Thursday, March 8, 2007

Telecom Italia Targets "Ultra-Broadband" with NGN2 Rollout

Telecom Italia outlined a multi-year strategy to defend its domestic fixed-line and mobile markets by launching a Next Generation Network 2 (NGN2) project to deliver "ultra-broadband" services in line with market demand and the regulatory framework.

In a press event covering its 2007-2009 business plan, Telecom Italia said it is now expecting its domestic wireline revenues to fall between 2.5% and 3.5% in 2007 compared to last year, while mobile revenues also decline by an estimated 2% to 3%. Mobile voice revenue growth is expected to decline because of market saturation, cuts in roaming fees, and the spread of flat pricing. In its home market, Telecom Italia currently serves 21 million fixed line customers, about 33 million mobile customers and 7 million broadband subscribers.

The company is looking to international markets for growth, including its investments in Brazil, Argentina, France and Germany. Telecom Italia will emphasize strategic alliances abroad, possibly including Telefonica, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom.

In IPTV, Telecom Italia is currently offering "Alice Tutto Incluso" for EUR 60 per month, including 60 TV channels, VOD, unlimited national voice calling and an additional VoIP line, and ADSL 20 Mega flat service. During 2007, the company will introduce the Microsoft TV platform, offer a DTT integrated set-top box, add HD and multi-room PVR capabilities, build the content portfolio to over 100 TV channels, and significantly expand the VOD library.

The NGN2 rollout calls for the introduction of FTTx and VDSL2 in the access network, while continuing ADSL2+. The goal is to support bandwidth of over 50 Mbps over fixed connections. By 2009, the goal is to have 99% coverage for ADSL, 67% coverage for ADSL2+, and 5% coverage of VDSL2+FTTB across Italy.

The NGN2 investments are not expected to increase CAPEX over 2007 levels. Instead, the rollout should be self-funding given major savings in OPEX.

Spectrum Owners Reach WiMAX Roaming Agreement

Members of the WiMAX Spectrum Owners Alliance (WiSOA) have signed the first WiMAX roaming agreement, and formed a partnership with MACH Sarl and Trustive BV, both of whom specialize in the provision of roaming services.

The parties describe the agreement as the crucial first step in what will provide for seamless "GSM-like" roaming amongst WiMAX networks, and roaming partnerships with global WiFi and 3G networks -- expediting the rollout of interoperable WiMAX services worldwide.

WiSOA members include: Austar, Max Telecom, Nextwave Wireless, Unwired, UK Broadband, Yozan, Irish Broadband, Telecom New Zealand, Woosh Wireless, Nomad, Liberty Global, WiMAX Telecom and Cosmoline.

MACH and Trustive will provide turn-key solutions for unified clearance, billing and interconnection, which will allow WiMAX users to roam to other networks as simply as opening their laptop computer, or other WiMAX-enabled devices.

These services will also allow roaming interconnection with an aggregated global WiFi network, and hundreds of GSM and 3G networks, creating a global wireless IP clearing and roaming platform.

Alcatel-Lucent Selected for East Africa Submarine Cable System

The East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) consortium selected Alcatel-Lucent to build an undersea cable system that will span nearly 10,000 km, linking eight countries from Sudan to South Africa, via Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique. Landings will be located in Port Sudan, Djibouti (Djibouti), Mogadishu (Somalia) Mombasa (Kenya), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Toliary (Madagascar), Maputo (Mozambique) and Mtunzini (South Africa). The cable system will have a scalable capacity of 320 Gbps. It will also interconnect with the Sea-Me-We 3, Sea-Me-We 4, SAS1, Falcon and SAT3/ WASC /SAFE undersea cable systems. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Alcatel-Lucent submarine solution will be based on its 1620 Light Manager next-generation DWDM submarine platform, and will also include cables and submarine repeaters. Branching units will ensure direct connectivity to landing stations where Alcatel-Lucent will deploy its 1678 Metro Core Connect (MCC) for terrestrial interconnection. The Alcatel-Lucent 1350 management system will supervise all the equipment supplied.

European Commission Charts "Television without Frontiers" Directive

The European Commission reported growing consensus about the future legal framework for Europe's audiovisual sector as outlined in a modernized "Television without Frontiers" Directive under consideration by the European Parliament.

The goal to create a new level-playing field in Europe for emerging audiovisual media services (video on demand, mobile TV, audiovisual services on digital TV). European TV- and filmmakers will be given more flexibility to produce digital content which they can then make freely available to consumers thanks to advertising. The new Directive would also reaffirm the pillars of Europe's audiovisual model, which are cultural diversity, protection of minors, consumer protection, media pluralism, and the fight against racial and religious hatred,. The Commission also proposes to ensure the independence of national media regulators. The consolidated text of the new Directive will now go into a second reading by the European Parliament and Council.

At the heart of the new Directive is the country of origin principle, which was already the cornerstone of the original "Television without Frontiers" Directive of 1989. This principle has played a pivotal role in boosting cross-border satellite TV and the progressive establishment of pan-European TV channels since the end of the 1980s.

The EC believes this country of origin principle will in future also ensure that audiovisual media service providers other than broadcasters (such as providers of video-on-demand, news-on-demand, sport-on-demand or providers of downloadable audiovisual content for mobiles) will have to comply only with the legislation of the country where they are established, and not with 27 different national legal systems.

The new Directive also enhances media pluralism in the 27 EU Member States by opening up national media markets to more competition from other EU countries and by facilitating a diversified offer of TV- and audiovisual on-demand content from all over Europe.

Under the new Directive, rules on TV advertising are to be less detailed than they have been since 1989. In line with the drive for better regulation by the Barroso Commission, the decision on when and how to interrupt free-to-air TV programmes by advertising is left to broadcasters and filmmakers and not predetermined in Brussels. The overall quantity of advertising remains limited to 12-minutes in any given hour. Films, children's programmes, current affairs programmes and news are not to be interrupted by adverts more than once every 30 minutes.

"Thanks to the ambitious work of the European Parliament and the intense efforts of the German Presidency over the past months, Europe's new legal framework for a more competitive, more diverse and more pluralistic audiovisual media sector is now within reach," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I am confident that we will now achieve political agreement on the new "Audiovisual Without Frontiers" Directive by the end of May. Europe's internal market would then be truly open for providers and consumers of audiovisual services by the end of 2008 at the latest."

Turin Supplies Optical Transport Platform for the Caribbean

Columbus Communications, a Barbados-based carrier delivering wholesale and metro access services throughout the Caribbean region, has standardized on Turin Networks' Traverse and TraverseEdge platforms for high-capacity multiservice transport and delivery of new Ethernet and TDM access services.

Columbus Communications' New World Networks division is the principal owner and operator of ARCOS, a 10,000km undersea fiber optic network that links the United States with the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, CuraƧao, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Jamaica. In addition, Columbus is a competitive provider in Trinidad and Jamaica, where it delivers local cable Internet, television, and voice services while wholesaling TDM and Gigabit Ethernet lines to other providers.

Columbus is seeking to expand metro access services into the Bahamas and other Caribbean nations as a facilities-based, competitive local service provider while maintaining its wholesale transport business throughout the region.

Columbus began deploying Turin's TraverseEdge 206 platform for metro access services in Jamaica in late 2006 and is now expanding into Trinidad. Deployments are expected to continue as the company gains regulatory approval in other countries. In addition, Columbus has deployed the Traverse Multiservice Transport Switch for international gateway as well as high-capacity transport applications, facilitating delivery of broadband TDM and 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet services to other providers connected to the ARCOS backbone. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Comcast and Sinclair Sign Content Carriage Agreement

Comcast and Sinclair Broadcast Group reached a four-year extension to their retransmission consent agreement. The agreement, which expires on March 1, 2011, provides for the continued carriage of the analog and digital signals of 37 stations in 23 markets owned or operated by Sinclair. The agreement also provides for the carriage of digital multicast channels which Sinclair is currently broadcasting in Baltimore and Richmond, as well as certain other multicast channels which the stations located in Comcast markets may broadcast in the future.

Sinclair Broadcast Group owns and operates, programs or provides sales services to 58 television stations in 36 markets.

D-Link Adds Support for Microsoft NAP

D-Link has added support for Microsoft Network Access Protection (NAP) policy enforcement technology, which is built into the Windows Vista and Windows Server "Longhorn" operating systems and allows customers to better protect network assets from unhealthy computers by enforcing compliance with network health policies.

D-Link will be supporting Network Access Protection in its xStack Switch series, including DES-3500, DES-3800 and DGS-360. In the past two years, D-Link xStack series have made significant strides in the enterprise and telco markets.

AT&T and Yahoo! Respond to WSJ Report on Strained Partnership

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal published a report claiming that the five-year old, strategic partnership between AT&T and Yahoo! was under stress, in part because AT&T was no longer having trouble attracting broadband subscribers and had been approached by other Internet companies willing to pay to gain access to the AT&T customer base. At stake is about $250 million in fees that AT&T pays to Yahoo! each year.

AT&T and Yahoo! issued a joint statement to respond to the speculation regarding their partnership. The companies said they are constantly discussing opportunities to expand the relationship and associated revenue streams. Current and future plans include:

  • Earlier this year, the companies introduced advertising on the front page of the co-branded portal;

  • Later this month, the companies are introducing advertising on their
    co-branded mail service;

  • AT&T and Yahoo! are discussing ways to expand the partnership in the mobile arena, now that AT&T has 100% ownership of Cingular (after its acquisition of BellSouth);

  • Yahoo! services will be introduced into AT&T's IPTV experience later this year.


Vonage Affirms Financial Stability Following Verdict in Verizon Patent Case

Vonage, which is currently serving 2.2 million VoIP subscriber lines, issued a public statement to assert its financial stability in the wake of its loss in the recent patent court case with Verizon.

Vonage asserted that it is not going out of business and that there will be no loss of service to its customers, even in the event that the monetary award ($58 million) and royalties are ultimately upheld/paid.

If the judge issues an injunction, Vonage is confident it will be able to successfully stay it and the company expressed confidence in the strength of its appeal.

Clearwire Completes IPO, Raising $600 Million

Clearwire, the broadband wireless services provider founded by Craig McCaw, raised $600 million in an initial public offering (IPO). In the first day of trading, shares (Nasdaq: CLWR) fell 1.5% from the opening price to close at $24.62.

Following the IPO, Craig McCaw owns a 34% equity stake and holds a 49% voting stake in the company. Clearwire is based in Kirkland, Washington.
  • In February, Clearwire agreed to acquire all 2.5 GHz spectrum currently licensed to, or leased by, BellSouth, now AT&T. The sale price is $300 million in cash. For AT&T, the deal follows through on a commitment of the AT&T-BellSouth merger.

  • In January 2007, Clearwire named Scott Richardson as the company's new chief strategy officer. Richardson previously served as vice president of Intel's Mobility Group and general manager of the company's Service Provider Business Group. In these roles, Richardson led Intel's broadband wireless efforts from its inception and was responsible for driving the company's 802.16 silicon products for WiMax Certified wireless equipment and access devices.

  • In July 2006, Clearwire secured $900 million in funding to accelerate its development and deployment of portable and mobile WiMAX networks based on the IEEE 802.16e-2005 standard. The deal included a $600 million investment from Intel Capital, its largest to date, and Motorola's acquisition of Clearwire's subsidiary NextNet Wireless, which supplies OFDM-based non-line-of-sight (NLOS) wireless broadband infrastructure equipment.