Monday, March 14, 2005

Comcast and TiVo Announce 7-Year Strategic Partnership

Comcast agreed to make the TiVo service and advertising capability widely available to its cable customers in the majority of its markets around the country.

Under the multiyear non-exclusive agreement, Comcast and TiVo will work together to develop a version of the TiVo service that will be made available on Comcast's current primary DVR platform. New software will be developed by TiVo and will be incorporated into Comcast's existing network platforms. The new service will be marketed with the TiVo brand, and is expected to be available on Comcast's DVR products in a majority of Comcast markets in mid-to-late 2006.

"It is very important that TiVo has found a way to work with the nation's largest cable operator on a cooperative basis to develop a state-of-the-art TiVo Service, fully integrated with a cable set-top box, that will make TiVo available to millions of cable viewers... This is a real milestone for TiVo and for the cable industry, but most importantly it is a milestone for television viewers," said Tom Rogers, vice chairman of TiVo.
  • Last week, 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.

Ditech Introduces its Next Gen Echo Cancellation

Ditech Communications introduced its next generation in voice quality solutions, combining 192 millisecond hybrid echo cancellation and bi-directional acoustic echo cancellation to control the effects of echo across converging networks.

The solution is positioned to help mobile carriers provide superior voice quality in increasingly complex network interconnections and as they transition from circuit to packet, protecting both the caller and call recipient from the annoying effects of echo regardless of the network infrastructure in the call path.

The echo cancellation application is available on Ditech Communications' Broadband Voice Processor (BVP-Flex) platform and leverages the advanced voice processing capabilities of Ditech's Voice Quality Assurance (VQA).

Ditech said its bi-directional acoustic echo cancellation capability allows carriers to protect subscribers from acoustic echo originated by handsets on either side of a mobile conversation. The 400 millisecond acoustic echo processing window ensures protection from network call paths that now may have longer delays due to complex routing and packet transport.

Motorola Scales its Multimedia Messaging Service Center

Motorola has expanded the capacity of its Multimedia Messaging Service Center (MMSC) to support more than 40 million subscribers. The MMSC enhancements also enable video messaging and picture messaging interoperability.

Motorola's MMSC allows for transfer of multimedia information from various MMS-enabled handsets or devices across CDMA, GSM, EDGE, UMTS and IP networks to provide full interoperability between multiple e-mail users on the Internet, and inter-carrier multimedia messaging.

Motorola said MMS is evolving beyond person-to-person (P2P) to become a multimedia entertainment and information delivery channel.

Application-to-person (A2P) MMS provides content- and event-driven alerts, which are normally more time-sensitive than P2P MMS. As adoption of A2P continues to accelerate, this change is expected to create additional performance and throughput requirements on the operator's MMS infrastructure.

Verizon Wireless recently deployed Motorola's MMSC solution.

SEC Charges Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio and Eight Others with Massive Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Joseph P. Nacchio, former co-chairman and chief executive officer of Qwest Communications International Inc., and eight other former Qwest officers and employees with fraud and other violations of the federal securities laws. In three separate but related civil actions, the Commission alleges that, between 1999 and 2002, the Qwest defendants engaged in a multi-faceted fraudulent scheme designed to mislead the investing public about the company's revenue and growth.

"The disclosure fraud at Qwest was orchestrated at the highest level of the company to deceive investors," said Randall J. Fons, Regional Director of the Commission's Central Regional Office in Denver. "Qwest's CEO and other top executives projected revenue and earnings that they knew were overly aggressive, and then all of the defendants used smoke and mirrors to meet those unrealistic projections. These individuals must now answer for their conduct and the enormous decline in shareholder value that they caused."

In addition to Nacchio, the Commission's complaints name former chief financial officers Robert S. Woodruff and Robin R. Szeliga, former chief operating officer Afshin Mohebbi, former executive vice president of wholesale markets Gregory M. Casey, former senior vice president of pricing and offer management Roger B. Hoaglund, former senior vice president of finance William L. Eveleth, former director of financial reporting James J. Kozlowski, and former senior manager of financial reporting Frank T. Noyes. The complaints seek injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against all of the defendants, and officer/director bars against Nacchio, Woodruff, Szeliga, Mohebbi, Casey, and Eveleth.
  • In June 2002, Joseph P. Nacchio was forced to resign as CEO of Qwest Communications.

Verizon's CEO Lobbies for MCI Merger Approval

Verizon's acquisition of MCI is "the next logical step" in a changing telecommunications industry and will enable the combined company to compete for large-business, government and critical national security customers, Ivan Seidenberg, the chairman and CEO of Verizon, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Seidenberg argued that Verizon with MCI assures that a strong competitor remains in the marketplace, thereby enhancing competition rather than eliminating it.

Seidenberg assured lawmakers that Verizon's MCI acquisition "does not alter the dynamics that are reshaping the consumer market" and won't have any impact on the current universal service program or its funding.

"Competition from wireless, cable telephony, e-mail, instant messaging and VoIP will continue to drive pricing, with or without this transaction," he said. "The consumer marketplace will continue to become less concentrated over time -- with or without this transaction -- as new platforms vie for the broadband household."

Sonus Reports Quarterly Revenue of $45 Million

Sonus Networks reported Q4 revenue of $45.1 million compared with $46.4 million in the same period last year, a decrease of 3%. Net income for Q4 was $6.3 million or $0.02 per diluted share, compared with net income for Q4 of fiscal 2003 of $6.9 million, or $0.03 per diluted share.

Revenues for fiscal year 2004 were $170.7 million compared with $93.2 million for fiscal year 2003, an increase of 83%. Net income for fiscal year 2004 was $24.5 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, compared with a net loss for fiscal year 2003 of $15.1 million, or $0.07 per diluted share.

"Our 2004 financial results represent record performance by our team around the world. Revenue grew 83%, we were profitable on an annual basis, and we generated positive cash flow," said Hassan Ahmed, chairman and CEO, Sonus Networks. "As we continue to focus on growing the company, we are equally focused on improving our financial controls and infrastructure. We are pleased to have timely filed our Form 10-K for 2004 and to have completed the assessment of internal control over financial reporting under the new Sarbanes-Oxley 404 requirements."

Ericsson WCDMA Selected for US Navy Satellite Project

Ericsson has signed an agreement with General Dynamics to supply WCDMA wireless equipment and telecom services in support of the U.S. Navy contract awarded to Lockheed Martin to build the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). The multi-year agreement could be worth as much as US$200 million to Ericsson.

MUOS is the U.S. Department of Defense's next-generation narrowband satellite communications system that will provide simultaneous voice, video and data communication for U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps troops.

Ericsson will supply wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) wireless equipment through a subcontract with General Dynamics C4 Systems, which is responsible for the ground segment communications on the MUOS program. In addition, Ericsson will provide telecommunications services to support network deployment and integration, program management and software development activities.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor and systems integrator for the MUOS program and is currently under contract to build the first two satellites and associated ground control elements for the U.S. Navy.

Alvarion Enhances its Wireless Access Platform in 5 GHz

Alvarion has enhanced its BreezeACCESS VL platform to enable increased capacity, an option for narrower channels for more effective network planning, and improved interference resistance. These improvements are part of both VL hardware and firmware upgrades. Networks built in North America will benefit from a 30% increase in capacity, while European networks can get up to a 50% increase. Also provided is a new channel spacing option of 10MHz, in addition to the 20MHz currently offered, to enable greater flexibility in network planning. Notably significant is the addition of an automatic clear channel selection (ACCS) using a built in spectrum analyzer that detects the noise on each channel, thereby allowing the unit to select the clearest channel. All new hardware is fully interoperable with existing network deployments, which include customers such as Verizon Avenue and British Telecom.

Nortel Offers Packet Voice Core for Mobile Networks

Nortel introduced significant product enhancements to its wireless packet voice core portfolio for GSM and UMTS operators. The rollout builds on the next generation of Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 4 standards, commonly known as R4. Packetizing the voice core would provide a more efficient use of transmission capacity and reduce the amount of network equipment required to support wireless backhaul.

Unlike traditional circuit-switched Mobile Switching Centers (MSCs), R4 technology makes use of Call Servers and Media Gateways that separate the call control software and the physical ports carrying the voice calls. Nortel's R4 solution also includes software features that improve voice quality for subscribers. The enhancements include the following:

  • Introduction of VSP4 Card -- Nortel is introducing fourth generation VSP technology, the VSP4 card. It provides packet network switching and routing for voice channels as well as support for special functions such as lawful intercept, conference calling, tones and announcements.

  • IP based Signaling -- Nortel is introducing IP based signaling for GSM and UMTS operators to be able to transport the signaling traffic over an IP network based on 3GPP standards. This will enable operators to deploy high speed next generation signaling interfaces and a greater number of signaling links. This functionality will reduce the footprint requirement by two-thirds for signaling equipment and reduce the backhaul cost significantly for signaling traffic.

  • Voice Compression -- This functionality provides a solution for compressed voice traffic over packet backbone networks. This enhancement will reduce the bandwidth requirement by almost 75 percent for traffic between media gateways on the packet backbone.

  • Voice Quality Features -- Nortel's media gateway supports integrated Echo Cancellation as well as advanced voice quality processing features, many of which are patented Nortel features. Voice quality features are designed to ensure that wireless packet voice quality is as good as, or better than, traditional TDM voice service quality.

Nortel is currently deploying R4 technology in several major markets across Cingular Wireless' national GSM network. In addition, Nortel recently announced a GSM/GPRS/EDGE upgrade with Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago, Limited (TSTT), which will include R4 technology. Upon completion of these two projects, Nortel will have deployed over two million ports of its R4 solution in the Americas.

Nortel Outlines CDMA 1xEV-DO Revision A Strategy

Nortel outlined plans to offer CDMA2000 1xEV-DO (evolution data optimized) Revision A (DO Rev A) technology to CDMA operators. The company also disclosed that it is planning live market trials with Verizon Wireless beginning in 2006. Nortel currently supplies EV-DO to 11 out of the 17 operators that have commercially launched across the globe.

The DO Rev A technology delivers peak data rate bursts up to 3.1 Mbps (on the forward link and up to 1.8 Mbps on the reverse link. DO Rev A operates in the 1.25 MHz channel and is optimized for packet data service. DO Rev A has been approved by the 3GPP2 Technical Specification Group (TSG-C).

Nortel said the technology provides one of the lowest costs per bit when compared to other cellular technologies. The company noted that it has been a major contributor to the development of 1xEV-DO Rev. 0 and Rev. A standards in 3GPP2. Nortel has proposed key concepts to the standards that improve packing efficiency for High Rate Packet Data (HRPD) Air interface. Nortel was also instrumental in providing leadership in the development process of 1xEV-DO Revision A physical layer.

Svenska Chooses Ericsson for 3G

Svenska UMTS-Nat AB, a joint venture between Tele2 and TeliaSonera, has awarded Ericsson a new three-year frame agreement for the delivery of core and radio access network. Under the agreement, Ericsson will continue to secure multi-vendor network integration between the shared 3G network and the respective 2G networks of Tele2 and TeliaSonera.

The shared network includes Ericsson's mobile softswitch, which provides network intelligence through an efficient and flexible layered architecture design. Ericsson is also providing the advanced multi-vendor and multi-technology network integration.

Ericsson said that through Svenska UMTS-Nat AB, TeliaSonera and Tele2 will have the first and one of the largest shared 3G networks in the global industry.

Investment Firms Complete Acquisition of Telcordia

Providence Equity Partners and Warburg Pincus completed their acquisition of Telcordia Technologies from Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). The two firms are co-equal partners in the deal; further terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Telcordia, based in Piscataway, N.J., is a leading global provider of telecommunications software and services. The company's solutions handle the complex tasks required to develop, maintain, monitor and fix today's carrier networks.
  • In November 2004, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) agreed to sell its Telcordia subsidiary to Providence Equity Partners (Providence) and Warburg Pincus (Warburg) for $1.35 billion in cash.

  • Telcordia was previously known as Bellcore prior to is acquisition by SAIC from the Regional Bell Operating Companies in 1997.

  • In September 2003, Telcordia Technologies unveiled its "Elementive" portfolio for managing IP, optical and wireless networks. The open, configurable Elementive portfolio is based on industry standards including J2EE and TMF 513, and would let carriers implement modularized OSS/BSS components either from Telcordia or its partners. Telcordia said its new business model would help carriers increase new enterprise service revenues while lowering their operating costs through the use of off-the-shelf OSS/BSS products.

Chief of FCC's Wireless Bureau Joins Washington Law Firm

John Muleta, chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, is leaving the Commission to become a partner in the Washington office of Venable LLP, a leading law firm. Muleta, who previously served as Deputy Bureau Chief in the Common Carrier Bureau and also Chief of the Enforcement Division during a four-year stint at the Commission in the mid-1990s, has led the Wireless Bureau since January 2003. He has also held senior management positions with several major telecom businesses over a 20-year career in the sector. He will now become co-chair of Venable's Communications Group.

Motorola Receives Expansion Order for CDMA 1X System from KDDI

Motorola was awarded a US$150 million expansion order to deploy its CDMA2000 1X Radio Access Network (RAN) system for KDDI of Japan. The Motorola RAN system is scheduled for deployment beginning in fiscal 2006, primarily for services in the 2 GHz band, where KDDI has already begun to roll out services. The order represents the first stage in a broader plan for Motorola to provide equipment and services for KDDI's continued deployment of CDMA2000 1X.

In April 2002, KDDI began nation-wide deployment of CDMA2000 1X, a 3G cellular service, on Motorola's cdmaOne network. Since then, Motorola has played a vital role in KDDI's wireless mobile area, as KDDI's sole vendor of CDMA2000 1X RAN systems.

KDDI currently has some 19 million CDMA subscribers.

Cingular Wireless Now Has 50 Million Customers

Cingular Wireless has surpassed the 50 million customer milestone -- three million more than in October 2004 (AT&T Wireless + Cingular) -- this represents about 30% of all U.S. wireless subscribers.

"Attaining 50 million customers is a key indicator that our merger with AT&T Wireless is working and working robustly," said Stan Sigman, Cingular's president and chief executive officer.

Alcatel to upgrade Sea-Me-We 3 Cable

Alcatel was awarded a multi-million dollar turnkey contract for a 10 Gbps upgrade of the 38,000 kilometer Sea-Me-We 3 submarine cable network. Alcatel will upgrade submarine sections linking the UK to India via France, Portugal, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti in Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Alcatel will also upgrade all terrestrial stations along the network. The upgrade is scheduled for completion by the end of 2005.
  • Sea-Me-We 3 includes 39 landing points in 33 countries and 4 continents from Western Europe (including Germany, England and France) to the Far East (including China, Japan and Singapore) and to Australia. The system, which entered service in 1997, was upgraded twice, as of August 2003. It consists of two fiber pairs, each carrying 8 wavelengths. Some wavelengths operate at 10 Gbps and others at 2.5 Gbps.

  • In March 2004, Alcatel and Fujitsu were chosen to build a new terabit capacity Sea-Me-We 4 submarine cable network, which will span nearly 20,000 km and link 14 countries from France to Singapore via Italy, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia with 16 landing points.

Ebbers Convicted of WorldCom Fraud

Bernard J. Ebbers, the former chief executive officer of WorldCom, was convicted on all nine counts of orchestrating the fraud that led to the bankruptcy of his company. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 85 years in prison. During the six week trial, Ebbers had taken the witness stand in his own defense, trying to pin the blame for the fraud on his subordinate Scott Sullivan, the company's chief financial officer. Five former WorldCom executives, including Sullivan, have already pleaded guilty in the case.