Monday, April 25, 2005

IPTV Keynote: Microsoft's Benchmarks for IPTV

Hopes for Telco TV go back some time, observed Phil Corman, Director of Microsoft TV, and as the US West trial in 1994 demonstrated, the results have been disappointing. So why now? For telcos, it is becoming a matter of simple survival, said Corman, and compared to earlier efforts, this time the technology is ready.

An important starting point, said Corman, is to consider what IPTV is not. "IPTV is not video streaming over the Internet, watching TV on your PC or merely a best-efforts video service. It has to be based on a proven business model." Corman believes a key to the new paradigm will be the Electronic Program Guide that allows users to navigate the service. IPTV holds an advantage in this regard because its picture-in-picture capability is software-based and does not require separate tuners in the TV set. Picture-in-picture is important because an IPTV EPG might present the view with a menu of perhaps six PIP windows of shows now underway. The viewer has a more powerful to search and browse video content. This type of integrated navigation could also be used to access content from PVR, a network PVR, or a VOD library.

One of the benchmarks for enabling IPTV is the establishment of a viable ecosystem of technology suppliers and content providers. Microsoft's recently announced strategic partnership with Alcatel is aimed at achieving this goal, explained Corman.

Microsoft's other IPTV partners include Tandberg and Harmonic for video headend. At the client side, Microsoft is looking for mass-market IP set-boxes at price points below $100. Here partners include Thomson, Samsung, Sigma Designs, ST and Intel.

Corman said Microsoft currently has about a dozen customers for its IPTV service, including the recent high-profile wins at BellSouth, SBC and Verizon.

Nortel to Acquire PEC to Accelerate U.S. Federal Business

Nortel Networks agreed to acquire PEC Solutions, a leading government IT services firm, for approximately US$448 million (net of cash acquired) through a cash tender offer for all outstanding shares of the company.

PEC, founded in 1985 and based in Fairfax, Virginia, works with homeland security, law enforcement, intelligence, defense and civilian agencies across the entire scope of the U.S. federal government. The company has 1,700 employees and 30 program offices in nine states.

"This acquisition will aggressively position Nortel in the U.S. federal government IT market. This market is characterized by consistent and steady growth and presents a significant opportunity for Nortel, based on expected demand for our specific technology and services capabilities in this market," said Bill Owens, Nortel's vice chairman and CEO.

Juniper to Acquire Redline for AFE Technology

Juniper Networks agreed to acquire Redline Networks, a start-up offering Application Front End (AFE) technology, for approximately $132 million in cash and assumed stock options.

Redline Networks, which was founded in 2000, develops "Application Front Ends" that are deployed within the boundaries of corporate data centers. These enable users to control and customize any web-based environment while reducing infrastructure cost and complexity. Redline's high-throughput, low-latency HTTP proxy can support up to 500,000 simultaneous users while simultaneously performing a range of critical Web tier functionality, including load balancing, I/O offload, compression, SSL, security, logging, etc. at up to wire speed. The platform includes a self-tuning Compression Policy Engine that reduces the size of HTML, SHTML, DHTML, JHTML, PHTML, XML, Javascript, J2EE, JSP, etc.; TCP Connection Management that terminates and persistently maintains segregated client and server connections; a Transaction Brokering capability that buffers response data; and the ability to keep client TCP connection persistently open, even if the server closes connection. This eliminates unnecessary TCP slow-starts for faster delivery.

Redline Networks has over 350 enterprise customers. The company is based in in Campbell, California.
  • Redline Networks is headed by Roy Johnson, who previously held the post of vice president of marketing and business development at 2Wire. Its technical team is led by company founder Israel L'Heureux, who previously held a number of management positions in Internet systems, engineering and product development at technology-driven corporations such as Dell, DaimlerBenz and BMW.

Juniper to Acquire Peribit for WAN Optimization

Juniper Networks agreed to acquire Peribit Networks, a developer of WAN optimization technology, for approximately $337 million in cash, stock and assumed stock options.

Peribit WAN optimization architecture uses compression, sequence caching, latency reduction, bandwidth management, path optimization, and visibility tools to improve congested enterprise WAN links.

Peribit, which was founded in 2000, developed a Molecular Sequence Reduction (MSR) technology that applies DNA pattern matching algorithms recognize repetitive bits of data traversing a point-to-point WAN link.

The sequence caching technology records patterns across packets, sessions, and flows and store them on hard disk so that, if repeated later, they can be identified and removed from data streams even when they are separated by hundreds of gigabytes of data sent days or weeks apart, and even when the transmitted files have been modified. Peribit also developed a Packet Flow Acceleration (PFA) technology that addresses poor application performance caused WAN latency. WAN latency tends to delay the acknowledgements between send and receive endpoints and this impedes an application's ability to send additional data while it's in a "wait state." Peribit's PFA technology accelerates short flows by optimizing the TCP session initialization. For large bulk data transfers, PFA minimizes the TCP idle time during which the server is unable to transfer more data due to WAN latency. This results in an optimized data flow from sender to receiver and a significant reduction in the total time to completion for the data transfer.

Peribit's products have been installed in over 900 enterprises worldwide.
  • Earlier this month, Peribit Networks introduced an Application Flow Acceleration (AppFlow) that transparently speeds performance of Microsoft Exchange, file services, and web-based applications over point-to-point links. Peribit's AppFlow technology accelerates the performance of applications based on three specific protocols: the Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) used by Exchange; Microsoft CIFS; and HTTP. The AppFlow technology improves response times for remote Outlook/Exchange users by requesting portions of the message in advance of the client's request, pipelining what had been a serial and inefficient bulk transfer. As a result, the entire e-mail and any attachments are local to the client by the time the client requests the message.

  • Peribit Networks was founded in May 2000 by Dr. Amit P. Singh, a researcher at Stanford University, and Balraj Singh, who previously was part of the original design team for Intel's Pentium.

Cisco to Acquire Sipura for VoIP CPE Technology

Cisco Systems agreed to acquire Sipura, a start-up offering VoIP customer premise equipment technology, for approximately $68 million in cash and options. This represents Cisco's first acquisition for its Linksys division. Sipura is a key technology provider for Linksys' current line of VoIP networking devices.

Sipura's technology is incorporated in VoIP adapters (including those integrated into home routers and gateways) and a multi-line IP phone for the consumer and SOHO market. The company is based in San Jose, California.

Dr. Sin leads the development of communication protocols and DSP algorithms for all of Sipura's product lines. He came to Sipura Technology from Cisco Systems where he was a senior engineering manager. Before that, he was an engineering manager at Komodo Technology, which was later acquired by Cisco.

"VoIP is a strategic segment for innovation and growth for Cisco and Linksys. The acquisition of Sipura will augment Linksys' leading position in the rapidly growing VoIP market and is an example of Linksys' strategy to increase internal R&D capabilities in specific product categories," said Charles Giancarlo, Cisco CTO and Cisco-Linksys president.
  • Sipura is headed by Jan Fandrianto, who was the founder and CEO of Komodo Technology, a developer of VoIP devices that was acquired by Cisco Systems in July 2000 for $175 million. Sipura's engineering team is led by Dr. Sam Sin, who previously was a senior engineering manager at Cisco Systems. Before that, he was an engineering manager at Komodo Technology.

Successful Launch for the First of DirecTV's Next Gen HDTV Satellites

Sea Launch successfully delivered DIRECTV's Spaceway F1 satellite to orbit, completing the launch of the heaviest commercial satellite to date. Spaceway F1 is capable of delivering hundreds of HD signals to DIRECTV customers and the first of four next-generation satellites. Spaceway F1 is the first of two Ka-band satellites in this series. Spaceway F2 is slated to launch in June. The four satellites will provide the capacity to deliver more than 1,500 local HD and more than 150 national HD channels and other advanced programming services to consumers.

Initially, DIRECTV will begin offering digital and HD local channels in 12 markets this fall. The first group of markets to receive local HD channels via Spaceway F1 includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Tampa. These markets represent nearly 36 million homes or 32.8 percent of all U.S. TV households.

Spaceway 1 is a Boeing 702 model spacecraft with a design life of 12 years. It features a fully steerable downlink antenna that can be reconfigured on orbit to seamlessly address market conditions. The satellite will be positioned in a geosynchronous orbit at 102.8 degree West longitude and a high-point of 34,128 km (21,200 miles) above the equator.
  • DIRECTV is 34% owned by News Corporation.

Foundry Cuts 10 GigE Prices to $1,250 per Port

Foundry Networks announced new pricing for many of its 10 Gigabit Ethernet products and accessories. The 10-gigabit Ethernet ports on Foundry products support pluggable XENPAK or XFP transceivers providing flexibility in connecting to a range of media types including CX4 copper, multimode fiber and single mode fiber. Foundry has reduced the pricing of its short reach XFP optics (up to 300 meters over multimode fiber) by 60% to $1,245 (US list) and of its short reach XENPAK optics by 40% to $2,495 (US list).

Foundry's 10-GE product families include the EdgeIron family of stackable layer 2 switches, FastIron Workgroup X-series layer 2 fixed configuration switches, FastIron Edge X-series layer 2/3 fixed configuration switches, the recently introduced FastIron SuperX compact modular layer 2/3 switch, the BigIron MG8 layer 2/3 backbone switch and the NetIron family of multiservice routers for service providers. 10-GE port prices start at $1,250 (US list) for the 8-port EdgeIron 8x10G.

Time Warner Cable Implements Support Software for Digital TV

Time Warner Cable Cincinnati is using a Service Automation Suite for Video (SAS-V) software developed by Scientific-Atlanta and SupportSoft to enhance digital TV reliability. The solution was field tested by Time Warner Cable and demonstrated an ability to help automate the diagnosis and resolution of common problems associated with the installation and ongoing service of digital TV transmission.

SAS-V works to pinpoint potential issues with a digital video connection within a customer's home or the last mile of the service provider's network. Customer service representatives or field technicians can use the solution to ease remote problem diagnosis.

Level 3 Increases Communications Revenue

Level 3 Communications reported revenue of $1.01 billion for the first quarter 2005 compared to $1.05 billion for the fourth quarter 2004. Communications revenue was $510 million in the first quarter versus $482 million for the previous quarter, and information services revenue was $483 million compared to $547 million for the seasonally high previous quarter. The net loss for the first quarter 2005 was $77 million, or $0.11 per share, consistent with the previous quarter.

"We experienced another quarter of strong IP traffic growth on our network, with average traffic per day increasing approximately 25 percent over the prior quarter," said James Q. Crowe, CEO of Level 3.

Level 3 is now carrying an average of 2.7 petabytes of traffic per day on its IP network.

During the quarter, Level 3 announced new customer contracts to provide VoIP services to AOL and Adelphia and saw strong contract activity from a number of its target customers, particularly from cable operators, wireless companies and PTTs.

"The competitive environment continues to remain challenging; however, we continue to see positive signs for the industry including consolidation that should prove beneficial to us in the long term," said Crowe.

Verizon Opens its E911 System to VoIP Providers

Verizon will allow VoIP service providers and their vendors to use its Enhanced 911 emergency calling system to connect VoIP customer 911 calls to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Verizon expects that by this summer, VoIP providers and their vendors will be able to provide their customers in New York City with E 911 service. If the New York City model is successful, it will be replicated in other locations.

The E 911 system directs a 911 caller to the appropriate local government emergency response center, known as a Public Safety Answering Point. The call travels over a dedicated network and automatically provides the PSAP operator with the name and address associated with the caller's telephone number.

"With the recent and rapid growth of VoIP service, we needed to find a way to integrate VoIP providers into the E 911 system in a manner that would reliably serve VoIP end-users and that at the same time would not compromise the safety and reliability of the E 911 system for other users. After discussions with VoIP providers and the emergency services community, we believe that we have identified an arrangement that meets the needs of both groups and enables VoIP providers to offer their customers significantly better 911 services than they receive today," said Michael O'Connor, executive director of federal regulatory affairs for Verizon.

Riverstone Offers 24-port Ethernet Access Router

Riverstone unveiled a low-cost, 24-port, carrier Ethernet access router, the Edge Solution (ES) 2010, that is compatible with its MPLS-based RS and 15000 carrier Ethernet product lines.

The ES 2010 is designed for Metro Ethernet carrier services, offering support for meeting pre-defined SLAs and more flexible network troubleshooting. The ES 2010 supports both Ethernet and IP, allowing service providers to cost-effectively deploy VoIP and data services, including VLANs, to small and medium-sized businesses. The new Ethernet router is equipped with two one-gigabit uplinks, either Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) or copper.

Verizon Signs Showtime for Premium Movies

Verizon signed a long-term affiliation agreement with Showtime Networks for its premium movie services over the forthcoming FiOs IPTV service. Under the deal, Verizon will carry 11 Showtime Networks channels. Showtime subscribers will also receive Showtime On Demand and The Movie Channel On Demand, together televising 150 hours of Hollywood movies and Showtime original programming a month, up to 25% of which will change weekly. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Verizon Announces FTTP Deployments in Southern California

Verizon announced the expansion of its FTTP network and FiOS Internet service in California. The company is now deploying fiber in Ventura county, as well as in the cities of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Bermuda Dunes, Camarillo, Chino, Desert Hot Springs, Hermosa Beach, Indio, La Quinta, Chino Hills, Ontario, Palm Springs, Perris, Lake Elsinore, Temecula, Redondo Beach and Victorville. Some customers in these cities can already order FiOS. Additional cities will be added next year, and Verizon will announce FiOS Internet Service in these areas as it becomes available.

To date, Verizon has deployed 8 million feet, or 1,500 miles, of fiber- optic cable in Southern California as part of the FTTP project. The company will deploy millions more feet of fiber in 2005.

Verizon also estimates it will retain more than 1,000 contractors in California to work on various aspects of the local FTTP project such as underground boring, trenching and fiber splicing.

IPTV Keynote: Challenge & Opportunities

An open network architecture for IPTV has its integration challenges, but prevents vendor lock-in, said Bill DeMuth, CTO of Surewest Communications, in a keynote address at the IPTV 20005 conference earlier this week in San Jose. Surewest, which serves the Sacramento, California region, has been delivering Triple Play services since July 2002 and IP video since January 2004. The company's fiber network passes about 70,000 homes and has over 16,000 FTTP subscribers. The active fiber network delivers 100 Mbps Ethernet to each home. Surewest also operates a copper network and has just started to deploy ADSL2+.

The IPTV service provides the choice of 260 channels of content, over 75 premium channels, 25 international channels, Pay-per-View and VOD services.

"At this point, the market drivers for deploying IPTV are clear," said DeMuth. These include the desire to retain current customers and reduce churn, acquire new customers,
create new revenue streams, and increase the take-rate for all services. Customer demand really exists. For telcos, there is a window of opportunity that is open right now. Surewest competes against SBC and Comcast.

DeMuth highlighted several ongoing challenges for IPTV rollouts. For the copper plant, ADSL bandwidth limitations affects the number of set-top boxes deployed per home and HDTV also presents bandwidth challenges.