Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Intel, Linksys and Motorola Join HomePlug Alliance Board

The HomePlug Powerline Alliance announced the addition of Intel, Linksys, and Motorola as new sponsor members and the subsequent election of Intel's Matt Theall as president of the Alliance.

To accelerate the global proliferation of products based on HomePlug standards, the Alliance has created a new "Implementers' Forum" Board of Directors, consisting of sponsor members of the Alliance. The Implementers' Forum BoD consists of Comcast; Earthlink; Intel; Linksys ; Motorola; RadioShack; Sharp and Sony. These major consumer electronics, personal computer and service provider companies will lead the Alliance's commitment to driving the implementation and use of jointly approved HomePlug standards as well as creating a diverse ecosystem of HomePlug-based products.

The Alliance also announced the creation of three Promoters' Groups focused on specific standards initiatives within the Alliance. Initially, the Promoters' Groups will address three key technology areas:

  • HomePlug 1.0 + AV (in-home connectivity, including digital home and consumer electronics applications)

  • HomePlug BPL (to-the-home, Broadband-over-Powerline applications)

  • HomePlug Home Automation (command-and-control applications)

Sonus-Based Networks Carry Over 38 Billion VoIP Minutes in Q2

Sonus Networks announced that its equipment deployed carrier customers worldwide carried an estimated 38.2 billion minutes of VoIP traffic in the second quarter of 2005 -- more than twice the amount of total VoIP traffic carried by any other equipment provider in the industry -- according to a report issued by industry research firm, iLocus. Sonus also held the number one market share position in both national and international long distance traffic with 39.5% and 21.9% of the market respectively.

VoIP solutions have moved beyond the "early adopter" phase, both in terms of the number of minutes currently being carried and the consumer profile of end users. According to the iLocus report, in total, an estimated 127.5 billion minutes of VoIP traffic was carried by service providers worldwide in 2Q05, a number that is expected to rise as carriers accelerate their migration plans and new players enter the market. To date, only 13% of all long distance minutes are carried over VoIP networks.

Harmonic Adds Motorola's Privacy-Mode Encryption to its VOD Solution

Harmonic announced plans to provide real-time content encryption using Privacy-Mode conditional access technology from Motorola in its Narrowcast Services Gateway (NSG) video-on-demand (VOD) delivery solution. The application of Privacy-Mode and other standards-based encryption technologies enables Harmonic's multifunction IP-enabled edgeQAM devices to seamlessly integrate with more conditional access systems and set-top boxes. The NSG's real-time encryption capability provides greater flexibility than the common practice of pre-encrypting content as well as reduces the overall cost and complexity of implementing and managing an on-demand service.

Harmonic said this new capability enables it to address a key issue for content providers and cable operators who want a more flexible and robust way to protect their video assets and revenue. This added protection is expected to fuel the global growth of on-demand services such as VOD and network-based personal video recorders (nPVR).

TIA to Address Standards for Terrestrial Mobile Multimedia Multicasts

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has formed a new TIA engineering committee, "Terrestrial Mobile Multimedia Multicast" (TM3), also known as TR-47, to address wireless triple-play standards.

The proposed scope for the new committee is the development and maintenance of terrestrial mobile multimedia multicast interface, component, sub-system, system, network and protocol standards. While the scope of the engineering committee may include protocol and architectural aspects, it is expected to focus primarily on standards for radio interfaces, testing methodologies, performance and reliability standards, and equipment design guides.

The first meeting will be held September 9.

Intel to Market "Viiv" Home Media PCs

Intel will begin marketing digital home entertainment systems next year under a new "Viiv" (rhymes with "five") consumer brand. PCs based on Intel Viiv technology will be powered by a suite of Intel technologies, including a dual-core processor, chipset, platform software and wired networking capabilities. Some of the specific characteristics of Intel Viiv PCs will also include:

  • a remote control, the Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition operating system and media software that lets consumers interact with their PC in the same way they operate a TV.

  • Intel Quick Resume Technology that enables the PC to be quickly turned on and off (after initial boot-up) with the touch of a button.

  • 5.1 surround sound (with optional support for up to 7.1 surround sound) for home theater-quality sound.

  • DVR capabilities when equipped with an optional TV tuner card

  • ability to access on-demand content

  • a network configuration wizard that can be navigated with the system's remote control will be included to make it easy for consumers to connect many devices including portable media players, DVD players, TV sets and stereos.

  • an integrated media server "engine" that can reformat various digital content files so they can be viewed on a selection of devices verified by Intel to work with Intel Viiv technology-based systems.

Additionally, Intel worked with the PC, CE and content industries to set interoperability specifications so that consumers can easily move a variety of online media from room to room and between various devices in the home network.

Intel Viiv technology-based entertainment PCs are expected to be available from a number of system manufacturers worldwide in the first quarter of 2006 and will come in various shapes and sizes to fit different styles and sizes of homes.

Intel is also developing platforms to power consumer electronics devices such as plasma TVs and personal media players. Specifically, Intel plans to introduce "Oplus" MN301, a "system-on-a-chip" multimedia display processor for flat panel displays. Production-ready reference designs for dual-channel HDTV are now available. The Oplus MN301 display processor and the Oplus Image Perfecting Engine were developed by Oplus Technologies, Ltd., the Israeli subsidiary of Oplus Technologies, Inc., and a company Intel acquired in April 2005.

Huawei and Micromuse Promise Seamless Interoperability

Huawei Technologies has joined the Micromuse Alliance Program and will immediately provide pre-integration between its data communications equipment, fixed network equipment, optical transmission equipment, and network element management systems and Micromuse's Netcool solutions. The companies said their interoperability would provide value to wireline operators who want to leverage their investment in existing IT infrastructure and who are seeking a complete solution for the end-to-end management of their network infrastructure to support new services.

Skype Opens Its Platform to the Web

Skype will open up its platform to anyone who wants to integrate Skype presence and instant messaging services into their website or application. Specifically, Skype is opening up of the SkypeNet and SkypeWeb Application Programming Interface (API) as part of the Skype Developer Program, which already supports a developer's community.

By opening up its platform to the web, Skype will make it possible for other applications to connect to its fast growing member base, which has already passed more than 51 million people. Skype said this move would create "the largest open instant messaging platform in the world."

"In two short years, Skype has pioneered a revolution in global Internet communications by making it simple for anyone with an Internet connection to make and receive superior quality phone calls for free," said Niklas Zennstrom, Skype CEO and co-founder. "People love to talk, and voice is fast becoming the key category for global Internet communications."http://share.skype.com/share/developer_blog/

Cable & Wireless Deploys Prepaid Service with Verso, Veraz, IP Unity

Cable and Wireless has deployed an advanced prepaid services solution using equipment and software from Veraz Networks, Verso Technologies and IP Unity. The service, which supports 600,000 pre-paid residential and calling card subscribers in Panama, is based on a fully-integrated turnkey solution provided by Veraz Networks which includes the ControlSwitch softswitch and service delivery platform and I-Gate 4000 PRO media gateway as well as Verso's I-Master Service and Revenue Assurance Platform, IP Unity's Mereon 6000 Media Server, Mereon Applications Server and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Application.

Cable and Wireless's subscribers will now have available pre-paid local service and Internet access (ADSL) to homes and kiosks, reminder services, streaming audio information services, contest and voting applications, special promotional marketing campaigns and customer service renewals through an IVR solution. In addition to pre-paid fixed line and ADSL, this solution also carries all of Cable and Wireless's pre-paid calling card traffic.

Call Volumes for these services, including basic pre-paid traffic, have already peaked in excess of 60,000 BHCA (busy hour call attempts) and continue to increase, reflecting the robustness and scalability of the solution.

The companies said Cable and Wireless Panama has now begun to reverse an industry-wide wireline user migration to mobile telephony and grown its subscriber usage volume through flexible pricing and new pre-paid service innovation.

Mayfield Fund Closes $375 Million Mayfield XII

Mayfield Fund, a leading venture capital firm, announced the closing of its most recent fund, Mayfield XII. Mayfield XII is a $375 million fund, bringing the total capital under management at the firm to $2.3 billion. The majority of the commitments of Fund XII derived from long-standing limited partners. Mayfield said it expects to invest the fund over roughly a three-year period in emerging growth companies in the digital media, consumer Internet, semiconductor, software, open source, and mobile technology markets. http://www.mayfield.com

Verizon's iobi Debuts in Mid-Atlantic States

Verizon launched its iobi service in the mid-Atlantic states. Customers can use the service to manage their communications via the Web, including handling of incoming calls in real time; managing call records, voice messages and calendars; synchronizing multiple electronic address books; and getting a text message notice of an incoming call or new voice message. Iobi is driven by a Verizon-proprietary data platform that integrates the Verizon wireline network with other networks and with the Internet.

Motorola and Intel Develop IMS Communications Server

Motorola announced a joint effort with Intel to create a proof of concept for IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) network functions based on Motorola's AdvancedTCA Avantellis communications server. Motorola also announced that it has become a Premier member of the Intel Communications Alliance.

The IMS communications server proof of concept will showcase a pre- integrated Open Application-Enabling Platform from Motorola, including AdvancedTCA blades with Dual Low Voltage Intel Xeon processors and Intel IXP2850 network processors, Carrier Grade Linux and Motorola's NetPlane high service availability software, validated with IMS software from independent vendors.

The proof of concept will be shown in Intel Modular Communications Platform Solution Centers around the world and will be available for telecom equipment manufacturers to evaluate the communications server approach and the standards-based technologies it incorporates.

"This proof of concept is the industry's first example of a communications server focused on a specific emerging application area," said Wendy Vittori, corporate vice president and general manager, Embedded Communications Computing, Motorola. "The cooperation between industry-leading companies and other ecosystem participants accelerates our customers' evaluation of new technologies to meet new business needs."http://www.motorola.com/computinghttp://www.intel.com
  • In June 2005, Motorola launched a new series of Open Application-Enabling Platforms, pre-integrated and validated communications servers based on AdvancedTCA-based and supporting the Service Availability Forum (SA Forum) standards. Motorola said its communications servers are based on both open hardware and software standards, setting the course for a new generation of network equipment.

    The Centellis 3000 series of communications servers is optimized for legacy applications based on proprietary high-availability software. This product series integrates AdvancedTCA hardware, with an operating environment that includes the MontaVista Carrier Grade Linux operating system, SA Forum Hardware Platform Interface (HPI) Specification implementation, comprehensive centralized platform hardware management, high-availability fabric management and high-availability link support. Motorola also verifies thermal, power and mechanical operation. The Avantellis 3000 series leverages the attributes of the Centellis 3000 series and includes Motorola's NetPlane Core Services software for 5NINES+ platform availability. NetPlane Core Services is service availability middleware that implements the SA Forum Application Interface Specification (AIS) and HPI.

Google Talk Launches

Google launched a client application that allows users to talk and send instant messages over the Internet for free. The VoIP/IM service integrates with Gmail and should work across firewalls.

Google Talk uses a custom XMPP-based signaling protocol and peer-to-peer communication mechanism. Google said it plans to fully document this protocol, and, in the near future, to support SIP signaling.

Significantly, Google said it plans to partner with other willing service providers to enable federation of its services. Initial federation partners will include EarthLink's Vling service and Sipphone's Gizmo Project, although no time frame was given. Google said it was willing to federate with other service providers who share its views on openess and user privacy issues.

The Google Talk client currently is only available on Windows, but users of other operating systems can connect to the Google Talk service using other IM clients, including Apple's iChat.

Google Talk supports the following standard voice codecs: PCMA, PCMU, G.723, iLBC. Google is lso evaluating the Speex codec. It also supports codecs from Global IP Sound: ISAC, IPCMWB, EG711U, EG711A.

Encryption is not currently used, but the company plans to add this capability.

Initially, only an English-language version is available. With its initial release, Google also kept additional features to a minimum.
  • In July, The Gizmo Project, a free VoIP service developed by Michael Robertson and his team at SIPphone, released the first public beta of its consumer VoIP software. Robertson's previous start-ups have included MP3.com, Linspire, SIPphone and most recently MP3tunes.com. Unlike Skype, Gizmo is based on SIP and follows a standards-based approach to its network and directory. New users choose their username and then a SIP number is automatically assigned to the account. Gizmo can send/receive calls to over 100 other SIP networks, including some university networks and Asterisk-based networks. Regular phones could be attached to the service using an unlocked SIP analog-telephone-adapter.

TiVo Reaches Financial Breakeven

As of the end of its second fiscal quarter on 31-July-2005, TiVo's total subscriptions reached nearly 3.6 million, with the addition of 254,000 total net new subscriptions in the quarter. TiVo-Owned gross subscription additions were 77,000 for the quarter, compared to 78,000 in the second quarter of last year. TiVo-Owned net subscription additions were 40,000, compared to 63,000 in the second quarter of last year. The installed base of DIRECTV subscriptions is now approximately 2.3 million with the addition of 214,000 net new subscriptions in the quarter.

Service and technology revenues for the quarter increased 46% to $40.7 million, compared with $27.8 million for the same period last year. TiVo reported net income of $240,000 and earnings per share of $0.00, a significant improvement compared to a net loss of ($10.8) million, or ($0.13) per share, for the second quarter of last year.

For the third quarter of 2006, TiVo anticipates service and technology revenues in the range of $41 million to $43 million and a net loss of $20 to $25 million.

Tom Rogers, CEO of TiVo, said, "While it is encouraging that we hit break- even this quarter, it is clear TiVo faces a number of significant challenges. In directly facing those challenges there is considerable long-term potential that can be realized. To that end, we have begun to aggressively attack a number of critical issues in sales, marketing, and distribution."

Rogers continued, "Driving growth in the number of subscriptions at TiVo is the biggest critical challenge we face. Given the increasingly competitive environment, approaching this area more aggressively than we have in the past requires additional investment in subscription acquisition. We will be announcing a number of new promotional initiatives in the fall, one of which combines a hardware and service offer which we believe will be well received in the upcoming holiday season."http://www.tivo.com

Cablevision to Market TiVo

Cablevision Systems, which serves 3 million households in the New York metro area, will test market TiVo and a wireless router as part of its triple play offerings. Under the agreement, Cablevision will trial a TiVo DVR with wireless router offer, enabling a broadband return without need for a telephone line, to current satellite customers who sign up for the Optimum Triple Play, for the best performance and value in digital television, high speed Internet and voice.

"For many satellite customers in our service area, there is significant value in the TiVo product and brand," said Patricia Gottesman, Cablevision's executive vice president of product management and marketing. "Adding TiVo's functionality and service to our current state-of-the-art DVR capabilities offers our customers yet another option in securing the best possible home entertainment experience."http://www.cablevision.com
  • In March 2005, 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.

SBC and Yahoo! Introduce Music Unlimited Service

SBC Communications will offer Yahoo! Music Unlimited service to its DSL customers for $4.99 per month for an annual subscription or $6.99 on a monthly basis. The service allows users to play tunes from a catalog of more than one million songs, transfer tracks to portable devices, as well as enjoy the ability to share and discover music with friends through SBC Yahoo! Messenger. SBC Yahoo! Music Unlimited enables subscribers to build personalized music libraries, purchase discounted downloads, listen to commercial-free Internet radio stations and access their subscription service from any Internet-connected computer.

See also