Thursday, August 25, 2005

VNL's IPTV Service First to Complete Migration to MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)

Video Networks Limited (VNL), provider of the HomeChoice entertainment and communications service, has completed the migration of its broadcast line-up to MPEG-4 AVC (H.264), becoming the world's first revenue-generating broadcast television service delivered exclusively using MPEG-4. VNL's HomeChoice IPTV service is currently available to 2.4 million homes across London and Stevenage.

HomeChoice currently offers over 80 broadcast and on-demand entertainment channels including BAFTA award-winning interactive music channels and more than 5,000 on-demand movies, music videos and TV programmes. Sky Sports and Sky Movies channels are available on the HomeChoice platform under a retail distribution agreement with BSkyB.
In early 2004, VNL deployed Harmonic's DiviCom MV 100 and its own multi-codec set-top box for the new HomeChoice IPTV service. This gave VNL the ability to provision differentiated video services with MPEG-2 and, at a later date, install the MPEG-4 AVC software option to cost-effectively extend its geographical reach and service-carrying capacity. Since April 2005, VNL has incrementally migrated groups of the operational MV 100 encoders to MPEG-4 in a process that was recently completed. VNL is also using Harmonic's NMX Digital Service Manager to monitor and control its complete digital television infrastructure as a series of services.

"Video Networks' move to MPEG-4 AVC, a historic event that will change the dynamics of the broadband TV industry, provides a strong technology platform for continued service innovation and business growth," said Patrick Harshman, President of the Convergent Systems Division of Harmonic Inc.

"The completion of our migration to MPEG-4 for the delivery of our broadcast channels is an important milestone for Video Networks. The ongoing improvements in advanced encoding will enable us to free up bandwidth which can then be used in our continuous quest to provide ever more advanced products and services for our customers," said Roger Lynch, Chairman & CEO, Video Networks Limited. "We see the benefit of advanced encoding in MPEG-4, combined with European service providers' migration to ADSL2+ enabling the sector to provide HDTV in the very near future," he concluded.

Harmonic noted that there are approximately 4,000 advanced codec-ready DiviCom MV 100 systems currently in service.
  • Video Networks was founded in 1992 and conducted early work with BT on the first video-on-demand trial in the UK in the mid 1990s.

FCC Grants 30-Day Extension on VoIP E911 Order

The FCC has granted VoIP service providers an additional 30 days -- until September 28, 2005 -- before it begins enforcing the requirement that VoIP providers obtain affirmative acknowledgements from 100% of their subscribers that they have read and understood an advisory concerning the limitations of their E911 service. To be eligible for this extension, VoIP service providers must have filed a report on or before August 10, 2005 regarding steps taken toward compliance.

On July 26, 2005, the FCC released a Public Notice stating that it would delay, until August 30, 2005, any enforcement action against any provider of interconnected VoIP service regarding the affirmative acknowledgement requirement if the provider filed a report by August 10, 2005, detailing its progress toward satisfying the customer advisory, affirmative acknowledgement, and sticker requirements. The Bureau further stated its expectation that interconnected VoIP providers would disconnect, by August 30, 2005, all subscribers from whom it had not received affirmative acknowledgements. The 30-day extension has allowed interconnected VoIP providers to continue to obtain affirmative acknowledgements from subscribers and minimize the number subject to potential disconnection.

The FCC said it has reviewed numerous reports filed by VoIP providers on August 10. The reports demonstrate the significant efforts made by providers in complying with the 100% affirmative acknowledgement requirement. As a result of its review of these reports, the Bureau has determined that it will not initiate enforcement action, until September 28, 2005, regarding the affirmative acknowledgement requirement against those providers that: (1) previously filed reports on or before August 10, 2005 in accordance with the July 26 Public Notice; and (2) file two separate updated reports with the FCC by September 1, 2005 and September 22, 2005.

California Permitted to Implement to Technology-Specific Overlay Area Codes

The FCC granted a petition by the California Public Utility Commission to implement two technology-specific, specialized overlay (SOs) area codes for the state of California. The telephone numbers to be assigned in the SOs include those numbers used for services and technologies such as vehicle response systems, E-Fax, automated teller machines, point-of-sales machines, multi-line fax machines, and VoIP services.

One of the SO area codes will cover the northern portion of the state and the other SO area code will cover the southern portion of the state.

Following the FCC decision, the California PUC unanimously approved a plan for an all-services area code overlay to the existing 310 area code in Southern California. The new area code, 424, is expected to help replenish the stock of telephone numbers available within the 310 area code region. Consumers will not have to change numbers for existing services, but may be assigned a different area code for new telephone numbers within the same residence or business where multiple telephone numbers already exist.

Under the new overlay plan, all calls within the 310/424 overlay region must include a "1" followed by the three-digit area code and seven-digit line number. Customers may begin using this dialing pattern beginning December 31, 2005, and must use it starting July 26, 2006. New numbers will begin to be issued using the new 424 area code on or after August 26, 2006.
  • The petition was first filed by the California PUC in October 2003.

  • The 310 area code was created in late 1991 to relieve number exhaustion in the 213 area code. The 310 area code was subsequently split in January 1997, forming a separate 562 area code, again to replenish number supplies.

AirNetAnnounces Field Trial of its Super Capacity, Adaptive Array

AirNet Communications, a developer of software-defined wireless base stations, announced a field trial agreement with an unnamed large, tier 1 operator. The trial will test AirNet's "Super Capacity" adaptive array base stations in a dense urban, major metropolitan market. The trial cell sites will include a challenging combination of extremely dense wireless penetration and difficult radio frequency (RF) planning characteristics. AirNet will provide the Super Capacity base stations at the selected cell sites. The large operator will conduct a battery of tests to evaluate "real world" performance improvements. AirNet is temporarily providing the base stations, common equipment and services for evaluation at no charge; and the large operator is paying for the costs of providing and preparing sites, ancillary equipment, and test services.

AirNet said wireless networks are prone to interference and poor voice quality due to the fixed directional transmission of radio frequency (RF) signals. In traditional base station systems, the wide area dispersal is necessary , resulting in considerable waste of radiated power. Also, the dispersed transmission pollutes the electromagnetic environment by radiating most of the transmitted power in unnecessary directions -- making radio planning difficult and expensive.

In contrast, AirNet's Super Capacity, adaptive array technology, which is designed for GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks, determines a user's location and attempts to focus and receive energy only in desired directions as well as to null the interferers. The resulting improvement of RF network quality through substantial C/I (carrier-to-interference ratio) gains, results in improved spectrum utilization and Erlang capacity for urban voice applications compared to traditional technology, thereby reducing the required number of cell sites.

"Our Super Capacity adaptive array broadband SDR platform is the alternative to the expensive and daunting task of building large numbers of new sites or purchasing expensive spectrum in this major metropolitan network," said Thomas R. Schmutz, Vice President of Engineering for AirNet Communications.

Amino Combines its IPTV Set-top Software with Philips' Nexperia Chip

Amino is porting its IPTV set-top software stack to Philips' Nexperia home entertainment engine PNX8550, creating a reference design for IPTV set top box vendors. The open software platform is capable of supporting a range of IPTV middleware and conditional access solutions, including customized third-party applications for IPTV service providers.

IBM Develops Real-Time, On Demand Data Protection Software

IBM introduced new software that continuously protects information -- on laptops, desktop PCs and file servers -- from viruses, file corruption, or accidental deletion. The software, IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files, creates a copy of designated file types on the local machine within milliseconds, and then sends another copy to a remote server. IBM said the software involves more than 10 patents pending on technologies for capturing continuous changes to data in tandem with remote scheduled back-up. A beta version of the software has been available to developers via IBM's alphaWorks site for emerging technologies. Pricing is $35 per laptop or desktop, and $995 per server processor.

SBC Provides Optical Ethernet for Westar Satellite Services

SBC Communications will provide Broadcast Video TV1 Service, which delivers high-speed fiber-optic connections designed for real-time delivery of broadcast-quality video, to Westar Satellite Services, a privately-held company based in Texas that provides traditional uplink and downlink video services via satellite and terrestrial broadcast transmission, including multimedia and streamed media content distribution. SBC companies will also provide Westar with SBC PremierSERV Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) through OPT-E-MAN switched Ethernet connections. SBC said these services enable Westar customers, including broadcasters, government agencies, retail companies and other organizations, to transfer video and other information to the Westar network collocation facilities and satellite earth station.

BBC to Offer Video Content Online

The BBC is preparing to launch a video player application that lets viewers legally download up to seven days of its most recent TV programs. For UK viewers, a simulcast of BBC One or BBC Two would be available online at the same time as the television broadcast.

"MyBBCPlayer", which is expected to launch in 2006, would also let viewers purchase additional content.

See also