Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Creative WebCam Combines Motorized Pan-N-Tilt with Face Tracking

Creative introduced a new webcam with motorized Pan-n-Tilt, a 76-degree wide-angle lens, and "Smart Face Tracking" technology, which smoothly follows user movements during video instant messaging. The WebCam Live! Motion features a high-quality CCD sensor, and it delivers video at VGA 640x480 quality and software-enhanced still images of up to 1.3 megapixels. The device is priced at US$149.99.

NexTone Names New CEO

NexTone Communications, a supplier of VoIP session management solutions, appointed Malik Khan as chairman and CEO, succeeding Hank Fiery, who served as CEO during NexTone's growth phase as a technology startup.

Khan previously was CEO of Converged Access, where he helped develop a family of traffic management products focused on serving large enterprise VoIP networks. Before joining Converged Access, Khan launched two startups, Indus River Networks and Sitara Networks, at OneLiberty Ventures. Indus River was sold to Cabletron in 2001 and Sitara was sold to Converged Access in 2004. Khan began his career at General Electric, and spent 12 years at Motorola as vice president and general manager of Motorola's Network Systems Division.

FCC to Establish New Public Safety/Homeland Security Bureau

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced the following steps that the FCC will take in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

  • Provide over $211 million of immediate relief to the affected areas using universal service funding. The FCC will use the Low Income Program to help those who have been cut off to reestablish their lines of communication. For all people eligible for FEMA disaster assistance, the FCC will provide support for wireless handsets and a package of 300 free minutes for evacuees and people still in the affected area without telephone service. For all people eligible for FEMA disaster assistance, the FCC will provide support to pay the costs of reconnecting consumers to the network as the disaster-struck area is rebuilt.

  • The FCC will use the E-rate Program to help reconnect schools and libraries throughout the region. The Commission can authorize $96 million in E-rate funds for the approximately 600 schools and libraries in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama hit by the hurricane.

  • Examine ways to improve network reliability and public safety communications in times of crisis The FCC will establish an independent expert panel composed of public safety and communications industry representatives that will be charged with reviewing the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the communications infrastructure in the affected area. The panel will make recommendations to the Commission regarding ways to improve disaster preparedness, network reliability, and communication among first responders such as police, fire fighters and emergency medical personnel.

  • FCC Chairman Martin will create a new FCC bureau to better coordinate planning and response efforts when disaster strikes. The new Public Safety/Homeland Security Bureau will coordinate public safety, national security, and disaster management activities within the FCC. It will have responsibility for issues including:

  • Public Safety Communications, including 911 centers and first responders

  • Priority Emergency Communications

  • Alert and Warning of U.S. Citizens

  • Continuity of Government Operations

  • Disaster Management Coordination (i.e., infrastructure reporting and analysis in times of disaster)

  • Disaster Management Outreach

  • Communications Infrastructure Protection

  • Network Reliability and Interoperability

  • Network Security

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps: "Last year, The 9/11 Commission Report described a state of communications unreadiness that seriously hindered our country's ability to respond to that attack. But it also described a chilling picture of communications unreadiness three years later--and Hurricane Katrina has shown that to be still tragically true. Now people are talking again about the need for full-scale emergency planning. This time we dare not fail.... We saw the results of communications failures on 9/11. We saw them during the East Coast black-out, and now--again--with Katrina. Maybe this time, at last, we can put our separate resources and talents together to get the job done."

Hurricane Katrina: A Damage Assessment and First Lessons Learned

The FCC held a special open meeting to examine the effects of Hurricane Katrina on communications services. The meeting was held at BellSouth's Emergency Control Center located in Atlanta. Some key points:

  • More than three million people lost their phone service in 3 states, about 15% of which remain out-of-service as of September 14th.

  • More than a thousand wireless towers were knocked down

  • Over 11,000 utility poles are down, 26,000 spans of cable are down, 22,000 line drops are down

  • There was a serious breakdown of the 911 system across a wide area. Forty three 911 call centers had to be rerouted during the storm due to damage or loss of the facility. In addition to destruction of physical facilities, there was the breakdown in command-and-control among first responders.

  • The electrical power grid took a major hit and the widespread power outages across the whole area further disrupted telecommunications.

  • Out of the 578 central offices in Hurricane-affected states, 545 remained in service.

  • Six central offices in New Orleans remain offline, including one that is still underwater. Three 911 centers in Louisiana remain offline.

  • The loss of connectivity on the wireline network quickly spilled over to the wireless networks.

  • Over 100 broadcast stations were knocked off the air.

  • Only 2 AM and 2 FM radio stations in New Orleans remained on the air following the hurricane. These local radio stations were the only way only getting news out during the crisis.

  • BellSouth activated its Emergency Center days in advance of Hurricane Katrina and its personnel ensured that all back-up generators were refueled and ready-to-go. However, because of flooding and security issues, Bell South could not refuel many of these back-up generators.

  • The lawlessness in New Orleans following the hurricane was a major issue. An emergency control center had to be evacuated and could only be re-staffed under the protection of heavily-armed federal marshals.

  • BellSouth used boats to deploy microwave connected cell sites in areas that were down, but these boats required federal or state security escorts due to gun fire in the areas

  • BellSouth now needs to dispatch Hazardous Materials teams to recondition facilities that were underwater and might pose a threat to health.

  • BellSouth estimates the damage at $400 to $600 million and will have to bear these costs now as it redeploys equipment.

  • Many telecom employees were themselves victims of the storm, losing property, homes and family members. Nevertheless, these technicians have been working tirelessly to restore services.

  • The wireless industry has cooperated in a remarkable fashion to share facilities, spectrum, workers and fuel in order to restore communications as soon as possible.

  • Satellite phones played a key role in the critical hours following the storm, providing the only dial tone and data services across a wide area.

After describing the damage, Rod Odom, President of Network Services for BellSouth, presented the following list of lessons learned:

  • Network providers and their customers are increasingly dependent on power and the extended loss of power severely hampers communications. Cell phone users had no place to recharge their batteries. An estimated 60% of home users are using electrically-powered cordless phones and these were disabled even when the network was up.

  • There is a need to improve the re-rerouting of 911 centers to geographically diverse areas.

  • First responders from different jurisdictions need compatible equipment.

  • Switching equipment, generators and fuel tanks need to be located above any potential flood lines.

A webcast of the meeting is archived on the FCC site.

Cisco Outlines Secure RFID Networking Solution

Cisco Systems outlined a networking strategy to help enterprises introduce Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies into their supply chains to increase visibility into product information and optimize business flow. Key elements of the Cisco RFID Solution include:

  • Cisco Application Oriented Network (AON) for RFID, which includes modules that embed RFID middleware functions onto Cisco data center switches and branch office routers. The RFID-enabled Cisco AON modules can be installed throughout an enterprise's network; at the edge for RFID event capture and filtering, and in the data center for data authentication, additional filtering and aggregation, and application protocol bridging. In addition, the AON modules can perform tasks such as outbound encryption, digital signature and content-based routing when sharing data with external business partners. The Cisco AON for RFID Solution has a U.S. list price of $16,250 and is scheduled to ship in October 2005 in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and Africa and in the second half of FY06 in Asia, Japan and emerging markets.

  • Cisco Services for RFID, including an RFID Network Readiness Assessment, Pilot Service Offering, and Production Implementation Support. Cisco services for RFID are available now worldwide.

  • Cisco Wireless Location Service based on the Cisco 2700 Wireless Location Appliance, which uses RF fingerprinting to simultaneously track up to 1,500 Wi-Fi-enabled active RFID tags from within the 802.11 WLAN. The Cisco 2700 Wireless Location Appliance has a U.S. list price of $14,995 and has been shipping worldwide since June 2005.

  • Supporting RFID-related products from partners ConnecTerra, Intermec Technologies Corp., PanGo Networks and ThingMagic.

Cisco Launches QoS Certification for Switched Ethernet Services

Cisco Systems announced new certification requirements for service providers wishing to receive a "Cisco Powered Network" designation for Ethernet services.

The Cisco Powered Network certification process requires the service provider to undergo an annual third-party, on-site assessment, to validate that the provider follows best practices for delivering recommended levels of network performance (including latency, jitter and packet loss) and customer support for the different types of video, voice and data services. The certification also specifies that the service-level agreement must span the network from customer-edge to customer-edge in order to provide the end-to-end transparency and seamless management essential to support real-time voice, video and mission-critical applications.

COLT is the first service provider in Europe to earn a Cisco Powered Network designation with QoS certification for its Switched Ethernet services.

DTECH LABS and N.E.T. Launch "WHISPER" VoIP Gateway

DTECH LABS has begun commercial shipments of its WHISPER900 Mobile VoIP Gateway product, which uses Network Equipment Technologies' SHOUT IP software architecture. To date, the WHISPER900 has been deployed in several operational scenarios, both domestic and international, for fixed locations as well as "mobile in-use" applications supporting both standard and emergency-on-demand communications scenarios.

The WHISPER900 is a very small and light yet VoIP product designed for VIP and executive travel teams that are now beginning to rely upon IP technology for everyday and emergency communications.

Broadband Services Forum Hosts Workshops at Digital Hollywood

The Broadband Services Forum (BSF) is hosting a mini-track to address the issues that relate to Content Providers, Service Providers and Technology Providers, its defined constituency, at next week's Digital Hollywood meeting in Santa Monica, California. The forum will be held on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 and is open to all conference attendees.

The BSF will address how new technology developments, relationships between content and service providers, and the way subscribers think, act and feel will impact the entertainment industry.

More information is online.

Israel's Bezeq Tests WiMAX with Alvarion

Bezeq, the incumbent carrier in Israel, has deployed a pilot network using Alvarion's WiMAX-ready equipment. Bezeq is using the BreezeMAX 3500 platform and 3.5 GHz spectrum to provide broadband in the southern Israeli city of Rahat, an underserved community located in the Negev desert. The company is now developing plans to extend the network to other communities in southern Israel.

Romania's Astral Telecom Deploys Cisco Softswitch

Astral Telecom, Romania's largest electronic communication services provider, has deployed the Cisco BTS 10200 Call Control Softswitch solution in its national cable network. Since launching its cable VoIP services in 2003, Astral has expanded its VoIP services at the national level and is signing up hundreds of new subscribers every week.

Intel Opens Asia-Pacific R&D Center in Shanghai

Intel announced the establishment of Asia-Pacific Research and Development Ltd. in China (Asia-Pacific R&D Ltd.) based in Shanghai's Zizhu Science Park. The facility will focus on product development and platform-level innovations from all Intel product & technology groups, including the Digital Home Group, Digital Enterprise Group, Mobility Group, Channel Platforms Group, Digital Health Group, Software and Solutions Group, and Information Services & Technology Group.

Intel is planning for Asia-Pacific R&D Ltd. to employ more than 1,000 employees by the end of 2006. The facilities at Shanghai's Zizhu Science Park can accommodate up to 2,000 employees.

NTT Taiwan Deploys Juniper T-series Routers

NTT Taiwan has deployed Juniper Networks' T-series routing platform to expand the capacity of its core IP/MPLS network.

NTT Taiwan is the 100th customer for Juniper's T-series router. Shipping since April 2002, over 1,000 T-series units are deployed in production networks today worldwide.

Nortel Unveils Fixed, Mobile WiMAX Strategy

Nortel announced its commitment to offer fixed and mobile WiMAX products based on industry standards, and to work with Intel and Airspan Networks in bringing these products to market. These efforts are expected to complement work already underway with the LG-Nortel joint venture.

Nortel said its WiMAX products will be designed to allow wireless and wireline carriers, cable providers, media companies and other ISPs to deliver broadband connectivity to consumer and enterprise users by leveraging existing networks and 'last mile' wireless links. They will also complement and extend the reach of existing 3G cellular networks.

Fixed WiMAX (IEEE 802.16-2004) is anticipated to operate in the 3.5GHz and 5.8GHz bands of spectrum and to deliver end-user data rates greater than 1 Mbps. Mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e) will initially operate in the 2.5GHz band and provide even higher speeds and the added convenience of 'anytime, anywhere' access. Nortel is working with Airspan Networks to market and evolve WiMAX solutions in the higher frequency bands for implementations that do not require full mobility.

The agreement with Airspan gives Nortel worldwide rights to resell Airspan's HiperMAX, MacroMAX and MicroMAX base-station products, as well as EasyST and ProST customer premise equipment.
Nortel's optical backhaul technology, data networking solutions, and full suite of wireless services will be integrated with Airspan's WiMAX base transceiver stations (BTS) and subscriber terminals (ST).

Nortel will work in the development of WiMAX/WiBro solutions based on the 802.16e standard though the LG-Nortel joint venture.

Nortel's fixed WiMAX solutions are expected to be commercially available in Q1 2006. Nortel's WiBro solutions are scheduled for commercial availability following the 2005 field trial deployment in Asia with the LG-Nortel joint venture, with additional mobile WiMAX solutions set to be commercially available following the 2006 trials in North America.
  • In June 2005, Airspan Networks has signed a General OEM agreement under which Ericsson will resell Airspan's AS.MAX family of WiMAX broadband wireless access products. The deal gives Ericsson worldwide rights to resell Airspan's HiperMAX, MacroMAX and MicroMAX base-station products, as well as EasyST and ProST customer premise equipment.

  • In May 2005, Airspan announced a deal under which Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe will resell its AS.MAX family of WiMAX broadband wireless access products, including its HiperMAX, MacroMAX and MicroMAX base-station products, as well as EasyST and ProST customer premise equipment.

  • In August 2005, LG Electronics and Nortel signed a definitive agreement to form a joint venture that will offer telecom and networking solutions in the wireline, optical, wireless and enterprise areas for South Korean and global customers. Nortel will own 50 percent plus one share in the joint venture, in exchange for which Nortel will contribute its South Korean distribution and services business and pay US$145 million and other non-monetary consideration. Separately, LG Electronics may be entitled to payments over a two-year period based on achievement by the joint venture of certain business goals.

Harris Demos Military Satellite Antenna at 105 Mbps

Harris Corporation completed multiple field demonstrations of a satellite antenna feed prototype that is capable of supporting selectable antenna polarization for satellite orthogonal transmit and receive operations. The feed prototype achieved user data rates of 105 Mbps -- more than 12 times the current satellite terminal capability -- using a modified, Harris-built Lightweight High Gain X-band Antenna (LHGXA) and a modified AN/TSC-85C terminal operating over the recently launched XTAR-EUR commercial X-band satellite.

"The technologies showcased during the XTAR-EUR demonstrations represent a quantum leap in military satellite communications capabilities for our warfighters," said Dennis Evanchik, LHGXA project manager for the U.S. Army. "Harris' new selectable polarization X-band feed will allow users to gain full access to both the right-hand and left-hand circular polarized XTAR satellite transponders and thereby fully realize the tremendous capabilities of this high-power satellite."

The LHGXA large- aperture antenna, with its 4.9-meter (16-foot) diameter reflector, has the equivalent performance characteristics (e.g., G/T, EIRP) of a 20-foot reflector due to its shaped offset-fed design. More than 125 LHGXAs are currently in the DoD inventory.
  • XTAR-EUR, built by Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), was launched in February 2005 and carries twelve 72 MHz, high-power X-band transponders that provide coverage from Eastern Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean, across all of Europe, Africa and the Middle East to Singapore.

  • XTAR is a new satellite communications company that is jointly owned by Loral Space & Communications, which owns 56%, and HISDESAT, which owns 44%.

Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Offer GlobalAccess Wireless Broadband

Verizon Wireless and Vodafone announced GlobalAccess -- a new service that provides Verizon Wireless business customers with a two-card solution that gives them secure connection to the Internet in more than 60 major metropolitan markets in the U.S., as well as in Canada and in 50 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Domestically, the broadband connectivity is provided over Verizon Wireless' Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) network, and internationally the service runs over Vodafone's 3G/GPRS network with data rates of up to 384 kbps.

Verizon Wireless GlobalAccess customers can get unlimited use in the United States and Canada, and up to 100 MB of usage in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and in other Western European countries for $129.99 monthly access with a one- or two-year customer agreement. Other rates apply to other countries. Plans for occasional use are also available.

Dow Corning Targets Optoelectronics Market

Dow Corning announced that its Photonics Solutions business development program will become part of the company's mainstream Electronics business. The company plans to increase its level of activity in sales, marketing and product development activities to support creation of light management applications for a vast range of markets, including automotive, displays and telecommunications.

Dow Corning said device manufacturers require performance improvements such as faster data transmission rates and more efficient light throughput than what conventional electronic devices can deliver. The high optical transmission, good transmittance and design flexibility of silicon-based materials make them a key enabling technology for light-based applications.

The initial focus of the company's Light Management group will include commercializing encapsulants and lenses for light- emitting diodes (LED) as well as materials for optical assemblies, fiber optics and light pipe/guidance applications. The group also provides a range of services, from optical waveguide prototyping and R&D contracting to total supply chain management solutions.

Dow Corning also expects to develop optical interconnect and holographic material technologies, innovations that the company has been exploring through key collaborations with optical IC maker Gemfire Corporation and Aprilis, Inc., a holographic media and data storage system developer.

See also