Sunday, January 7, 2007

SanDisk Backs "Flash DVD Player" for Porting Content from PC to TV

SanDisk is promoting the concept of using a small, Flash-based media player/drive as a convenient way to transfer digital media files, including downloaded movies, from a broadband-enabled PC to a TV.

A new USBTV Forum is being formed to stimulate industry-wide acceptance by consumer electronics manufacturers, TV and display manufacturers, content providers and related technology companies.

At CES in Las Vegas, SanDisk demonstrated a product concept that employs a TV cradle and a remote control, allowing USBTV to connect to a TV set. The device uses a multimedia processor that converts the stored files into various TV video/audio formats for direct playback on virtually any TV without the need for any changes to the TV set.

The first pocket-sized players, expected to be available this spring, allow consumers to access an on-screen guide where they can pick and choose from content they've stored on the USBTV player and play it on a TV.

SanDisk said it has consulted with LG Electronics, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics, Pioneer Electronics on product requirements. Other companies contributing to USBTV initiatives include Akimbo Systems and Movielink is also working closely with the Forum to enhance concepts focused on supporting and protecting movies and other rights-managed video content.


Samsung Selects Agere's TrueONE for Digital Home Apps

Samsung has chosen Agere Systems' TrueONE solutions to develop its home media server and gateway for mobile and broadband network service providers. The home media server provides high-speed streaming throughout a home for up to eight simultaneous HDTV channels. The server also delivers up to 4 terabytes of multimedia storage capacity.

Samsung's next-generation home gateway can enable deep packet inspection at up to 2 Gbps, enabling new services such as mobile tele-media and security services.

Sprint Nextel Trims Expectations and Jobs

Sprint Nextel updated its financial outlook and detailed its plans to improve operational performance, including job cuts. The company will reduce its overall full-time headcount by approximately 5,000 from the 2006 year-end level of 64,600.

Based on preliminary data, Sprint Nextel said expects to report full-year 2006 consolidated operating revenues of approximately $41.0 billion, while Adjusted Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization (adjusted OIBDA) continues to be projected in a range of $12.6 billion to $12.9 billion. Total capital expenditures are estimated to be $7.0 billion to $7.3 billion.

For 2007, the company now expects consolidated operating revenues of $41 billion to $42 billion. In 2007, revenue growth from a larger subscriber base is expected to be offset by lower average revenue per subscriber and lower wireline revenues. Adjusted OIBDA of $11 billion to $11.5 billion, inclusive of approximately $300 million of start-up operating costs associated with WiMAX 4G broadband services.

During the fourth quarter, Sprint Nextel added 742,000 total net subscribers and ended the period with a base of 53.1 million. The fourth quarter net additions include 876,000 from wholesale and affiliates, and 171,000 new Boost customers, which were offset by a decline of 306,000 post-paid subscribers. Post-paid performance in the quarter reflects solid gains in CDMA subscribers, offset by a decline in the iDEN base.

In a statement, Gary D. Forsee, the company's chairman and chief executive officer, said: "Our plans for the coming year build on the efforts we initiated in the second half of 2006. Sprint Nextel has substantial assets, including unparalleled spectrum ownership and network capabilities and a significant head start on providing converged services and fourth-generation wireless services. In the near term, a lower margin revenue mix, investment of an additional $1.1 billion in our business operations and start-up costs associated with the build-out of our fourth generation WiMAX wireless network will pressure profitability. We will continue to adjust our cost structure, which will include a workforce reduction, as we meet the changing demands of the business. Over the course of the year we expect to resume growth of the post-paid customer base and stabilize these revenues, improve post-paid churn to below two percent and achieve increasing merger synergies. We expect these actions to support a return to mid-single digit revenue growth and mid-to-high teen adjusted OIBDA growth in 2008, prior to dilutive impacts from the 4G initiative."

Other highlights include:

  • Sprint Nextel added more than 3,400 cell sites in 2006.

  • In the coming year, Sprint Nextel expects to further increase network coverage and capacity with the addition of approximately 4,800 new cell sites and to extend mobile broadband technology throughout its CDMA network.

  • The company expects to complete the conversion of its entire customer base to a unified billing platform in 2007 from the multiple legacy platforms in place today.

  • A new call center dedicated to serving Boost customers will be opened and the number of business and consumer centers will be expanded during the year.

  • The handset portfolio has been re-energized with 10 new models, including ultra-thin CDMA phones from Motorola and Samsung. The company has made initial customer deliveries of combined CDMA-iDEN devices and plans to launch national marketing in mid-January under the name PowerSource.

  • The company intends to use the Boost Mobile brand and leverage its lower cost structure in a trial of a new local unlimited calling plan that will operate on the CDMA network in selected markets.

  • The company expects handset subsidies to increase in 2007 as compared to subsidies in 2006.

  • The company's VoIP offering with its cable partners now covers 30 million cable households. Sprint Nextel currently serves nearly 1.5 million cable telephony subscribers, and this base is expected to double by the end of 2007.

  • Wireless service offered through the joint venture with the cable partners was commercially launched in four markets in November. More than 40 additional markets.

  • 2007 capital expenditures are expected to be approximately $8.5 billion, consisting of $7.1 billion for core wireless networks and spectrum re-banding efforts, $600 million for wireline and up to $800 million for the company's WiMAX initiative.

Verizon Unveils Verizon One Home Communications Hub

Verizon introduced a second generation version of its home communications hub. The FiOS-generation of the Verizon One device features a digital cordless phone mounted on a tablet-sized base.

Using the device, FiOS customers can access their e-mail and voice mail; log into personal calendars and address books; consult movie listings; and check the latest news and weather. Additional features planned for the future would allow customers to access traffic reports; order a pizza or movie tickets online; and send memos or text messages to family members.

Services will be available through a combined, built-in WiFi and Ethernet connection to allow access to Internet-based content. Multiple USB ports will be added to accommodate the peripheral devices. Software developed by Verizon will seamlessly connect telephone and online functions to the new device, which can be located any place in the customer's home where there is access to a phone jack and an electrical outlet.

The Verizon One device, which is expected to be available this spring, is provided under a multi-year contract with OpenPeak, a leading developer of converged technology products.

Microsoft SPOT to Beam Data to Garmin GPS Devices

Garmin is integrating Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) into its Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to enable consumers to receive dynamic local information, including weather condition and traffic updates, movies listings, and gas prices.

Microsoft SPOT also announced plans to work with future versions of Microsoft Streets & Trips and Pharos Science & Applications Inc. to offer MSN Direct Navigation Services to their devices. In addition, Microsoft SPOT is working with Centrality Communications Inc. to integrate MSN Direct with its GPS reference designs, one built around Centrality's Atlas-III processor and a second one for the higher-end multimedia Titan processor.

The MSN Direct service is delivered through Microsoft's DirectBand Network using FM radio signals. The network covers about 70% of the U.S. population.

Motorola Lands Next-Gen Digital Set-Top Deal with Comcast

Comcast is expanding its multi-year purchase agreement for digital set-tops with Motorola. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Under the expanded deal, Comcast will purchase several set-top models from Motorola, including dual-tuner, HD DVRs, and all-digital cable receivers. These next-generation digital set-tops will support Comcast's Residential Network Gateway (RNG) specification along with the Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP) initiative. Several of the models will support Motorola's Follow Me TV solution and Motorola's Linux-Java software platform. Specific models will be compliant with government-mandated separable security, including CableCARD technology, as required.

Sprint-CableCo JV to Offer MobiTV

The Sprint-Cable Companies Joint Venture will offer MobiTV's video service. The video aspect of the Joint Venture service will include operator-specific application look and feel among tailored channel line-ups. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Yahoo! and Motorola Release Go for Mobile 2.0

Yahoo! released its Go for Mobile 2.0 application for beta testing. The application is available on Motorola's new MOTORAZR maxx V6 and MOTORAZR V3xx devices as part of the two companies' ongoing alliance.

Beginning in the first half of 2007, Yahoo! Go 2.0 will be pre-loaded on select new mobile devices from Motorola. It is also offered on more than 70 other mobile devices from major manufacturers.

Additionally, Yahoo! expects to distribute Yahoo! Go 2.0 through mobile operators worldwide including Bharti Airtel, DiGi Telecommunications (Malaysia), Globe Telecom, Hutchison India, Idea Cellular, Rogers Wireless, Smart Communications, Taiwan Mobile and 3 Group in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden.

Houghton College Replaces Nortel with Pingtel's Open Source VoIP

Houghton College has selected Pingtel's SIPxchange ECS for campus-wide deployment. When completed, the system will provide 1,500 faculty, staff, and students with real-time open source VoIP communications services.

Pingtel's SIPxchange, which runs on standard Intel / AMD servers, allows the end user to choose the phones and gateways rather than being locked into one brand.

Actiontec to Offer GPON ONTs

Actiontec Electronics plans to release optical network terminals (ONTs) for GPON deployments in the second half of 2007.

Actiontec said the addition of ONTs to its product line is part of a larger strategy that will enable service providers to significantly reduce the cost of CPE installations in GPON environments. The ONTs will complement Actiontec's portfolio of IPTV-capable routers and gateways. The company now offers ADSL+, ADSL2+ bonded, VDSL and fiber gateways.

SanDisk Debuts Flash-based Pocket Video Player

SanDisk unveiled its "Sansa" View widescreen portable media player featuring a 4" display and 8GB of internal flash memory to store up to 33 video hours or 2,000 songs.

The "pocketable" design measures 78.5mm x 123mm x 16.9mm (0.66" thick) and works with Windows Media Player 10 or 11. Its flash memory expansion slot allows for additional memory capacity and playback of content found on SD and SDHC cards, such as "Disney Max Clips."

MSRP is $299 and commercial availability is expected in Q1 2007.

Dresser Wayne and Microsoft Partner on WiFi Gas Pumps

Dresser Wayne, which supplies self-service consoles and fuel blending dispensers to service stations, is partnering with Microsoft to show how consumers can wirelessly transfer music to their car while refueling.

The Dresser Wayne Ovation iX fuel dispenser is an Internet-ready, WiFi-capable gas pump with a 15-inch touchscreen and speakers. The idea is to enable the transfer of media content to other WiFi-enabled devices, such as to a Microsoft Windows Automotive-enabled Alpine Electronics stereo and navigation system.

In addition to demonstrating the ability to wirelessly transfer audio files, Dresser Wayne is also highlighting iX Media Enterprise, the dispenser's software application that supports audio and video functions. The console provides real-time Internet news headlines, traffic information and weather reports on its VGA screen. It also supports customized, full-motion video promotions and specials while customers fill up.

Sprint Nextel to Deploy Motorola's WiMAX in Chicago

Sprint Nextel has selected Motorola for the build-out of its WiMAX wireless broadband service in Chicago. Specifically, Motorola will deploy WiMAX infrastructure to at least 1,000 sites in the greater Chicagoland area, providing select area coverage that complements Sprint Nextel's existing EV-DO network. Initial service is expected to begin late in 2007, with the commercial launch set for the first half of 2008.

In addition to the Chicago build out, Motorola also is participating in WiMAX equipment and software trials at Sprint Nextel's 4G laboratory, located in Herndon, Virginia.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez Proposes Privatization of CANTV

Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, issued a call to nationalize CANTV, the incumbent telecom carrier in the country, along with the leading electrical utility company.

The New York Stock Exchange halted trading in CANTV's American Depositary Receipts, whose value has fallen 14% earlier in the day.

CANTV was privatized in 1991.