well as new tariffs to give large and small businesses greater freedom to structure prices according to their needs.

Building on the recent launch of BT-branded BlackBerry handhelds, BT is launching Business Circle, which enables businesses to better manage their communications costs through a mobile Virtual Private Network (VPN). This enables an employee's mobile device to become an extension of the switchboard, and means calls to company mobiles across the VPN are charged at reduced prices. The new Conference on Demand facility is also now available, allowing conference calls to be managed via a mobile handset. BT will also announce soon that it is to offer its BT Mobile business customers the opportunity to experience BT Openzone Wireless Broadband for a reduced monthly fee.

BT will begin marketing and connecting business customers to its new mobile service. All business customers will be account-managed solely by BT, which will be responsible for all marketing, branding, billing and customer service. Network airtime and services will be provided by Vodafone UK, marking the beginning of its new strategic partnership with BT. BT Mobile will extend its service to the consumer market in January.

The announcement also marks the start of building BT's vision for converged services in the business and consumer markets, with plans to introduce a range of future services across fixed and wireless, voice and data networks.

Steven Evans, CEO of BT Mobile said "BT is uniquely placed to deliver a comprehensively-managed experience to business customers. We can draw on expertise in the fixed and mobile markets, as well as emerging mobility services such as Wi-Fi, and our experience of delivering IT and networking services to businesses of all sizes. BT Mobile will ultimately offer the world's first, fully-converged fixed-mobile service, seamlessly bringing together the advanced technologies and networks, whether that's broadband, wireless broadband or 3G."

WEGENER Announces HD-capable STB for Telcos

WEGENER, which supplies television, audio and data distribution network solutions to the cable industry, announced its first product designed specifically for the telecommunications industry. WEGENER's new IP set-top box, called the Streaming Media Decoder (SMD) 515, is aimed at telco triple play deployments.

WEGENER's set-top supports standard and high definition television through a DSL connection. It supports high definition Windows Media 9 advanced video decoding, widescreen format program guide with scaled HD video and IR remote control.

SITA Deploys Peribit to Lower WAN Bandwidth Requirements

SITA, the world's leading provider of integrated communications to the air transport industry, announced a partnership with Peribit Networks to improve the performance of critical applications over the WAN and reduce overall network costs. The partnership adds to SITA's existing suite of global communications services -- currently used by 1,800 customers worldwide -- to address the specific need of improving applications performance across global distributed networks.

Peribit Networks' PeriSphere platform improves application performance by addressing issues around network latency, congestion, contention (QOS) and path optimization. Peribit's technology will be added to SITA's new Traffic Management and Optimization Service to deliver a cost effective solution for air transport businesses grappling with performance across distributed Wide Area Networks.

EURCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, is the first customer to work with Peribit Networks and SITA to deploy the joint solution.

FCC Report Urges Congress to Let Market Forces Shape Video Industry

Congress should not seek to implement an a la carte programming requirement for Multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) -- providers of pay TV services -- according to a new report from the Media Bureau of the FCC. The report found that although an a la carte option would allow consumers to pay for only the programming they choose, given current viewing practices, few consumers would experience lower bills for multi-channel programming.

The report found that an a la carte regime would not produce the desired result of lower MVPD rates for most pay-television households. Under an a la carte mandate, networks formerly sold in tiers would need to significantly increase their marketing expenses to induce consumers to affirmatively select the network. This would have a significant negative effect on the programmer's advertising and revenue model. The FCC concludes that the loss of cost savings, combined with the likely loss in advertising revenue and the likely rise in license fees, may cause many program networks to fail, thus adversely impacting diversity in programming. The FCC calculates that consumers selecting 9 or fewer network choices would see their monthly bills decrease, while those choosing more than 9 networks would see the monthly bill rise.

Currently, the FCC estimates that the average household watches about 17 different channels, including local broadcast stations.

An alternative to an a la carte mandate would be to encourage voluntary "mixed bundling" whereby network operators offer a wide choice in channel packages. The FCC report further argues that Congress should let market forces and technological innovation play out. It notes that two significant players are poised to enter the pay TV market soon: incumbent telcos with TV over DSL offerings; and USDTV and others, who plan to use over-the-air spectrum to offer low cost digital TV services. On the technology front, the FCC argues that VOD services and digital video recorders (DVRs) are gaining market momentum, giving consumers far greater control over what they watch and when.

Cable's share has fallen to about 75% of Multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD), compared with nearly 100% ten years ago.

FCC Approves First Software Defined Radio.

The FCC announced today it has approved, for the first time, use of a software defined radio device in the U.S. This new class of equipment allows users to share limited airspace, increases flexibility and reduces interference concerns. Software defined radios can change the frequency range, modulation type or output power of a radio device without making changes to hardware components. This programmable capacity permits radios to be highly adaptable to changing needs, protocols and environments.

The FCC's Laboratory Division has issued a Grant of Certification to Vanu, a software development company, for a cellular base station transmitter.

Vanu has demonstrated that its device complies with the FCC rules, and has shown that its software has sufficient controls so that the device cannot be modified to operate outside its FCC-approved parameters. The Commission currently has a rulemaking pending that will further streamline the software defined radio requirements, and it is working with each applicant on a case-by-case basis to facilitate compliance with the current rules.

NTT DoCoMo Develops Common Software Platform for 3G FOMA Handsets

NTT DoCoMo has developed a common software platform for its 3G FOMA handsets. DoCoMo will license the platform to handset vendors. The development platform is compatible with both the Linux and Symbian operating systems. The Linux version was jointly developed with NEC Corporation and Panasonic Mobile Communications, and the Symbian version was jointly developed with Fujitsu Corporation.

NTT DoCoMo said some handsets, including its new 901i series and others, are already using the common software platform.

BT Chooses ip.access for In-building GSM /DSL Service

ip.access ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of TTP Communications, announced that its nanoGSM basestation solution has been selected by BT for a new service for Mobile Network Operators to offer GSM in-building coverage. The nanoBTS basestations use BT's DSL network for backhaul. Mobile network operators could use the solution to offer GSM coverage in a corporate campus.

ip.access' nanoBTS is a GSM picocell basestation that uses IP networks to deliver cellular voice and data services.

Sunrise Telecom Introduces ADSL2+ Test Solutions

Sunrise Telecom announced ADSL2+ test solutions for its SunSet MTT platform. The new ADSL2+ ATU-R module supports multiple deployed and emerging ADSL technologies, including the recent ITU-T ADSL2+ (G.992.5) standard targeted for the combined triple-play of voice, internet, and video services. The SunSet MTT ACM Chassis has been given a 2.2 MHz bandwidth enhancement to accommodate the ADSL2+ frequency spectrum for copper qualification and troubleshooting applications.

The new module could be used by a Tier 1 technician for ADSL2+ service verification. It features a One-Button Test, where the test set attempts to synchronize with the far end DSLAM, and upon achieving Showtime (link-up), presents a summary screen of key results including achieved data rate and SNR margin. This One-Button-Test shows whether or not the ADSL2+ link is working properly from the central office DSLAM to the customer's premises. Additionally, the module's IP ping test verifies Internet connectivity.

Alcatel Acquires Right Vision

Alcatel will acquire privately held Right Vision, a European provider of software-based Internet appliances that provide Internet access, email and Web applications, as well as security and simplified management capabilities. Right Vision currently has 42 employees. The deal is expected to close in December. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Right Vision, which is based in Sophia-Antipolis, France, provides pure software solutions that run on industry standard server platforms, as well as packaged offerings that include standard hardware and software with support for both Microsoft and Linux environments. The company currently serves more than 5,000 SMB customers through indirect channels that include Hewlett Packard, NEC and ACER. Right Vision also has developed partnerships with leading service providers, including France Telecom, British Telecom, and Belgacom. The company was founded in 1999.

Alcatel is integrating Right Vision's solutions with its Alcatel OmniPCX Office communications server. Alcatel plans to deliver its first SMB offering that includes Right Vision in the first quarter of 2005. Further integration with the Alcatel OmniPCX Office range is planned for 2005 and beyond.

Alcatel said the acquisition of Right Vision supports its vision for delivering converged Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solutions that bring together IT and communications in "all-in-one" packages. Alcatel will target small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with these solutions, integrating voice, data and Internet functionalities into a single offering.

CANARIE Chooses Looking Glass for Dark Fiber Solution

CANARIE, Canada's advanced Internet organization, has selected Looking Glass to provide dark fiber services to support networks which are central to international innovations in research and education. Specifically, CANARIE purchased Looking Glass' DarkGLASS services in Chicago to extend its connection to StarLight locations. StarLight is an advanced optical infrastructure and proving ground for network services optimized for high-performance applications.

Telefonica Moviles Mexico Launch Movistar "Contacto Directo"

Telefonica Moviles Mexico, a subsidiary of Grupo Telefonica Moviles, has launched MoviStar Contacto Directo; a new service which allows use of PoC (Push to Talk over Cellular) technology over the Telefonica MoviStar GSM/GPRS network. Nokia is providing its complete network infrastructure solution for PoC and Presence required to launch this new service.

MoviStar Contacto Directo is targeted to the business user who requires fast and constant communications with work teams. This service allows establishing half-duplex voice links i.e. one speaks and the other listens, either for groups or one to one communication between individual users at the touch of a button. It also has enhanced Presence capability, which allows the user to know the status of the phone of the person being called: active, inactive, busy, unavailable, among others; this facilitates smoother communication between users. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Nokia said it now has more than 30 operator trials ongoing and commercial contracts with 20 operators for its Push to talk over Cellular solution.

Germany's ERGO Build RPR with Nortel Gear

ERGO, Germany's number two primary insurance provider serving 31 million customers throughout Europe, has established one of the first resilient packet rings (RPR) in Germany using a next generation optical platform from Nortel. The 2.5 Gbprs platform enables a distributed IS architecture over a single optical infrastructure connecting ERGO main offices in Duesseldorf, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich. The sites are connected by a carrier-grade backbone ring, while single connections are provided by T-Systems, using the Nortel Optical Metro 5100 platform.

The multiservice platform carries video conferencing, voice and data transmission, IP data communication services as well as ATM and VPN services. Equipment deployed includes the Nortel Optical Metro 3500 platform, Nortel Passport 8600 and 7480 Ethernet routing switches, Nortel BayStack 470 Ethernet switches, and a complete network management solution. Financial services were not disclosed.