Thursday, September 8, 2005

Cisco Outlines its Video/IPTV Strategy

Cisco Systems outlined its approach for offering an open, standards-based approach to video/IPTV deployment with multiple middleware vendors, headend platforms, conditional access devices, video servers and IP set-top boxes.

Cisco said its strategy is to enable three layers of convergence -- network convergence, which saves providers money; service convergence, which binds networks and applications together; and application convergence, which helps them drive revenue.

Network Convergence

At the Network Convergence Layer of the IP NGN, Cisco video/IPTV deployments provide linkages among the network, middleware and video/IPTV applications through the Carrier Routing System (CRS-1), the XR 12000 and 7600 Series routers, the Cisco Catalyst switch family and optical networking equipment including the Cisco ONS15454 multiservice provisioning/transport platform (MSPP/MSTP) and the Cisco ONS15600 multiservice switching platform (MSSP).

Cisco announced general availability of the 8-port 1 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) shared port adapter (SPA) for the CRS-1, which now offers continuous scaling of up to 768 ports per rack and up to 55,296 ports per system. The CRS-1 is positioned to connect the super headend, video headend and video serving office (VSO) in national and metro networks.

Recent enhancements to the Cisco 7600 Series routing portfolio for supporting IPTV in distributed video and aggregation applications include:

  • Optimization of network utilization with Dynamic Multicast -- Minimizes providers' bandwidth needs for a larger number of live TV channels.

  • Video/IPTV-optimized Asymmetric Networking -- Enables providers to deploy only the network bandwidth needed in each direction to support video services.

  • Enhanced security with Source-specific Multicast (SSM) -- Designed to prevent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

  • Broadcast Source Redundancy -- Enables load sharing among live TV broadcast sources with dynamic failover.

Service Convergence

At the Service Convergence Layer of the IP NGN, Cisco is providing service control intelligence in the Service Exchange Framework (SEF). The open SEF tightly integrates the network and application layers with middleware vendors, headend platforms, conditional access devices, video servers and IP set-top boxes. This includes:

  • Cisco Broadband Policy Manager -- Provides universal subscriber access and automates policy control operations with business rules to deliver services. It is an open platform which seamlessly integrates Cisco products with OSS/BSS and multi-vendor networks.

  • Video Admission Control in Cisco 7600 Series routers -- Maintains high-quality end-user experience in oversubscribed networks by dynamically determining when network-wide resources can support a video session.

  • Detect and manage authorized or unauthorized third-party video content over broadband -- Deep packet inspection and application classification enabled by the Cisco Service Control Engine enables providers to offer multi-tiered, application-and-subscriber-aware services.

  • Content virtualization -- The Cisco Content Engine provides intelligent content and asset distribution across access-independent networks.

  • Presence-based video communications -- The Cisco Call Session Control Platform (CSCP) enables broadband providers to offer a range of session initiation protocol (SIP)-enabled video soft clients and phones for services such as video instant messaging.

Application Convergence

At the Application Convergence Layer of the IP NGN, Linksys will play central roles in four key areas of the connected home: networked entertainment, basic networking, communication and security/monitoring. Recent developments here include the acquisition of KiSS Technology, a provider of networked entertainment devices whose product portfolio includes home video products such as networked DVD players and networked DVD recorders.

Cisco cited the following key reference customers for its video/IPTV-focused IP NGN solutions:

  • SOFTBANK BB Corporation (JAPAN)

  • Video Networks Limited (UK)

  • neuf telecom (France)

  • Telewest (UK)

  • SureWest Communications (USA)

  • China TieTong (formerly China Railcom)

SureWest Expands IP Video Service with Cisco Catalyst Switches

SureWest Communications, which serves the Sacramento, California region, is expanding its IP video services over an FTTH network using the Cisco IP Next-Generation Network (IP NGN) reference architecture. SureWest has deployed Cisco Catalyst 4510 and 6509 switches to deliver 100 Mbps bi-directional Ethernet to residential customers. The Catalyst 4510 switches are located in remote cabinets in residential neighborhoods and are connected to a primary hub housing Catalyst 6509 switches. The uplink connection is currently Gigabit Ethernet, but as deployment densities increase, both the Catalyst 4510 and Catalyst 6509 switches will be upgraded to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. The primary hubs are connected upstream to the primary core locations, which also house Catalyst 6509 switches.

Ellacoya: Top 20% of Broadband Users Consume 97% of Bandwidth

Peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic remains the most bandwidth intensive application and a handful of subscribers continue to consume disproportionate amounts of total network bandwidth, according to a new study of European broadband subscriber and application usage conducted by Ellacoya Networks.

Ellacoya conducted the study between August 25, 2005 and September 2, 2005, continuously monitoring the network activity of more than one million subscribers in Europe using its IP Service Control System. The Ellacoya system uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology to identify and classify applications on a per-subscriber basis and provides detailed reports on network, subscriber and application activity.

Some top level findings include

Bandwidth Distribution by Subscriber

Bandwidth usage reporting by subscriber showed that usage by the top most active 5% of subscribers represented approximately 56% of total bandwidth, while the top 20% of active subscribers consumed more than 97% of total bandwidth. The remainder of the subscriber base, approximately 80%, consumed less than 3% of total bandwidth.

Bandwidth Distribution by Application

Peer-to-peer (P2P) was by far the largest consumer of bandwidth with 65.5% of traffic on the network being P2P applications. Web surfing (HTTP) consumed 27.5% of bandwidth, while Newsgroups traffic consumed approximately 2.3%. The remaining 4.7% percent of traffic comprised streaming audio and video applications, VoIP, gaming, Instant Messaging, e-mail and FTP applications, each consuming less than 1% of total bandwidth.

Applications with the Most Simultaneously Active Subscribers:

A measure of the most popular applications on the network revealed that Web surfing (HTTP), with average daily peaks at 50% of subscribers, was the most popular application. Instant Messaging (IM), with average daily peaks at 25% of subscribers, was the second most popular application; while Peer-to-Peer (P2P), with average daily peaks at 18% of subscribers, was third. E-mail (SMTP), with average daily peaks at 12%, was the fourth most popular application. The remaining applications each measured less than 10% of simultaneous subscribers at its daily peak.

Telco Systems Introduces Multi-Service Metro Ethernet Access Platform

Telco Systems introduced its T-Metro MPLS-based multiservice metro Ethernet access platform. The modular T-Metro delivers a wide range of managed metro Ethernet services, a variety of VPN services and legacy TDM services from core networks to customers' premises. The T-Metro acts as either an edge device that interconnects with both a traditional PSTN TDM circuit-switched network and IP/MPLS core network or as an integral part of the MPLS network. It supports a wide variety of interfaces that include both copper and fiber-based fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet as well as T1/E1 Circuit Emulation interfaces.

The new platform, which is NEBS level 3 compliant, supports MPLS, VPNs and VPN services such as Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS) and Hierarchical Virtual Private LAN Service (HVPLS). It also supports T1/E1 and Fractional T1/E1 (n x 64kbps) circuit emulation services, Ethernet Private Line service (E-Line), Ethernet LAN service (E-LAN), Internet Access, Gigabit Ethernet, Ethernet switching and routing, Ethernet Rings and Pseudowire, which enables circuit emulation over an IP/MPLS network.

Telco Systems said its new T-Metro could be deployed in Metro Ethernet access rings and networks for supporting applications such as Cellular 2G/3G and PABX TDM backhaul; leased line replacement and service provisioning in multi-tenant/multi-dwelling units (MTU/MDU) environments.

Alcatel Supplies Optical Network for Kazakhstan China Pipeline

Alcatel will build an integrated telecommunication solution for the Kazakhstan China Pipeline, a 977 km-long oil pipeline that is being jointly built by the state-owned oil companies of Kazakhstan and China. Alcatel will deploy a transport network based on its data-aware Optical Multi-Service Node (OMSN) systems managed by the Alcatel 1350 management suite. Alcatel will also deliver VSAT back-up systems, CCTV systems, hotline systems, a UHF trunking radio system, video conferencing systems and a data network. The project will be completed by the end of 2006.

In 2004, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Kazakhstan formally agreed on the engineering, financing, construction and operation of the jointly-owned Atasu-Alashankou Crude Oil Pipeline. The construction is planned to be completed on December, 2005. In the first phase, the annual capacity of the pipeline will be up to 10 million tons of oil, in the second phase - 20 million tons.

Microsoft and Sigma Designs Target Low-Cost IPTV Devices

At IBC in Amsterdam , Microsoft and Sigma Designs said their collaboration is paving the way for low-cost, high-definition-capable devices optimized for the Microsoft TV Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Edition software platform based on Sigma's new SMP8634 media processor. The chip is capable of delivering multiple channels of high-definition (HD) video and on-screen graphics, powerful multimedia processing, powerful content security, and support for a full range of peripherals such as USB 2.0, IDE, Ethernet and HDMI. Support for the VC-1 and H.264 (MPEG-4) video codecs is also built in, further reducing costs for set-top box manufacturers.

"Platforms based on Sigma's SMP8634 and Microsoft IPTV Edition offer the dual benefit of achieving a dramatically new user experience and significantly lowering the cost of IPTV-ready receivers," said Ken Lowe, vice president of strategic marketing at Sigma Designs. "Ultimately, high-definition content will help come alive for consumers as a clearly differentiated service."
  • In August 2005, Sigma Designs has begun sampling its new SMP8634 media processor, designed for IPTV set-top boxes and high-definition DVD players. The device represents a milestone for media processors in that it not only decodes H.264 (AVC), VC-1 and MPEG-2, but also supports multi-stream decoding of any format, up to the equivalent of two simultaneous high-definition streams, along with full-screen graphics. In the years ahead, Sigma said it expects to see a digital media duopoly shared by two new video codecs: VC-1, a SMPTE specification based on Microsoft's Windows Media Video 9 (WMV9), and H.264, a shared specification from ITU and MPEG associations, also known as AVC (advanced video codec) or MPEG-4 part 10. Moving forward, Sigma said VC-1 and H.264 appear destined to equally share the role as next generation digital media standards.

Microsoft Extends Connected Services Framework for Media Producers

Microsoft is extending the capabilities of its Connected Services Framework for the broadcast and film industries by integrating with business processes, such as scheduling and rights management systems, and dynamically interact with production processes.

At IBC2005, Microsoft and partners demonstrated an enhanced workflow showcasing an end-to-end content management scenario with business management applications collaborating with content creation processes. Microsoft said the integration is achieved using a new Media Order Adapter developed with ScheduALL, Xytech Systems and Technicolor, New Media. The adapter provides a common integration point for business systems and allows project work orders to be generated in industry-recognized software applications such as ScheduALL and Xytech Systems and executed by Connected Services Framework. Providing the dynamic connectivity between the necessary systems, Connected Services Framework automates the workflow, notifying and interacting with session participants, whether they are production systems such as transcoding services, Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems and editing tools or human participants needed to generate media assets, provide edits or review content for approval. The exchange of data through Connected Services Framework is bidirectional, allowing business systems to deliver work order parameters, and also to monitor the progress and health of projects, helping ensure that tasks are completed and budgets are maintained in real time.

Microsoft and Siemens to Collaborate on Media Industry Solutions

Microsoft and Siemens Business Services are working together to develop integrated solutions, including supporting a collaborative-environment architecture, for the media industry. The solution will be based on Microsoft Office and conferencing products.

The companies cited the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) as the first media customer to benefit from the joint offering.

"TIRAMISU" Consortium Demonstrates its DRM Solution

The TIRAMISU Consortium, a European Commission funded project, demonstrated an end-to-end digital rights management (DRM) solution for distributing movies and video clips over the Internet and mobile networks without violating the rights of the content owners. The demo, which was conducted at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam, consists of an authoring platform, a streaming server, a home gateway that enables the distribution of the content to various end points within the home, a licensing mechanism, a peer-to-peer network and several clients (TV, PC, mobile).

The TIRAMISU Consortium has been coordinated by Optibase and its contributors include companies and organisations such as Nagravision, Fraunhofer IIS, Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Imperial College London, Ecole Nat. Sup. des Telecommunications (ENST), University of Ljubljana, two large telecommunication companies and the consulting firm ARTTIC Israel.

ST Implements Secure Video Processor (SVP) in MPEG2 Decoders

STMicroelectronics announced its first silicon devices to implement Secure Video Processor (SVP) technology, the next generation open specification for the protection of digital video content.

SVP technology is a hardware-based security scheme designed to protect the digital content rather than the physical link between devices. It is a low cost, future-proof solution that can be used alongside existing Conditional Access and DRM systems; content usage rights, which govern copying and redistribution, are encrypted together with the content and use different interface protocols to travel between SVP-enabled devices in a multimedia system. The SVP specification is maintained and promoted by the SVP Alliance, which is currently supported by more than 20 leading media and technology companies, and of which ST is one of the founder members.

ST's STB5525 STB decoder -- which is also the company's first single-chip solution to support dual TV and dual DVR (Digital Video Recorder) requirements in standard definition STBs -- and the STB5524 -- which targets the growing DVR market -- are intended for use across satellite, cable and terrestrial TV services. Both devices offer a glue-less interface to ST's range of demodulator chips. They include a low cost SATA interface for connecting hard disk and recordable DVD drives, plus two 480 Mbps USB2 ports for home networking and for the simple addition of peripherals.

Motorola to Acquire Mitsubishi Electric's European R&D Team

Motorola has acquired from Melco Mobile Communication Europe (MMCE), a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, a European team of i-mode design employees and a research center in western France. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The Rennes facility will become a European i-mode focused development center for Motorola, continuing to operate in its facility in Cesson-Sevigne (Rennes), France. As part of Motorola, the Rennes team will initially address the 2.5G European i-mode market. Motorola also expects the Rennes team to assist in the design and development of upcoming Motorola platforms in the 3G European i-mode markets.

Telefonica Empresas Migrates Lucent 5ESS to Next Gen Backbone

Telefonica Empresas has completed the migration of data traffic onto a new IP backbone based on Lucent's Accelerate Next Generation Communications Solutions and covering 48,000 ports, and 55 points of presence (PoPs) across Spain.

Lucent Worldwide Services (LWS) provided design, integration, migration and operations and maintenance for the transition from Lucent 5ESS switches to a network of Lucent network controllers and gateways. LWS will also provide advanced remote technical support and training for the carrier's network. Lucent's support for Telefonica's network includes a contingency plan to maintain operations should a significant element of the network be taken out through fire, power outage or other accident, with equipment situated in different sites and in different cities.

The deployment includes the Lucent Network Controller, from Lucent's IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) portfolio, Lucent MAX TNT gateway, Lucent VitalSuite Network Management Software and installation, maintenance, professional services and support from LWS.

MCI's SkyTel Launches Vehicle-Tracking Device for Parents of Teen Drivers

SkyTel, a division of MCI, introduced a vehicle-tracking GPS device made especially for parents of teenage drivers. The SkyGuard service allows parents to view trip information on the Web and see where a vehicle has traveled. In addition, parents can set up zones around areas of interest (like school or home) and areas that should be avoided. SkyGuard can also be used to remotely unlock or lock doors and disable a vehicle's starter, preventing the vehicle from restarting once it has been turned off. Service is available in most U.S. metro markets.

Cellcom Israel to Launch i-mode Service

Cellcom Israel started marketing NTT DoCoMo's i-mode service. The service, which is offered over Cellcom's GPRS network, marks the eleventh market for i-mode, following Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Australia.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

WSJ: After Katrina, Communications Still Hobbled

A story in The Wall Street Journal reports that the lengthy breakdown in telephone, cellular and even emergency radio communications systems following Hurricane Katrina raises fresh questions about these networks in times of crisis. Apparently efforts to improve networks after the September 11 disaster have fallen short of goals.

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt is quoted as saying "After every single calamity we see the exact same thing."

Texas Instruments Targets Video with DSP-based DaVinci Portfolio

Texas Instruments unveiled its DSP-based DaVinci silicon technology aimed at next generations of digital video products.

The DaVinci product portfolio, which will include processors, software, tools and partnership solutions, addresses digital video requirements across a range of applications, including video security, IP set-top boxes, video conferencing, automobile infotainment, portable media players and digital cameras.

DaVinci processors, some of which are already on the market, consist of combinations of DSP and ARM cores, memory configurations, video accelerators, and peripheral interfaces for specific applications. DaVinci silicon is based on the new TMS320C64x+ core and it is code compatible with TI's TMS320C64x DSPs. TI will support a full range of audio, video and imaging codecs.

A key feature of the DaVinci portfolio will be common Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to accelerate the development of new consumer products. APIs will make it easier for OEMs to develop interoperable code that will work with other DaVinci-based applications. TI is also developing an en-to-end video ecosystem through a range of partners. Over the coming year, TI and its third parties plan to introduce a large number of products, including multiple development platforms, reference designs, software and silicon based on DaVinci technology.

"This is premier digital signal processing technology that will grow the market for new digital video applications and make existing applications much easier to use," said Rich Templeton, president and CEO of Texas Instruments.

MCI Unveils Hosted Digital Media Solutions

MCI is launching a hosted digital media solution that combines its global IP network capabilities with the ICF Media Platform. The new service is aimed at media and entertainment companies with digital content production and distribution needs, including digital content aggregation and syndication to IPTV, broadband TV and mobile video platforms; remote rough-editing; content logging; broadcast archiving and digital asset management; as well as digital dailies. Since content is stored centrally and available globally, the ICF Media Platform Hosted Edition allows customers to securely manage, edit and distribute media assets using Web-enabled devices, thereby accelerating production cycles.

ICF Media Platform is also available as a software product offered by MCI to be installed at the customer's premise.

MCI's Digital Media Technologies Group, which recently acquired the assets of Interactive Content Factory (ICF), is dedicated to developing and distributing end-to-end, digital media solutions for content creators, producers, media outlets and entertainment and video gaming organizations.
  • In April 2005, MCI announced the formation of its new Digital Media Technologies group, dedicated to developing and distributing end-to-end, digital media solutions for content creators, producers and distribution outlets for media, entertainment and gaming organizations. As a first step, MCI acquired the assets of ICF (Interactive Content Factory), which specializes in IP-based media and entertainment services. Financial terms were not disclosed. ICF developed IP-based remote editing platforms targeted toward consolidating the work processes of media rich industries including broadcast, iTV, broadband, Web and mobile outlets, such as cell phones and media players.

Google Hires Vint Cerf to Build its Network Infrastructure

Google hired Vint Cerf, the longtime technologist who is widely known as a "founding father" of the Internet, as Chief Internet Evangelist. His role will be to "help Google build network infrastructure, architectures, systems, and standards for the next generation of Internet applications."

Cerf joins Google from MCI, where he led technology advancements since 1982, with a break to return to research at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives from 1986 to 1994. On his return to MCI in 1994, he helped to put MCI on the Internet map. With Robert Kahn, he recently received the ACM's A.M. Turing Award, considered "the Nobel Prize for computing," for his achievements in computer networking. Cerf is also working on the Interplanetary Network, a project of NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, which aims to extend the Internet into outer space for planet-to-planet communications. He will also continue in his role as the Chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).