Tuesday, October 10, 2006

DIRECTV 9S Satellite Successfully Launched

DIRECTV's latest hybrid Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) was successfully launched aboard an Ariane 5 ECA rocket from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. DIRECTV 9S, which was built by Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), carries 52 high-power Ku-band transponders and 2 Ka-band transponders. The satellite, a version of SS/L's space-proven 1300 satellite platform tailored for DIRECTV's payload requirements, is similar to DIRECTV 7S, launched in May 2004, with the addition of two Ka-band transponders.

DIRECTV 9S is one of four satellites DIRECTV has launched over the past two years. The next scheduled satellite launches for DIRECTV are DIRECTV 10 and DIRECTV 11 in 2007. The two satellites will provide DIRECTV with the capacity to offer more than 150 national HD channels and more than 1,500 local HD channels.

Earlier this month, DIRECTV confirmed plans to offer local HD broadcast networks in 67 markets, representing approximately 74 percent of U.S. TV households, by year end when it rolls out 25 more local HD markets in the fourth quarter. DIRECTV currently offers standard-definition local channels in 142 markets, covering nearly 94 percent of television households in the country, as well as 42 HD local channel markets representing approximately 62 percent of U.S. TV households.


Italtel and Cisco Offer Integrated Networked Business Voice Solution

Italtel announced a new joint solution with Cisco Systems that enables service providers to offer managed and hosted IP communication solutions, facilitating the adoption of advanced Unified Communications services for businesses. With the solution, operators can provide end-to-end remote management, carrier-grade quality of service and security, and advanced, customizable services, such as centralized contact directories, unified messaging and fixed-mobile integration, all fully integrated with the existing enterprise IT environment. The solution also allows the operator to efficiently manage the migration of legacy voice networks to IP-based networks.

The Italtel-Cisco Integrated Networked Business Voice Solution (IN-BVS) integrates the Italtel Softswitch (i-SSW) with Cisco Unified CallManager (CCM) and Cisco Unified CallManager Express (CCME) call-control systems. Using Italtel's "Coordinated Provisioning" platform, service providers can remotely configure, manage and monitor all services provided at the customer's premises.

The companies said their joint solution is being deployed by a number of European Service Providers as part of their IP next-generation network (IP NGN) strategy.


Cisco and MetaSwitch Cite Gains in Joint CLEC Network Migrations

More than 20 competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) have adopted Metaswitch's Secure IP Migration Platform for the Local Exchange (SIMPLE) solution, which integrates IP Next-Generation Networking (IP NGN) technologies from Cisco Systems. Recent customer wins include BroadStar Communications and Norlight Telecommunications.

BroadStar worked closely with MetaSwitch and Cisco to architect a scalable triple-play solution for luxury residential properties, including condominiums. The design features Cisco integrated access devices (IADs) and Cisco 7600 Series Routers with a softswitch application server platform from MetaSwitch to deliver multiple lines of high-quality voice and unified communications services to a single building over an all-IP access network.

Norlight, which serves wholesale and business customers, turned to MetaSwitch and Cisco to re-engineer its network and launch a suite of new IP voice services (including its newest integrated communications offering, "IPLive") in less than four months.


Alcatel and Amdocs' Cramer OSS Suite Selected by Telekom Austria

Telekom Austria selected Alcatel to deploy an integrated end-to end fulfillment solution for next generation services. Alcatel will act as the prime integrator of Amdocs' technology, which is based on the solution developed by Cramer, Amdocs OSS Division. The solution will be operational across Austria's leading provider of telecommunications services later this year.

The joint fulfillment solution will leverage the Cramer OSS Suite and Alcatel's equipment and integration expertise to automate the end-to-end fulfillment of services for Telekom Austria, including "triple play" bundles of voice, video and Internet services.

  • In July 2006, Amdocs agreed to acquire Cramer Systems, a supplier of operations support systems (OSS) solutions, for approximately $375 million in cash.

  • In August 2005, Alcatel and Amdocs agreed to collaborate to address the requirements of communications service providers planning to deploy IPTV and other next generation broadband IP services.

  • In May 2005, SBC Communications (now AT&T) awarded a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract to Amdocs to provide its customer lifecycle management solutions for Project Lightspeed.

Bell Canada Simplifies its Structure, Eliminating BCE Holding Company

BCE will eliminate its holding company operations and convert Bell Canada into an income trust. BCE common shares are to be exchanged on a one-for-one basis for units in the Bell Canada Income Fund.

"The elimination of BCE is a further step in our plan to focus on Bell and our communications operations," said Michael Sabia, Chief Executive Officer of BCE and Bell Canada. "That is the business we know. That is the business we will stick to."http://www.bell.ca

Twango Launches Photo/Video Sharing Service

Twango, a start-up based in Redmond, Washington, launched a free, media-sharing service for photos, video, audio, Microsoft Office documents and PDFs.

The company's founders were previously senior managers with Microsoft.


Belgacom Selects Ruckus Wireless Gateways for IPTV

Belgacom selected Ruckus Wireless to supply in-home "smart Wi-Fi" systems to support its popular digital broadband TV service -- Belgacom TV. Belgacom is offering consumers the Ruckus MediaFlex system at a one-time nominal cost in lieu of cable installation. It is also making the system available in some 150 Belgacom retail and dealer outlets.

Belgacom was providing IPTV services to more than 73,000 customers at the end of June. The carrier delivers more than 70 IPTV channels through its "Classic +" service including national and a range of international channels for EUR 9.95 per month. In addition, Belgacom TV offers the "Select" package of 15 new channels for EUR 14.94 per month as well as on-demand services with more than 300 movies available from EUR 2 to EUR 5 per movie.


Nokia to Offer 2.5 GHz WiMAX Base Station in 2007

Nokia plans to introduce a "Flexi" WiMAX Base Station for the 2.5 GHz band at the end of 2007 and for 3.5 GHz in 1Q 2008. WiMAX-capable Nokia mobile devices are expected to be available in 2008.

Nokia said its "Flexi" WiMAX Base Station will feature a small and modular design to optimize the costs of siting and operating WiMAX infrastructure. The compact size and light weight design of the base station modules minimizes the space needed, power consumption, and physical effort to install and run high quality WiMAX networks, and uses existing or new base station sites efficiently. It can be installed both indoors and outdoors and does not require air conditioning. Furthermore, its modularity will allow for easy capacity upgrades as traffic increases.

The Nokia Flexi WiMAX Base Station is part of Nokia's overall mobile WiMAX solution, which complements its current solutions to operators in cellular radio access technologies.


UTStarcom Explores Strategic Alternatives

UTStarcom announced that it is exploring a variety of strategic alternatives to enhance stockholder value and had engaged Merrill Lynch as an advisor.

"Our Board of Directors and management team believe that the inherent value of the company and its opportunities are not reflected in our current share price," said Hong Lu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of UTStarcom, Inc. "We believe the engagement of Merrill Lynch will help us to carefully examine a range of short and long-term alternatives."

In conjunction with this initiative, the Board has asked Ying Wu, CEO of UTStarcom China to oversee this effort, under the direction of the special committee. Given this priority, Mr. Wu will not assume the title of Global CEO on January 1, 2007, as was previously announced.


TI Unveils its UR8 Residential Gateway Solution for all ADSL and VDSL2 standards

Texas Instruments unveiled its eighth generation, residential gateway silicon solution, supporting all ADSL and VDSL2 standards and featuring advanced voice and video capabilities.

The UR8 architecture comprises an advanced multimedia gateway processor, a programmable DSL PHY, a high-performance DSP-based voice sub-system and a rich set of local area network (LAN) interfaces. Multiple processors enable the intelligent management of broadband distribution for enhanced throughput and performance.

TI said the high-performance processor at the heart of its gateway design would enable high-bandwidth applications, including HD video, to be delivered inside the home. A high-performance DSP subsystem is provided for handling up to four channels of wireline or wireless VoIP. Voice support leverages TI's extensive voice codec library and Telogy Software for VoIP, including wideband codecs, wireline and wireless codecs, and advanced features such as fax and modem relay, packet-loss minimization and noise-reducing algorithms. The design allows for a choice of in-home networking technologies, including WLAN, MoCA, HomePlug AV, etc.

The five new xDSL solutions based on TI's next-generation UR8 RG family are now sampling.


Dynamic Spectrum Management (DSM) Seen Boosting Copper Access Beyond VDSL2

At Broadband Forum Europe in Paris, a new industry consortium was announced to spearhead the development and implementation of Dynamic Spectrum Management (DSM) as a technology for extending copper access beyond xDSL.

The consortium, which is led by ECI Telecom, see DSM as a promising technology that could provide reliable, fiber-optic-like rates over the existing copper infrastructure. The rates would exceed those of VDSL2.

The group is funded with an expected grant of 8 million EURs (US$10 million) over the next three years, and is being financed by the Chief Scientist Office of the Israeli Government.

"The main obstacle for the advancement of DSL technology is the interference ("crosstalk") generated from different DSL lines that share the same telephone cable binder," said Professor John Cioffi, Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, a pioneer of DSM research, who is also recognized as the inventor of the DMT line code. "DSM is a promising technology for the future evolution of broadband access networks using existing copper infrastructure."

"DSM is the next step in the evolution of telco's access infrastructure. It will allow telcos to provide high-bandwidth services cost-effectively by leveraging FTTC topologies rather than replacing all copper wires with fiber-optics until the subscriber premises (FTTH)," said Zvika Weinshtock, VP Marketing of ECI Telecom's Broadband Access Division.


Thomson Personal Multimedia Recorder Compatible with Amazon's Unbox

Thomson announced retail availability in the U.S. of its LYRA X3030 by RCA, a pocket-sized 30GB Personal Multimedia Recorder that enables direct recording of audio and video content from multiple sources.

The new LYRA unit utilizes secure Windows Media (WM10), enabling compatibility with purchased content from ZVUE.com, along with other Microsoft PlaysForSure subscription and download stores such as Amazon's newly launched Unbox service.

The LYRA X3030 features a 3.6-inch color LCD screen with 320 x 240 resolution. Video and audio recording can even be time shifted when using the docking base in conjunction with the included infrared Blaster. When transferring video, the included DivX transcoder software enables conversion of video files to DivX format for playback of any video. A removable lithium ion battery provides up to four hours of constant video playback. The MSRP is $399.


Carphone Warehouse to acquire AOL Access in the UK

The Carphone Warehouse Group will acquire AOL's Internet access business in the UK for £370m ($688m) in cash. The deal includes AOL's Internet access customer base in the UK (2.1 million ISP customers) as well as the supporting management and infrastructure. This customer base includes approximately 1.5m broadband customers and 0.6m dial-up customers.

For its part, AOL will provide co-branded portal, content and other audience services and will manage the online advertising sales for Carphone Warehouse's combined broadband customer base through a revenue-sharing agreement.

Carphone Warehouse said the deal makes it the third largest broadband provider in the UK. Since 2003, Carphone Warehouse has been building a significant presence in the UK residential telecom market. Through organic growth and acquisition, it has grown to a base of 2.7m voice customers in under four years, giving it approximately 11% of the residential calling market.

In April 2006, Carphone Warehouse launched a major new initiative, offering free broadband to its voice customers, and has attracted 625,000 applications for this service over the last six months.

"The acquisition of AOL's UK Internet access business is transformational for our broadband business. This deal gives us significant scale to complement the rapid organic growth of our free broadband proposition. In addition, the joint development of AOL's already successful audience platform will bring us new advertising and content revenues in a proven and low risk manner," said Charles Dunstone, CEO of Carphone Warehouse.

  • In September 2006, Telecom Italia agreed to acquire Time Warner's AOL Germany Internet access business for EUR 675 million ($870 million, Equity Value) in cash. Under the deal, AOL will provide co-branded audience services and content on a joint web portal for all of Telecom Italia's residential Internet access subscribers in Germany and will handle all online advertising sales. As of June 2006, AOL Germany, ranked second and third among German narrowband and broadband access providers, had 1.1 million broadband subscribers and approximately 1.3 million narrowband subscribers.

  • Also in September 2006, Neuf Cegetel agreed to acquire AOL's French Internet access business, including 500,000 broadband customers, and its AMSE operation, which manages AOL France's customer service operations (500 people), for EUR 288 million.

T-Mobile's New "Dash" Smartphone Combines GSM/W-Fi

T-Mobile USA introduced a new, quad-band GSM smartphone that combines a QWERTY keyboard with Wi-Fi and GPRS/EDGE capabilities. The unit is manufactured by High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) of Taiwan.

Key features include:

  • Microsoft Office Outlook Mobile

  • T-Mobile's myFaves service which offers unlimited any-network calling to any 5 people in the U.S.

  • Stereo Bluetooth wireless technology

  • 1.3-megapixel camera with video capture and playback

  • Windows Media Player 10 Mobile to play audio and video files from the Internet, e-mail or transferred from your PC

  • Support for all four major instant messaging providers: AOL, Yahoo!, MSN and ICQ

Novell's Ray Noorda Dies at 82

Raymond John Noorda, who served as CEO of Novell from 1982 to 1995, passed away at his home in Orem, Utah at the age of 82 following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Noorda is credited with popularizing the first widespread networking software -- NetWare -- which was installed in hundreds of thousands PCs worldwide by the early 1990s. As CEO, Noorda grew Novell from a small organization with 17 employees to a global company of more than 12,000 employees at its height. Noorda built a tiered distribution strategy, where manufacturers and resellers thrive together in providing products and services to end users. Noorda also pioneered technology "coopetition" -- alliances of technology competitors that develop common standards to grow the overall market for their products.

After his retirement in 1995, Noorda devoted his energies to the Canopy Group, an early-stage venture capital firm that has invested in over 100 companies, and extensive philanthropic activities.


DOJ Approves AT&T + BellSouth without Conditions

The U.S. Department of Justice approved the pending acquisition of BellSouth by AT&T without imposing any conditions. The DOJ said the deal would not reduce competition, did not pose a threat to Net Neutrality, and would not harm consumer welfare. Although the Department of Justice required divestitures of certain local private line assets before SBC acquired the former AT&T, the DOJ ruled that in this merger divestitures were unnecessary to preserve competition.

Citing an in-depth review, the DOJ said the combination would not significantly increase concentration in the ownership of spectrum in any geographic area or give AT&T control over a large enough share of all spectrum suitable for wireless broadband services to raise competitive concerns.

Regarding competitive problems in Internet services, including "net neutrality" concerns regarding the merged firm's ability or incentive to favor its own Internet content over that of its rivals, the DOJ ruled that the merger would neither significantly increase concentration in markets for the provision of broadband services to end users nor increase Internet backbone shares significantly. Although the merger would increase the number of subscribers on AT&T's broadband network, the large majority of the nation's residential and small business "eyeballs" remain with other large broadband Internet service providers (such as Verizon, Qwest, Comcast, and Time Warner).

"After thoroughly investigating AT&T's proposed acquisition of BellSouth, the Antitrust Division determined that the proposed transaction is not likely to reduce competition substantially... The presence of other competitors, changing regulatory requirements and the emergence of new technologies in markets for residential local and long distance service indicate that this transaction is not likely to harm consumer welfare."http://www.usdoj.gov