Thursday, June 28, 2007

FCC Acts on Waivers for Integrated Set-Top Box Rules

The FCC acted on several set-top box waiver requests seeking to delay implementation of a rule that requires cable set-top boxes distributed after July 1, 2007 to separate the "security" and "navigation" functions.

The FCC said its statutory requirements aim to facilitate a competitive market for set-top boxes in a reasonable and consistent manner. Separation of security functions will allow consumers to pick the products they want.

The action from the FCC's Media Bureau included the following:

  • Granted an Omnibus Waiver of the integration ban for MVPDs currently all digital or going all digital by February 17, 2009. An all-digital conversion will facilitate the DTV transition, enable expanded service offerings, promote efficient use of the spectrum, deliver broadband services, spur competitive entry, and expand universal service.

  • Deferred Enforcement of the Integration Ban for Crosslake, Minnesota d/b/a Crosslake Communications. The Media Bureau noted the difficulties that small cable operators may face in complying with the July 1, 2007 deadline for separated security because manufacturers prioritize orders from the largest providers. The Bureau indicated that the Commission would defer enforcement of that deadline for those small cable operators who can demonstrate that they have placed orders for set-top boxes that comply but that their orders will not be fulfilled in time for them to comply with the deadline.

  • Denied NCTA's (National Cable & Telecommunications Association)
    request for a waiver of the integration ban for all cable operators. The Bureau finds the arguments NCTA's makes are not adequately novel or changed from assertions that it has made to support previous extension requests to justify further relief and it does not reflect developments in the market.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin stated: "A previous Commission required cable operators to separate their security functions putting them into a CableCARD, which can be used in televisions and set-top boxes made by other manufacturers. By separating out security functions, the Commission hoped a viable market for truly cable ready televisions and set-top boxes could flourish. Back then, Congress and the Commission envisioned consumers being able to walk into their local retail store and buy televisions and set-top boxes from any manufacturer that would work on any cable system. This is a goal that I share and believe we are a big step closer to with today's rulings. In a new era with a competitive set-top box market, consumers will enjoy greater choice and reap the benefits of exciting and innovative features -- such as the ability to watch Internet videos or view slideshows of family vacations on their tv sets."

In a separate press statement, Verizon said the waiver enables it to continue its focus on deploying its competitive FiOS TV service and developing additional innovative features.

FCC Declares Carrier Call Blocking Unlawful Self-Help Remedy in Access Charge Dispute

The FCC issued an order stating that carriers may not resort to the "self-help" remedy of blocking calls to avoid potentially inflated termination charges resulting from alleged access stimulation activities. The FCC said its action affirms that all customers will continue to be able to connect with anyone on the network that they so choose.

Numerous local exchange carriers (LECs) and consumers have expressed concern about the blocking or potential blocking of interexchange calls that terminate with certain local exchange carriers as a form of self help to resolve disputes concerning the access rates of these local exchange carriers.

To address concerns expressed by long-distance and wireless companies, the FCC suspended the tariffs of 39 rural carriers due to substantial questions raised about the lawfulness of the rates filed, in light of possible efforts by the carriers to stimulate long-distance access traffic.
  • On June 15, 2007, 29 carriers that were participating in the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA) traffic-sensitive tariffs filed individual tariffs under section 61.39 of the Commission rules. Qwest, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint Nextel filed objections to these filings, alleging that it is likely that these tariffs will result in unjust and unreasonable rates. The complaining carriers assert the recent conduct of current section 61.39 carriers similarly situated to those that recently made such tariff filings raises serious questions regarding whether such carriers are likely to enter into arrangements for the purpose of increasing their terminating access minutes significantly.

KPN Upgrades Media Network with Net Insight

KPN Broadcast Services is upgrading its media transport network across The Netherlands using Net Insight's Nimbra platform. The core network, which is currently based on the Nimbra One multiservice switch, is now being upgraded to the high-capacity Nimbra 680 switch and new sites are added. The Net Insight order is valued at 10M SEK (US$1.4 million), and the equipment will be delivered during the third quarter. The order from KPN Broadcast Services was placed through Net Insight's Dutch partner Alphatron.

AT&T to Acquire Cellular One for $2.8 Billion

AT&T agreed to acquire Dobson Communications, which markets itself under the Cellular One brand, for approximately $2.8 billion in cash.

Dobson Communications operates in more than 60 wireless markets in 17 states, covering a population base of over 12.4 million and serving 1.6 million subscribers. It is the largest wireless provider in Alaska. It uses both TDMA and GSM/GPRS/EDGE technologies.

In addition to Alaska, Dobson's network covers rural and suburban areas in Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The companies said Dobson's network overlaps minimally with AT&T's. Additionally, Dobson's 850 MHz spectrum will enhance AT&T's service quality in those rural and suburban markets.

Following the acquisition, Dobson will be incorporated into AT&T's wireless operations, which are led by Stan Sigman, president and chief executive officer AT&T Mobility.

"This acquisition is an excellent fit for AT&T," said Sigman. "We've worked with Dobson for years. It's a good company, with great people, the same GSM/EDGE technology and coverage that dovetails almost perfectly with our own. We welcome the opportunity to serve Dobson's customers and look forward to a smooth transition thanks to Dobson's strong leadership and employee team."http://www.att.com

BCE Agrees to Acquisition by Investor Group Led by Teachers Private Capita

BCE, the parent company of Bell Canada, agreed to be acquired by an investor group led by Teachers Private Capital, the private investment arm of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, Providence Equity Partners Inc. and Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC. The all-cash transaction is valued at C$51.7 billion (US$48.5 billion), including C$16.9 billion (US$15.9 billion) of debt, preferred equity and minority interests. The BCE Board of Directors unanimously recommended that shareholders vote to accept the offer.

The equity ownership of BCE would be as follows: Teachers Private Capital 52%, Providence 32%, Madison Dearborn 9% and other Canadian investors 7%.

"This proposed transaction concludes a comprehensive and disciplined review of the company's strategic alternatives launched April 17," said Richard J. Currie, Chairman of the Board of BCE. "It will deliver substantial value creation for our shareholders. In addition, a majority of the equity will be owned by Canadians."

"The transaction delivers to our shareholders the economic benefit of the work done to focus on our core business and to strengthen Bell with a new cost structure and new competitive capabilities," said Michael Sabia, President and CEO of BCE. "All members of the investor group have outstanding track records in building strong and resilient enterprises and they share our commitment to customers, our employees and the communities we serve."
  • BCE controls Bell Canada, Telesat Canada and an interest in Bell Globemedia.

Nokia Siemens Networks Updates Board of Directors

Nokia Siemens Networks announced several changes to its Board of Directors.

Klaus Kleinfeld, 49, President and CEO of Siemens AG until June 30, 2007 has resigned from the Board of Directors of Nokia Siemens Networks B.V., effective as of July 1, 2007. He will be replaced by Peter Loscher, 49, President and CEO of Siemens AG, effective as of July 1, 2007.

After the changes the Board of Nokia Siemens Networks will consist of the following seven members: Nokia President and CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo (Chairman of the Nokia Siemens Networks Board); Siemens President and CEO, Peter Loscher; the head of Nokia Operational Human Resources, Juha Akras; Siemens CFO, Joe Kaeser; Member of the Siemens Managing Board, Eduardo Montes; head of Nokia Technology Platforms, Niklas Savander; and Nokia CFO, Rick Simonson.

Toshiba Adds Web-Enabled Capabilities to HD DVD

Toshiba announced that new HD DVD titles will have web-enabled network capabilities that allow consumers to easily access additional content and bonus features online. Current users of Toshiba HD DVD players can enjoy the web-enabled network capabilities by updating to the latest HD DVD player firmware, now available from Toshiba.

Using the Ethernet ports found on all Toshiba HD DVD players, and the currently available firmware update, once connected to the network, users can download bonus features, as available, from a movie studio's server. This data is then saved in the player's persistent storage and can be accessed by the user. In addition to downloading new bonus features, some HD DVD discs may even include locked prerecorded content which can be unlocked with a downloadable key from the studio's online server.

In addition to downloading content, HD DVD users also have the ability to upload content and interact with content providers. For example, with the award winning title, "Blood Diamond" from Warner Home Video, users can participate in interactive polls. After providing feedback, results are delivered back to users via the HD DVD player.

"Through web-enabled network connectivity, HD DVD is unlocking the door to an entirely new world of entertainment and once again achieving another milestone in next generation DVD," said Jodi Sally, Vice President of Marketing, Toshiba's Digital A/V Group.

SingTel Launches Integrated Global Wide Area Network Solution

Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has launched an integrated global IP Wide Area Network (WAN) solution that combines IP-VPN and satellite technologies. The service that marries four communication services -- BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) for mobile connectivity, satellite IP for land-based remote communications, maritime VSAT for maritime communications and ConnectPlus IP-VPN for other global business locations.

SingTel ConnectPlus IP-VPN is a fully managed, MPLS-based private and secure voice and data network. SingTel's BGAN or Broadband Global Area Network is a highly mobile satellite solution that enables voice and broadband communications in regions without adequate communications infrastructure. Satellite-IP is IP-based solution over satellite using Time Division Multiplexed (TDM) and shared Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) technology. SingTel's Maritime VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminals) is a high speed, two-way IP broadband ship to shore satellite telecommunications service.

Nokia Offers Mobile Photo Printing Services in Europe

Nokia has begun offering a mobile printing service in Europe that allows users of compatible Nokia Nseries multimedia devices to upload their photos via the cellular or Wi-Fi network. The mobile printing service is accessible from the device's Gallery application.

SOFTBANK Demos Femtocell FMC for Japan

SOFTBANK, which recently has acquired a wireless spectrum license from Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, has begun demonstrating a femtocell solution for fixed-mobile-convergence (FMC) in the home.

Sonus Networks and Ubiquisys both announced their participation in the SOFTBANK femtocell demo.

Sonus recently announced the acquisition of privately-held Zynetix Ltd. Sonus' femtocell solution will combine an access point inside the consumer's home with the user's existing broadband network to provide an important increase in base station coverage and reducing the number of sites required for coverage.

Ubiquisys offers the "ZoneGate femtocell" -- a plug-and-play 3G access point that can use a mobile subscriber's broadband connection to transport voice and data calls to an operator's core network using either standards-based interfaces, IMS/SIP or RAN Gateway (UMA based). ZoneGate is fully self-provisioning and requires no changes to the mobile handset

Verizon Wireless Completes EV-DO Rev. A Nationwide Upgrade

Verizon Wireless has completed an upgrade of its CDMA 1x Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) network nationwide to Revision (Rev.) A technology.

The company's flagship business data service, BroadbandAccess, with Rev. A-compatible devices can now expect average download speeds of 600 kbps to 1.4 megabits per second and average upload speeds of 500-800 kbps.