Monday, March 7, 2005

Mobile TV pilot begins in Finland

Digita, Elisa, MTV, Nelonen, Nokia, Sonera and YLE (The Finnish Broadcasting Company) launched a mobile TV pilot in Finland. The project tests mobile TV services and consumer experiences, as well as the underlying technology, with 500 users in the Helsinki capital region.

The mobile TV test uses IP Datacasting (IPDC), which conforms with the DVB-H standard. At the end of 2004, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) adopted DVB-H as the standard for European mobile television services, enabling the simultaneous transmission of several television, radio and video channels to mobile devices.

Selected from Sonera and Elisa mobile phone customers, the test users are able to view real-time TV and radio programs on a Nokia 7710 smartphone equipped with a special accessory to receive mobile TV broadcasts. The Nokia smartphone also enables direct links to the Internet for access to background information on TV programs or sports results. Test users have access to MTV, YLE and Nelonen programs as well as international theme channels such as CNN, BBC World, EURnews, EURsport, ViVa Plus and Fashion TV. The pilot continues until 20 June 2005.

Elisa and Sonera are responsible for customer service, invoicing and connections to the new interactive supplementary services. Digita has designed and built the digital TV network needed for the distribution of mobile TV services and will manage the network, while Nokia will develop the mobile TV service management and smartphones that can receive mobile TV broadcasts.

America Online Partners with Sonus Networks and Level3

America Online named Sonus Networks and Level 3 Communications as key technology partners for its forthcoming VoIP service.

America Online will deploy Sonus' GSX9000 Open Services Switch, the Insignus Softswitch and the Sonus Insight Management System in its consumer VoIP offering.

The AOL service will also use a customized version of Level 3's consumer-oriented VoIP service. The service will be fully compliant with E911.

VON Keynote: AOL Enters Residential VoIP

America Online is set to launch a consumer VoIP service, announced Jonathan Miller, Chairman and CEO of AOL, in a keynote address at VON Spring. Noting that the residential telephony market in the U.S. is valued at over $100 billion, Miller said the time is now ripe to go after the mass market. America Online, which pioneered the mass marketing of dial-up online services a decade ago, is betting that it has a better understanding of what the average consumer wants in an online service. Whereas early adopters are tech-savvy and willing to change services at the drop of hat, the average U.S. consumer values a predictable service that is easy to use, said Miller. AOL prides itself on never needing a technical manual for its services and in keeping any list of instructions to no more than 3 items. And whereas the tech-savvy early adopter is highly price sensitive, Miller said the average U.S. consumer wants a good deal but would question the reliability and value of an extremely cheap price.

America Online also pioneered instant messaging starting in 1996 and today operates an immense IM network. Miller hopes to leverage this strategic asset with the new VoIP service. A unified dashboard will provide easy access to the buddy list, calling features, voice mail and email.

A final strategic asset for AOL's VoIP service will be its relationship with Time Warner. Earlier this year, AOL and Time Warner agreed to better integrate their broadband activities. Going forward, this will include the VoIP product development, said Miller.

VON Keynote: Beyond the Tipping Point

"After 10 years, the VoIP Wolf has finally arrived at the door" said Jeff Pulver in a keynote address at the Spring VON in San Jose, California. This week's VON is the largest yet, with some 6,000 attendees expected.

The VoIP industry, as Pulver sees it, is now it its adolescent phase. Tens of millions of people now use services like Skype regularly, and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on marketing/advertising to attract a mass market for commercial VoIP services. And yet, the rules of engagement for the new network have yet to be fully defined. Pulver argued that what we really need are DUMB PIPES and the enforcement of NET FREEDOM principles (freedom to access content, freedom to choose your own application, freedom to attach personal devices of your choice, etc).

Pulver is also an advocate for the open source movement, contending that soon generic "communication servers" will become as ubiquitous as web servers and email servers. On the consumer front, the VoIP industry is still looking for its Steve Jobs. "What we really need is the iPod of Communications" said Pulver, "because in the end, what people want is a great consumer experience."

Swisscom Deploys SIP-based Consumer Triple-Play

Swisscom's new Bluewin Phone consumer VoIP and video broadband offering is using platforms from Sylantro Systems Corporation and Siemens Switzerland. The visual user interface for the Bluewin Phone service uses Sylantro's Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) interfaces to control the VoIP, video and other SIP-based advanced consumer services over broadband connections. The new service will be available nationwide to all Bluewin ADSL customers.

Swisscom has also deployed the Siemens SURPASS hiE 9200 softswitch and the SURPASS hiG 1200 VoIP media gateway to provide network-facing trunking and interface to the PSTN. The Sylantro applications feature server provides customer-facing features and applications such as click-to-call, find me/follow me, white list dialing, distinctive ringing, user control and management of features and options. The combined solution also utilizes Kagoor Networks' VoiceFlow 3000 session border controllers. The installed platform currently serves Swisscom's residential broadband customers.
  • Swisscom Fixnet currently has more than a million retail Internet subscribers nationwide, out of which more than 500,000 are broadband access customers.

LongBoard Targets IP Fixed Mobile Convergence

LongBoard announced the availability of its Open Mobile Enterprise (OME) software for managed carrier mobility services. OME is a SIP-based server-to-handset solution that uses off-the-shelf hardware and phones, targeting fixed mobile convergence (FMC). This would give wireline carriers the ability to offer managed mobility applications to the enterprise, and extend business-class voice services and call features seamlessly across wireline (WiFi/802.11) and wireless (cellular) networks. Wireline carriers could use FMC technologies to stem the tide of lost voice minutes and revenue to cellular providers.

LongBoard said its OME applications represent the first generation of FMC technologies that enable wireline carriers to recapture lost revenue and subscribers by extending high-value mobility applications into the enterprise, keeping wireless minutes on the wireline network. OME applications use emerging wireless IP handsets and devices to enable business features across both WiFi and cellular networks.

OME software applications are delivered via LongBoard's Mobility Application Platform (LMAP), a carrier-grade SIP-based applications server. LMAP manages mobility and billing capabilities for these OME applications:

  • OME-WiFi extends business-class voice services from desktop phones to mobile users within enterprise campuses using SIP-based 802.11 (WiFi) handsets, softphones, or Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). It offers full support for business features including abbreviated dialing, call transfer, hunt groups, park & pick-up, conference calling, and more.

  • OME-Cellular expands managed business voice services beyond the enterprise to cellular phones, to support mobile workers traveling outside the office and around the globe with no changes required to the carrier's existing cellular network. It supports routing to a user's cellphone automatically when they are outside of the enterprise, and including their cellphone as a target for abbreviated dialing, hunt groups, call transfer, and more.

OME-WiFi integrates with compatible wireless IP handsets and devices from a variety of manufacturers. OME-Cellular works with any standard cellphone. Both OME services deliver a seamless set of business-class voice services using the corporate voice system's phone number and user interface.

Separately, LongBoard announced that it has completed interoperability testing of its Open Mobile Enterprise (OME) - WiFi software with wireless IP handsets and softphones from Hitachi Cable, Symbol Technologies, UTStarcom, and Xten. In a separate announcement, the company also introduced the availability of its OME applications, offering wireline carriers the first entry point toward fixed mobile convergence (FMC) technologies.

Leonard Ray Named President of FTTH Council

The Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council elected a new board of directors:

  • Leonard Ray, Atlantic Engineering Group - President

  • Diane Kruse, Zoomy Communications - Vice President / President Elect

  • John Griffin, Optical Solutions - Secretary

  • Michael DiMauro, Omega Communications Services - Treasurer

  • Douglas Dowling, Tyco Electronics

  • Wes Rosenbalm, Bristol Virginia Utilities

  • Robert Whitman, Corning Incorporated

"It is a very exciting time to be associated with the FTTH Council," commented Leonard Ray, President of the Fiber-to-the-Home Council, "as we are now witnessing the very beginning of a radical transformation of this country's networks, from antiquated, slow copper networks to the limitless power of fiber optic communications."

Level 3 Acquires 360networks' Long-Haul Transport

Level 3 Communications has acquired substantially all of 360networks' nationwide long-haul transport business and as a result 360networks will cease making monthly payments to Level 3 for operations and maintenance services for its dark fiber.

The deal makes Level 3 the primary provider of North American optical wavelength services to T-Systems North America. 360networks previously served as T-Systems' broadband transport vendor in the U.S., using lit fiber that it had acquired from Dynegy Inc. in 2002. Dynegy had initially purchased that fiber from Level 3 under a 20-year IRU in October 2000. Through the agreements announced today, that fiber agreement has been terminated.

"360networks informed us that they were seeking to phase out their nationwide long-haul network services business in the U.S.," said Sunit Patel, Level 3's chief financial officer. "As such, they no longer had a compelling reason to maintain their dark fiber agreement with Level 3. We believe this negotiated agreement with 360networks, through which Level 3 acquires the business and becomes a key network services vendor to T-Systems, is in the mutual best interest of all parties."
  • In March 2004, T-Systems announced a strategic partnership with Level 3 Communications that enables it to provide its MPLS-based service portfolio to customers across the entire Level 3 fiber-optic network, which spans approximately 19,000 miles in North America and includes Points of Presence in 68 U.S. markets.

  • In November 2004, 360networks completed the sale of its Canadian assets, primarily Group Telecom, to Bell Canada for US$215 million in cash. Bell Canada also purchased selected northern US interconnection assets and related liabilities. 360networks will use the cash proceeds to retire all of its debt, including the debt from its 2002 restructuring, and for working capital purposes. AT the time, 360networks said it would focus on its US operations, which include a low-cost, long-haul network footprint with strategic metro access and a regional Western regional network with unique reach into rural markets. Group Telecom will now operate as a division of Bell Canada.

Agere Acquires Modem-Art for 3G/UMTS Processors

Agere Systems has acquired Modem-Art, a privately held developer of advanced processor technology for 3G/UMTS mobile devices, for $145.1 million, consisting of cash and stock.

Modem-Art, which is based in Israel, specializes in developing technology for wideband and broadband communications systems. Its programmable modem engines that are fully software upgradeable, bringing significant time-to-market benefits for mobile handset vendors. Modem-Art currently markets its MA1050 processor as a fully 3GPP Release 99 and Release 4 standards-compliant physical layer solution. To date, Agere and Modem-Art have already secured multiple 3G/UMTS designs with leading wireless device manufacturers for phones and PC card applications.

Agere said the acquisition complements its existing products for today's 3G and widely anticipated future HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology.

All 40 Modem-Art employees will join Agere and be based in Raanana, Israel.

Comcast Awards $1 Billion Set-top Deal to Motorola

Comcast and Motorola announced a multi-year set-top commitment valued at more than US$1 billion, the largest set-top purchase agreement in the operator's history. The deal extends a multi-year agreement for Comcast to purchase set-tops and network equipment. In addition, Motorola will provide high-definition digital video recorders and standard-definition entry-level models, among others.

Comcast and Motorola also announced an agreement to form two joint ventures focused on next-generation conditional access technologies.

The first joint venture will focus primarily on development of a next-generation conditional access system, using MediaCipher as its foundation. Comcast and Motorola will jointly manage the development group.

The second joint venture will focus on licensing conditional access and other cable technologies, including MediaCipher, to United States cable operators and third-party providers. The licensing venture will be managed by Comcast.

Linksys Ships Over One Million Consumer VoIP Ports in Under 6 Months

Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems, Inc., reported that it has shipped over one million VoIP ports in the six months since it entered this product category. Linksys products for VoIP include a phone adapter and wired and wireless routers with phone ports. These products, bundled with a VoIP service, enable customers to make phone calls using their broadband connection.

Since August, Linksys has announced relationships with leading broadband VoIP service providers including AT&T CallVantage, PeopleCall in Spain, in France, Verizon VoiceWing, and Vonage in both North America and the UK.

For comparison, here is the time it took Linksys to reach its first million units for the following product categories.

  • VoIP 6 Months

  • Wireless LAN 13 Months

  • Ethernet Routers 16 Months

  • Ethernet Switches 27 Months

Aastra Selects Octasic for Conference Bridge

Aastra Telecom, has selected Octasic's OCT6100 devices for new CNX Conference Bridge Appliance designed for small and medium sized enterprise conferencing requirements. The appliance allows participants to access a conference via the PSTN, legacy PBXs or VoIP networks. Octasic's single device OCT6100 allows Aastra to offer customers high voice quality in a scalable package that provides conference mixing, acoustic and electrical echo cancellation, automatic gain and level control, dominant speaker selection and adaptive noise reduction.

Broadcom Offers Wi-Fi Phone Reference Design

Broadcom has enhanced its Wi-Fi phone reference platform with new SecureEasySetup software for helping consumers install their wireless IP phones "at the touch of a button." The phone automatically connects to the wireless network and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security activates. Linksys and HP have announced support for SecureEasySetup software, which will soon be featured in Linksys wireless LAN equipment, select HP notebooks and future HP-networked printers. Broadcom said additional equipment vendors plan to integrate SecureEasySetup software into a wide variety of peripheral devices and consumer electronics ranging from notebook PCs, wireless routers and broadband modems.

"The convergence of VoIP and wireless LAN technology enables a new realm of consumer products that enhance our lives including Wi-Fi Phones that offer enhanced voice and data experiences such as sharing images, video, music and security monitoring," said Patrick Sullivan, Vice President and General Manager of Broadcom's VoIP Business Unit.

Texas Instruments Enhances its VoIP Gateway

Texas Instruments introduced a flexible conferencing solution that can be used in a variety of product architectures, including dedicated conferencing bridges or media servers, or it can be used as a component of a standalone VoIP gateway.

TI has developed an Enhanced SMV (selectable mode vocoder), which increases channel densities in carrier-class VoIP systems by approximately 20%, thereby reducing system costs for equipment manufacturers. Enhanced SMV offers the same subjective voice quality as the SMV bit exact implementation, but uses far fewer MIPS (million instructions per second), further optimizing TI's TNETV3010 VOiP solution for high-density CDMA2000 wireless gateway designs.

TI is also upgrading its high density product offerings by adding its Telinnovation Echo Canceller to its TNETV3010 product.

Among the key features included in this solution are:

  • Intelligent speaker selection algorithm, required to ensure that noise does not degrade conference performance

  • Support for multiple conferencing bridges -- up to 96 total conference ports

  • The ability to add and remove conference participants

  • Conference capability supports any combination of network and TDM
    participants, and conference participants are not limited to the same
    codec type

  • No impact to per core channel capabilities and features due to the
    presence or initiation of a conference.

NexTone and AudioCodes Partner for Transcoding Media Firewall Solution

NexTone has selected AudioCodes to enable a media transcoding solution for scalable and secure VoIP network interconnects. The NexTone TMF option enables NexTone's Session Controller to dynamically utilize AudioCodes' media server blades and platforms with the Multimedia Services Control Protocol (MSCP) to achieve seamless transcoding of voice and fax streams. NexTone said the solution gives carriers more control of their real-time traffic.

BroadSoft Powers Primus "Lingo"

Primus Telecommunications is using BroadSoft's BroadWorks VoIP applications platform to support its Lingo Internet telephone service for homes and offices across the U.S. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Lingo offers consumers unlimited calling in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe for only $19.95 per month with the first month free. Lingo also offers local phone numbers from 14 different countries.

VeriSign Provides Law Enforcement Capabilities for Vonage

Vonage has selected VeriSign NetDiscovery Services to help develop the capability for law enforcement to legally intercept calls on its VoIP service. Vonage is not presently subject to the requirements of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), but is voluntarily complying with its provisions through this relationship.

VeriSign provides carriers with an outsourced NetDiscovery Service for complying with legal, regulatory, technical, and operational aspects of CALEA and other mandates to provide assistance to law enforcement agencies. CALEA requires service providers to assist Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in lawfully authorized electronic surveillance. To comply, service providers often have to purchase dedicated hardware, have trained operation staff and maintain connectivity with a variety of LEAs.


Tom Kershaw



CALEA -- A Carrier's Guide to
Compliance in the VoIP Age

As innovative new voice technologies come to market, one of the biggest
challenges carriers face is balancing regulatory requirements with
time-to-market for new services. When the Communications Assistance for
Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) was put into place in 1996, there was no way
to predict the huge changes on the horizon in communications -- from
wireless voice growth to short-messaging, push-to-talk and increasingly,
voice over IP.

Microsoft Advances its Integrated Communications Vision

In a global conference call event, Bill Gates outlined Microsoft's vision for integrated communications, saying Microsoft is committed to building presence awareness into all its software applications, integrating various modes of communication (e-mail, phone, instant messaging (IM), short message service (SMS), videoconferencing and Web conferencing) to allow seamless transition from one mode to another, and delivering intelligent software that can manage communications with the context of a person's availability and preferences. The webcast included an unveiling of a new release of Microsoft Office Live Meeting, the company's hosted Web conferencing service, which launches this month.

Company executives also demonstrated Microsoft Office Communicator 2005 (previously code-named "Istanbul"), its new integrated communications application that provides rich presence and unifies real-time communications modes -- such as IM, voice, video and access to voice conferencing and Web conferencing -- into a single application. It also enables PC-to-phone integration.

"We have lots of ways to connect with people using technology, but there are countless opportunities to make them smarter and more efficient."

Live Meeting 2005 will provide the ability to launch a meeting from within Microsoft Office software, better audio controls, and presenter control capabilities. In addition, Live Meeting 2005 will be available in localized versions with support for seven additional languages. Some specific new capabilities include:

  • Microsoft Live Meeting is sold as a hosted online service. Several license models are available (named user, room, shared seat and monthly minute) in order to accommodate different types of organizations. Live Meeting Event Services also are available for customers that require professional event management to conduct their online events.

  • new presenter controls enable participants to be called directly to join a meeting and allows presenters to mute, unmute and disconnect participants from MCI, BT and InterCall audioconferencing services.

  • as an alternative to telephone audioconferencing, customers can significantly reduce audio-related costs with Internet Audio Broadcast, which streams VoIP over the Internet.

  • a Live Meeting Add-In for Outlook gives users two-way sync with the Outlook calendar and the ability to schedule a meeting offline.

Webex to Support Microsoft Office Communicator 2005

WebEx users will be able to access its applications from the new Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, the instant messenger client previously known by the codename, Istanbul. WebEx currently enables integrated access to WebEx meetings from a variety of applications and instant messaging clients including Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Windows Messenger and the popular AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). The standards-based APIs of the WebEx MediaTone platform also enable integration of the WebEx suite of customer interaction applications into any enterprise solution. WebEx plans to make the Microsoft Office Communicator 2005 integration available to all its customers, including those using the new EMX option.

QUALCOMM Names Dr. Paul Jacobs as CEO, Succeeding his Father

Dr. Paul E. Jacobs (42) will succeed his father, Dr. Irwin Jacobs (71), as CEO of QUALCOMM effective July 1st. Dr. Irwin Jacobs will continue to serve as Chairman of the company.

QUALCOMM also announced that Steven R. Altman will be promoted to president of the Company, replacing Tony Thornley, the current president of the Company, who will retire.

Dr. Paul Jacobs has been the primary driver of QUALCOMM's focus on enabling wireless data. He has held numerous engineering and management positions since joining the Company fulltime in 1990. Dr. Jacobs' early work focused on the speech compression techniques that became CDMA's initial differentiating consumer feature. In 1995, he was appointed to run the handset and integrated circuit division, which was subsequently divided into QUALCOMM Consumer Products (QCP) and QUALCOMM CDMA Technologies, respectively

VON Keynote: Powell Delivers His Swan Song

FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell chose the VON Spring conference in San Jose to deliver his swan song to the networking industry. For all the regulatory issues that crossed his desk in the eight years he served at the FCC, Powell said "VOIP most clearly stands for what I have long sought to achieve... with VoIP we've given the world something to talk about." VoIP is no longer something whispered about in technology conferences but has entered the mainstream of consumer electronics. Powell argued that it might not have been so if entrenched monopolies and state regulators had gotten their way in Washington. Using the argument "if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck" the regulators would have subjected the young technology to the same regulations as plain old telephone service. Under Powell, the FCC defined IP-to-IP connections as "information services" and then preempted state regulators from asserting jurisdiction over VoIP.

However, Powell said he is not naïve. Dangers still lurk that could kill off the wave of innovation now sweeping the industry. For example, broadband providers will be tempted to filter or manipulate the bits of competing services to their advantage. Powell cited the case of the Madison River Telephone Company, which Vonage accused of blocking ports used for its VoIP service. In a remarkable regulatory feat, the FCC launched an investigation and reached a consent decree in only 3 weeks. Powell said he is very proud of that decision, but acknowledged that many other critical decisions remain on developing an new IP regulatory framework, network access charges, intercarrier compensation, universal service, etc.

His final advice -- VoIP won't be a rock star for ever -- the industry must work with the government to ensure that the promise of the revolution is actually delivered. Powell expects to step down at the end of next week.