Thursday, February 9, 2006

AT&T's Whitacre Paid $17 Million in 2005

Edward Whitacre, Chairman and CEO of AT&T, was paid $17.2 million in 2005, including $2.12 million in salary, a $7.125 million bonus, other annual pay of $2.67 million, long-term incentives of $4.79 million, additional compensation of $249,588 and stock options worth $217,051. This compares with total compensation of $15.7 million for 2004.

Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chief operating officer, earned $3.5 million in annual pay and bonuses.

Competition Rises in Video Distribution

Competition among multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), including cable operators, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers, local exchange carriers (LECs) and others, continues to provide U.S. consumers with increased choice, better picture quality, and greater technological innovation, according to the latest FCC report on video competition.

TV viewership is at its highest level since television viewing was first measured by Nielsen Media Research in the 1950s. The average American watches 4 hours, 32 minutes each day, a record high.

Some highlights of the report:

  • The number of TV households and the number of MVPD subscribers increased in the past year. As of June 2005, there were 109.6 million TV households, compared to 108.4 million in June 2004. Of that number, approximately 94.2 million TV households subscribe to an MVPD service, as compared to 92.2 million as of June 2004.

  • Cable serves the largest percentage of MVPD subscribers, but cable's share of the MVPD market continued to decline. As of June 2005, the FCC's traditional measure indicates that 69.4 percent of MVPD subscribers received video programming from a franchised cable operator, as compared to 71.6 percent as of June 2004.

  • DBS subscribers comprise the second largest group of MVPD households, representing 27.7 percent of total MVPD subscribers as of June 2005, as compared to 25.1 percent in June 2004, an increase of over 10 percent. DBS operators continue to add local-into-local broadcast television service. In 167 of 210 television markets (i.e., designated market areas, or DMAs), covering 97 percent of all U.S. TV households, at least one DBS provider offers the signals of local broadcast stations (local-into-local service).

  • The number of MVPD subscribers choosing all other delivery technologies decreased, representing 2.9 percent of all subscribers in June 2005, as compared to 3.3 percent in June 2004.

  • There are 15.36 million U.S. TV households that do not subscribe to an MVPD service and thus rely solely on over-the-air broadcast television for their video programming, representing 14 percent of all U.S. TV households. The major broadcast networks now provide their most popular programming in high-definition. Hundreds of local stations are using their digital channels to provide multicast programming, including news, weather, sports, religious material, music videos and coverage of local musicians and concerts, as well as foreign language programming.

  • BSPs served approximately 1.4 million subscribers, as of June 2005, representing 1.5 percent of all MVPD households.

  • ILECs have accelerated their plans to roll out video services. Verizon has received franchises from numerous local communities and began offering multichannel video service, under the brand name FiOS, in several of them. SBC is planning to deploy an IP-enabled broadband network called Project Lightspeed, and Qwest and a number of smaller incumbent LECs are offering, or preparing to offer, MVPD service over existing telephone lines using VDSL or ADSL technologies.

  • PCO subscribership has declined to one million subscribers this year, a decrease of 9.1 percent from last year's 1.1 million. More than one-hundred electric and gas utilities provide video service, 128 offered high-speed Internet access, 52 offered local telephone service, and 42 offered long distance telephone service. Of the 102 offering video services, 10 are offering video-on-demand (VOD). Wireless cable systems provide video competition to incumbent cable operators only on a limited basis. The number of wireless cable subscribers has declined steadily from a peak of 1.2 million in 1996 to approximately 100,000 as of March 2005, down from an estimated 200,000 subscribers in April 2004.

  • Several major cellular telephone companies are offering video services through handheld devices such as mobile telephones. Verizon Wireless rolled out V-Cast, a service that offers video programming to cellular telephone users, in February 2005.

  • The amount of web-based video provided over the Internet continues to increase significantly each year. The sale and rental of home videos, including videocassettes and DVDs, offer consumers an alternative to the premium and pay-per-view offerings of MVPDs. Video-on-demand services provided by cable, DBS, and Internet providers have emerged, in turn, as competitive alternatives to home video.

  • In 2005, the FCC identified 531 satellite-delivered national programming networks, including ___ foreign-produced or foreign-language program channels. Of the 531 networks, 116 networks (21.8 percent) were vertically integrated with at least one cable operator. We also identified, 274, or 51.6 percent, that are not affiliated with any cable operator or other media entity. In addition, we identified 107 national, satellite-delivered non-broadcast networks that are owned by a DBS operator or one or more national broadcast networks (i.e., Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC Universal, and Univision) and that are not also owned by a cable operator.

  • In 2005, the FCC identified 96 regional networks, the same number as last year. These networks provide programming of local or regional interest and are distributed to subscribers of one or more MVPDs in an area. Of the 96 regional networks we identified, 44 networks, or 45.8 percent, were vertically integrated with at least one MSO. There are 37 regional sports networks, representing 38.5 percent of all regional networks, devoted to sports programming, as compared to the 38 we reported last year. Of the 37 regional sports networks, 17, or 5.9 percent were vertically integrated with a cable multiple system operator (MSO).

  • In 2005, the sale of DTV consumer electronics continued to accelerate. Industry estimates indicate that 8.2 million HD-ready monitors will be shipped to retailers. CEA reports that during the first six months of 2005, DTV products sold at a faster rate than during any previous comparable period of time, with 3.8 million DTV products sold, a 40 percent increase in unit sales from the same time period in 2004. In 2005, the average retail price of a DTV set is expected to drop to $1,189 from $1,489 in 2004, down from the average price of $3,147 in 1998. CEA states that currently several DTV models are available for under $700, and it expects that soon there will be DTV sets that sell for as low as $400.

  • The development and deployment of CableCARDs continued in 2005. CableCARDs permit the reception of secured digital cable services without the addition of a set-top box. As of November 30, 2005, there were 375 certified or verified models of CableCARD products collectively offered by 22 manufacturers, up from 60 models offered by 11 manufacturers the previous year. One-way CableCARDs have been deployed to more than 90,000 subscribers by the ten largest MSOs.
    The video industry continues to evaluate the use of advanced compression technologies, such as MPEG-4/H.264 and Microsoft's VC-1, to replace the MPEG-2 standard in order to decrease the amount of bandwidth required to transmit digital video. These advances are expected to allow existing video delivery services to provide more programming and to decrease barriers to entry for new entrants to the MVPD market.

FCC to Consider Tougher Privacy Rules

The FCC launched a proceeding to examine whether additional security measures could prevent the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive customer information held by telecommunications companies.

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the FCC seeks comment on a variety of issues related to customer privacy, including what security measures carriers currently have in place, what inadequacies exist in those measures, and what kind of security measures may be warranted to better protect consumers' privacy.

The Notice grants a petition for rulemaking filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) expressing concerns about whether carriers are adequately protecting customer call records and other customer proprietary network information, or CPNI.

The NPRM specifically seeks comment on five measures, which are:

  • Passwords set by consumers.

  • Audit trails that record all instances when a customer's records have been accessed, whether information was disclosed, and to whom.
  • Encryption by carriers of stored CPNI data.

  • Limits on data retention that require deletion of call records when they are no longer needed.

  • Notice provided by companies to customers when the security of their CPNI may have been breached.

NTL Tests ARRIS' DOCSIS 3.0 CMTS for 100 Mbps Access

ntl, the UK's leading consumer broadband provider, is conducting field trials of a 100 Mbps access service using ARRIS's FlexPath channel bonded technology and its Cadant C4 CMTS and Touchstone Wideband Modem.

FlexPath uses the same bonding technique as that selected by CableLabs for its DOCSIS 3.0 standard.

ntl is using the channel-bonded cable modem service to demonstrate a variety of new services, such as ultra fast downloads of large media files; security services including closed circuit television; inexpensive video conferencing; internet-based gaming; and the multicast streaming of multiple high definition television channels.

"We are delighted to have the support of our technology partner ARRIS in order to demonstrate the significant potential of our cable network," said Kevin Baughan, ntl's Director of Network Strategy. "Following a highly successful trial in our labs, we are looking forward to commencing field trials of the ARRIS FlexPath technology in March."http://www.arrisi.com
  • ARRIS' FlexPath uses the same Packet Bonding technique as CableLabs' chosen approach for DOCSIS 3.0. Channel bonding is an efficient way to combine multiple DOCSIS channels together for a higher effective data rate to the subscriber. It is also expected to backwards compatible. The first release of the Wideband Cable Modem with FlexPath will support 4 bonded channels in both the upstream and downstream directions, and that number will increase with subsequent releases. Four DOCSIS 2.0 channels bonded together create over 100 Mbps in both directions, significantly surpassing xDSL data rates. ARRIS said future releases of FlexPath could support up to 32 downstream channels in a bonding group, enabling downstream data rates of over one gigabit per second to a single node. FlexPath will be deployable on the ARRIS Cadant C4 CMTS through a software upgrade, and will work on existing 2D:12U and 1D:8U cable access modules (CAM's).

Microsoft Announces Global Partner Support for its Mobile Messaging

At this week's 3GSM World Congress 2006 in Barcelona, Microsoft is showcasing new services and Windows Mobile-based devices from its global partners.

Cingular Wireless, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone announced free upgrades to the Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP) for all their Windows Mobile 5.0 customers, enabling Direct Push functionality and providing enhanced device management and security for messaging applications. Palm and i-Mate also reaffirmed their commitment to free MSFP upgrades.

New Windows Mobile-based devices unveiled at 3GSM include:
the HP iPAQ hw6900 Mobile Messenger, the Gigabyte Communications g-Smart (offered by Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. in Taiwan), the ASUS P305 3G-enabled smartphone, and the Fujitsu Siemens FS Pocket Loox. In addition, HTC Corp. has unveiled a new product portfolio of Windows Mobile-based devices that are Direct Push-enabled and will be made available globally to T-Mobile and other operators beginning in the second quarter of this year.

Atheros and QUALCOMM Target Cellular/Wi-Fi Solution

Atheros Communications and QUALCOMM announced a partnership to offer a cellular/Wi-Fi solution. The companies initially will develop interoperability between Atheros' single-chip Radio-on-Chip for Mobile(ROCm) solution and select QUALCOMM Mobile Station Modem (MSM) chipsets. The ROCm solution will initially interoperate with the MSM6550 for CDMA2000 networks and the MSM6280 chipset for WCDMA (UMTS) networks. The combined solutions will enable cellular devices to support 802.11g and 802.11a/g wireless LAN (WLAN) technology.

The companies are demonstrating the initial interoperable Atheros ROCm and QUALCOMM MSM solution at this week's at 3GSM in Barcelona. The solutions is scheduled to be commercially available by June 2006.

"We are pleased to work with QUALCOMM, the recognized leader in CDMA and 3G cellular technologies," said Craig Barratt, president and chief executive officer of Atheros Communications. "Our relationship has resulted in the combination of two of the world's most popular wireless technologies in a single solution. This will result in true mobility, enabling wireless users to achieve anywhere, anytime connectivity to people, content and services."

"The strategic collaboration between QUALCOMM and Atheros focuses on the growing worldwide demand for additional connectivity features in mobile handsets," said Mike Concannon, vice president of strategic products for QUALCOMM CDMA Technologies. "Having support for Atheros' ROCm solutions on our MSM chipsets helps us continue to bring a new level of mobility to wireless users and deliver numerous new possibilities to the wireless industry."

The ROCm solutions supported by QUALCOMM's MSM chipsets will provide handset OEMs and ODMs with an additional way to address the rapidly growing market for advanced mobile phones that deliver voice, data, multimedia content and services across both cellular and Wi-Fi networks. WLAN technology offers support for applications such as VoIP, voice calls with simultaneous data transfer and other data-intensive applications.

Microsoft Cites Gains for its Connected Services Framework

More than a dozen communications companies, including Bell Canada, BT Retail and Celcom Malaysia, have now adopted Microsoft's Connected Services Framework, a software product that allows operators to aggregate, provision and manage converged communications services for their subscribers, regardless of network or device. In addition, France Telecom is currently trialing this solution. Microsoft first launched Connected Services Framework a year ago at 3GSM World Congress 2005.

BT Retail is using the solution to provide a packaged broadband access and hosted e-mail service to small and medium-sized businesses.

France Telecom is implementing Connected Services Framework to provide combined voice, video and data services to consumers and businesses.

Applications being implemented by other operators range from metro Wi-Fi access and content services, messaging and conferencing capabilities, and gaming service activation.

At 3GSM World Congress 2006, Microsoft, in conjunction with Ubiquity Software Corp. PLC, will demonstrate how Connected Services Framework allows operators to extend the capabilities of IMS to build integrated, real-time applications that access multiple Web services and can be dynamically re-aggregated based on user preferences. The companies' "I'm lost" service demonstration integrates IMS services including telephony and locations with Web services such as mapping and e-mail, and is designed to help "lost" mobile subscribers get directions to their destinations.

Cornice Showcases 10 GB HDD for Mobile Phones

Cornice, a start-up specializing in micro hard drives, is showcasing end-user drives for mobile phones at this week's 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona. Cornice's announcements at 3GSM include:

  • Cornice Dragon Series Micro Hard Drive -- launching in 8- and 10-gigabyte capacities: Setting a new standard for the smallest possible hard drive, Dragon is enabling a whole new series of consumer electronics that seek the thinnest end user product with enough capacity to take everything with you.

  • Cornice Inside the Samsung i300 Mobile Smartphone

GlobeVISION to Launch Video Service for Asian-Americans

GlobeVISION, a global media service company with North American headquarters in Los Angeles, will launch an on demand video service for Asian-Americans in North America. Content deals with Korea's two largest private broadcasters, MBC and SBS, as well as CJ Media, Korea's largest cable media group, will allow the "PIE" service to deliver tens of thousands of Korean and Chinese television and movie programming choices directly from Asia to the TV sets of subscribers in North America. The service is available now on a trial basis in Southern California and will begin serving Asian-Americans across the U.S. and Asian-Canadians on July 1st.

GlobeVISION's PIE Service is delivered through the subscriber's broadband Internet connection to a self-installed rented or purchased set top box that outputs directly to their television or home theater.

AT&T Calls on FCC to Remove Barriers in Video Competition

"Removing the existing barriers to investment in video competition would be consistent with the broadband polices this Commission has traditionally endorsed. And consumers will benefit from innovation and choice," said Lea Ann Champion, AT&T senior executive vice president-IP operations and services, speaking at an FCC open hearing held in Keller, Texas.

As there result of state-wide video franchise bill passed by the Texas legislature last year AT&T said it was able to commit without delay $800 million in new broadband facilities throughout Texas. That includes AT&T's Project Lightspeed investment to bring new video choice to consumers. It also includes new DSL broadband service to all of the company's 535 central offices and an additional 228 "neighborhood gateways."

The company has begun a limited roll-out of its IPTV service, dubbed AT&T "U-Verse" TV, in San Antonio and expects to deploy it on a broader scale later this year.