Thursday, June 8, 2006

FCC Plans Spectrum Sharing Testbed

The FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration seek to evaluate innovative methods for spectrum sharing among disparate users to enable more intensive use of the finite radio spectrum. The plan is to set up a test-bed where both federal and non-federal users could undertake one or more studies and experiments to test these ideas.

In June 2004, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued two reports with policy recommendations for improving spectrum management. One report addressed federal spectrum use and the other addressed commercial and state and local public safety spectrum use.4 Both reports included a recommendation that the Commission and the NTIA develop a Spectrum Sharing Innovation Test-Bed for use in planning how spectrum can best be shared between federal and non-federal users.

As part of the undertaking, NTIA and the FCC might each identify a segment of spectrum of equal bandwidth within their respective jurisdiction for this program. Each segment should be approximately 10 MHz for assignment on a shared basis for federal and non-federal use. The spectrum to be identified for this pilot program could come from bands currently allocated on either an exclusive or shared basis.

The test-bed could be used to effectuate many goals, including testing dynamic spectrum access techniques, developing new technologies for public safety and streamlining spectrum coordination processes between federal and non-federal users.

Public comments are sought.

Court Affirms FCC's VoIP CALEA Ruling

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the FCC's decision concluding that VoIP and facilities- based broadband Internet access providers have CALEA obligations similar to those of telephone companies.
  • In May 2006, The FCC voted to adopt an order that requires facilities-based broadband Internet access providers and interconnected VOIP providers to provide Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) with all of the resources of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), enacted in 1994. The current CALEA proceeding was initiated in response to a Joint Petition filed by the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Drug Enforcement Administration in March 2004. These law enforcement agencies had asked the FCC to address several issues so that industry and Law Enforcement would have clear guidance as CALEA implementation moves forward.

IEEE Begins Work on Wireless, Long-Wavelength Standard (P1902.1)

The IEEE has begun work on a new standard, IEEE P1902.1, which will improve upon the visibility network protocol known as RuBee.

RuBee is a bidirectional, on-demand, peer-to-peer, radiating, transceiver protocol operating at wavelengths below 450 Khz. This protocol works in harsh environments with networks of many thousands of tags and has an area range of 10 to 50 feet. RuBee networks and tags are distinguished from most RFID tags in that they are unaffected by liquids and can be used underwater and underground. RuBee networks are already deployed in commercial applications, including: smart shelves for high-value medical devices in hospitals and operating rooms; smart, in-store and warehouse shelves for inventory tracking; and a variety of agricultural visibility networks for livestock, elk and other exotic animals.

The IEEE said one of the advantages of long-wavelength technology is that the radio tags can be low in cost, near credit card thin (1.5 mm), and fully programmable using 4 bit processors. Despite their high functionality, RuBee radio tags have a proven battery life of ten years or more using low-cost, coin-size lithium batteries. The RuBee protocol works with both active radio tags and passive tags that have no battery.

IEEE P1902.1 will offer a "real-time, tag searchable" protocol using IPv4 addresses and subnet addresses linked to asset taxonomies that run at speeds of 300 to 9,600 Baud. RuBee Visibility Networks are managed by a low-cost Ethernet enabled router. Individual tags and tag data may be viewed as a stand-alone, web server from anywhere in the world. Each RuBee tag, if properly enabled, can be discovered and monitored over the World Wide Web using search engines (e.g., Google) or via the Visible Asset's ".tag" Tag Name Server.

IEEE P1902.1 devices will be able to be used as implantable medical sensors having a 10-to-15-year battery life, depending on the number of reads and writes. The ability of RuBee tags to maintain performance around steel, so they work well when steel shelves are present, removes a key obstacle for low-cost deployment of RFID in retail, item-level tracking environments.

IEEE P1902.1 will be developed within the IEEE Corporate Standards Program. It is targeted for completion in late 2007.

The new IEEE P1902.1 standard will address physical and data-link layers based on the existing working RuBee protocol now in use. The new IEEE standard will support interoperation of RuBee tags, RuBee chips, RuBee network routers and other equipment now slated to be rolled out by several different manufacturers.

DOJ Nationwide Wireless Network RFP Begins Final Phase

The Department of Justice selected vendor teams led by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin to compete in the final phase of the multi-billion dollar Integrated Wireless Network (IWN) competition. Lockheed Martin is leading a team of vendors on the bid.

IWN will provide secure, interoperable nationwide wireless communications for more than 80,000 federal law enforcement agents and officers and support multi-agency operations between the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury.

IWN is jointly managed by the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury. The government plans to award an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contract with a base period of five years, with two additional five-year options.

The Department of Justice said that by providing near-instant communication availability and system response, highly reliable communications, and physical and encryption security features that minimize interception of sensitive communications, IWN will make law enforcement and protective operations more effective, efficient and safe.


U.S. House Approves COPE Telecom Reform Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006" (H.R. 5252) by a vote of 321- 101. The final bill provides for national video franchises and did not include a Net Neutrality provision.

Key provisions of the bill include.

  • Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for a national franchise to provide cable service in lieu of any other authority under federal, state, or local law. Obtaining the franchise requires: the filing of a franchise certification with the FCC; and cable operators with a national franchise must provide a specified minimum of channel capacity for public, educational, and governmental use, and to meet certain other requirements. The bill gives makes the FCC responsible for enforcement of franchising requirements.

  • Requires an annual FCC report on the deployment of cable service, including deployment by new cable operators.

  • Empowers the FCC to enforce its broadband policy statement and principles. Requires an FCC study regarding whether such statement and principles are being achieved.

  • Requires VOIP service providers to ensure that 911 and E-911 services are provided to subscribers of VOIP services. The bill outlines rights and obligations of VOIP service providers.

  • Allows the municipal provision of cable services, requiring competition neutrality among all providers in an area.

  • Prohibits a broadband service provider from requiring a subscriber, as a condition for such service, to purchase any cable, telecommunications, or VOIP service offered by the provider.

  • Directs the FCC to further the development of seamless mobility, requiring a study identifying barriers to achieving seamless mobility.

The issue of telecom reform is now expected to be taken up by the U.S. Senate.

Some industry reaction:

Verizon: "The strong vote against regulation of the Internet suggests the Congress won't go down the road of legislating solutions to problems that don't exist. As the White House said in its policy statement, 'the FCC currently has sufficient authority to address potential abuses in the marketplace. Creating a new legislative framework for regulation in this area is premature." Peter Davidson, Verizon senior vice president for federal government relations

BellSouth: "Completion of video franchise legislation will allow faster rollout of a video service that can provide another competitive alternative to cable, offering the kind of customer service and quality that customers demand. Given the amount of debate over so called 'net neutrality' during consideration of this bill, let me again assure consumers that BellSouth will not block or degrade access to any legal content on the internet. Net neutrality is a phony issue and it ought to be laid to rest by today's vote," Herschel Abbott, BellSouth

Pulver: "Under the guise of advancing IP technology, the US House of Representatives perpetrated a monumental disservice to the Internet and passed the COPE Bill, with several 11th hour amendments that reveal a remarkable misunderstanding of what the Internet could be." Jeff Pulver

The Telecommunications Industry Association: "TIA believes that this legislation will spur long awaited deployment of advanced networks and will allow market forces to drive down the price of video service for consumers. This competition would stimulate billions of dollars in investment in our nation's broadband network, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. This legislation provides a new framework that will allow for greater consumer choice into the video service market in a manner that will quickly lead to lower prices for all consumers across the country," TIA President, Matthew Flanigan.

Consumer Electronics Association: "Americans have been introduced to the world of Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled video networks. To realize the networks' full potential, consumers must be able to choose from the exciting array of innovative new devices being developed by consumer electronics manufacturers. We are pleased this legislation includes language that secures this attachment ability," CEA's Vice President of Government Affairs Michael Petricone

Cisco to Acquire Metreos and Audium for Application Creation/Integration into Service Networks

Cisco Systems agreed to acquire privately-held Metreos Corp of Austin, Texas, and Audium Corp of New York in two separate deals. Both of these companies offer application creation/integration environments which will strengthen Cisco's Service Oriented Network Architecture (SONA). Cisco's recently announced its Unified Communications system, which leverages SONA, enables enterprise customers to integrate their communications systems with their IT infrastructure, thereby creating a single enterprise-wide communications platform.

Metreos is a provider of IP communication application development and management environments. Cisco said the acquisition would help its ecosystem of third party technology partners, systems integrators, value-added resellers, and customers build and deliver applications on Cisco's Unified Communications System.

Cisco will pay approximately $28 million in cash for Metreos. The company was founded in 2001 and has 19 employees.

Audium is a provider of VoiceXML speech self-service application development and management environments. The acquisition will enable enterprises to easily build automated voice response applications that are integrated with not only their converged IP network but also work well within their Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) enabling the use of common services across the network. Leveraging the intelligence of the network, Audium's technology further strengthens Cisco's SONA and provides a platform for enterprises to integrate their business process workflow with their speech self-service applications.

Cisco will pay $19.8 million in cash for Audium, which was founded in 1999 and has 26 employees.

Cisco said that By acquiring Metreos and Audium and their standards-based creation and integration tools, customers and partners will be able to rapidly build customized communications applications that are fully integrated across the enterprise IT infrastructure, enterprise applications, and enterprise contact centers.

"Cisco's Unified Communications system enables businesses to leverage their Cisco networks as a platform for integrating voice, video, data and mobility services," said Don Proctor, senior vice president of Cisco's Voice Technology Group. "Using common SOA standards, such as XML and VXML, these acquisitions will help our customers streamline key business processes by integrating their communications environment with their information systems."

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

CableLabs and EuroCableLabs Extend Working Relationship

CableLabs and EURCableLabs have extended their cooperation on the development of cable technology in the U.S. and Europe. The agreement provides EURCableLabs access to CableLabs' DOCSIS and PacketCable specifications and test plans, thereby assuring greater consistency across cable technologies developed for the North American and European markets.

The agreement assures EURCableLabs will have access to draft specifications for DOCSIS and PacketCable, including proposed engineering changes to these specifications, to allow for European adaptations to be included in the specifications while they are being developed. In addition, EURCableLabs will have access to CableLabs' acceptance and compliance test plans which are used as part of the certification and qualification testing process.


Canada's Gold Line Deploys Pactolus SIPware Pre-paid Calling Card Application

Gold Line Telemanagement, Canada's leading provider of calling card services with more than half of the country's $350-million pre-paid long-distance business, selected Pactolus as its exclusive provider of calling card applications. Gold Line has deployed Pactolus' SIPware Calling Card application and RapidFLEX Service Delivery Platform.


WildBlue Signs Wholesale Deals with DIRECTV and EchoStar

WildBlue Communications signed five year wholesale distribution agreements with both DIRECTV and EchoStar Communications for its broadband Internet access via satellite.

DIRECTV and EchoStar currently offer digital television entertainment via satellite to a combined total of more than 27 million customers nationwide.

Each of DIRECTV and EchoStar intends to begin offering WildBlue high-speed Internet service in the coming months across the contiguous United States with further details on availability and pricing of their respective offerings to be forthcoming.

The offerings will be provided separately under the DIRECTV and EchoStar brand names, and sub-branded as "powered by WildBlue." The WildBlue broadband offering will be focused on small town America and rural markets.

"Our agreements with DIRECTV and EchoStar are a turning point for WildBlue," said David Leonard, WildBlue's Chief Executive Officer. "We have worked very hard this year to make our affordable broadband Internet service available to every home and small business across the continental U.S., and we are pleased to be working with DIRECTV and EchoStar to further strengthen our presence nationwide and to extend their respective product offerings as well."
  • In May 2006, AT&T began selling satellite-based broadband Internet access service, powered by WildBlue, to rural customers across its 13-state territory. Rural satellite-based broadband subscribers will have three service packages to choose from, with prices ranging from $49.95 to $79.95 per month, and broadband speed options ranging up to 1.5 Mbps downstream and up to 256 Kbps upstream.

  • WildBlue currently utilizes the Ka-band spot beam capacity over the United States on Telesat Canada's Anik F2 satellite, which was launched by Arianespace in July 2004. WildBlue's service provides two-way wireless high-speed Internet access. The service is being offered by over 280 rural electric and telephone companies affiliated with the NRTC (National Rural Telephone Cooperative). Service began June 2005.

  • WildBlue's next Ka-band spot beam satellite, WildBlue-1, has been scheduled for launch aboard an Ariane 5 vehicle in Q4 2006. WildBlue-1, manufactured by Space Systems/Loral, will approximately triple WildBlue's customer capacity, and is expected to handle WildBlue's continuing rapid customer growth into 2008 and beyond. WildBlue-1 is a 4.7 metric ton high power satellite based on Space Systems/Loral's 1300 spacecraft bus and provides Ka-band spot beam capacity over the contiguous United States.

Sprint and Universal Music Group Host Live Concert for Mobile Phone Listeners

Sprint and Universal Music Group will deliver live country music for the first time with video and audio on mobile phones during a concert tonight from Nashville's Rocketown music venue. The concert features country artists, including Josh Turner, Billy Currington, Julie Roberts and Gary Nichols. The concert will be available for free to all Sprint PCS Vision and Sprint Power Vision customers who have multimedia phones and data plans. These customers can also experience the concert afterwards on-demand.

Cable & Wireless Shifts to Wholesale Broadband Strategy

Cable & Wireless will adopt a wholesale strategy with regard to consumer and small business services delivered over its local loop network. Starting next month, the company's Bulldog division will offer wholesale services to other broadband providers. Bulldog will cease its own proactive sales and marketing to attract new residential or small business customers. It will continue as a retail brand for existing customers.

Cable & Wireless said its local loop rollout plan remains unchanged -- a total of 800 fully un-bundled local exchanges are expected to be online by 30-Sept-2006 (411 exchanges were unbundled as of 31-Mar-2006).

Cable & Wireless will use the local loop network to deliver business-class services, as well as for the wholesale service.
  • In February 2006, Cable & Wireless provided an update on its restructuring plans, saying its UK business plans to reduce its customer base from a total of approximately 30,000 customers to about 3,000 large corporate customers and public institutions. The company hopes that concentrating on fewer, larger customers, and by reducing the complexity in its products, systems and processes, it will be able to increase its margins from 33% today to 40%.

Cisco Authorizes Up To $5 Billion in Additional Stock Repurchases

Cisco Systems' Board of Directors authorized up to $5 billion in additional repurchases of its common stock. Cisco's board had previously authorized up to $35 billion in stock repurchases. There is no fixed termination date for the repurchase program.

"We evaluate our use of cash on a regular basis to determine the best way to optimize the value to our shareholders," said Dennis Powell, Chief Financial Officer, Cisco Systems. "Today, our share repurchase program allows us to return cash to our shareholders, while at the same time provides the flexibility to aggressively invest in the business for additional growth and differentiation within our overall corporate strategy."

Since the inception of the repurchase program in September 2001 through the close of Cisco's third quarter fiscal year 2006 on April 29, 2006, the company had repurchased and retired approximately 1.8 billion shares of common stock at an average price of $18.21 per share for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $32.6 billion, with a remaining authorized amount of approximately $2.4 billion.

AOL Offers Free Active Security Monitor

AOL launched Active Security Monitor, a free downloadable program that continuously checks the status of key security programs - including anti-virus, firewall, spyware protection, wireless security, and Windows/browser updates - on a user's home computer. Active Security Monitor assigns a Security Score to each PC on the user's network, and it offers specific recommendations based on the scan's results to improve user security.

Specifically, Active Security Monitor examines each computer on a user's home network in eight important areas: firewall, virus protection, spyware protection, Windows/browser updates, wireless security, P2P software, and PC utilities.

Active Security Monitor was developed in partnership with Sereniti.


VSNL Offers Ethernet Connecting North America, Europe, Asia & India

Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) launched Dedicated Global Ethernet private line service connecting major cities throughout North America, Europe, Asia and an extensive footprint connecting 120 cities in India.

Dedicated Global Ethernet offers bandwidth between 2 and 1,000 Mbps with the flexibility to upgrade the bandwidth on an as-needed basis without service interruption.

VSNL International said its service combines the flexibility and features of Ethernet with the proven reliability and high performance of SDH/SONET to create a robust, highly secure, carrier grade Ethernet Private Line (EPL) service.

VSNL is offering a single, end-to-end Service Level Agreement and dedicated global support in every country served. Dedicated Global Ethernet is carried across VSNL's extensive global and India fiber optic infrastructure.

Dedicated Global Ethernet is complemented by VSNL's Global Ethernet over MPLS, which offers point-to-point, point-to-multipoint and multiple classes of service for global and India Ethernet WANs. Available now, Global Ethernet over MPLS will be formally launched in the coming months.

VSNL's Global Network spans 4 continents, comprises major ownership in 206,356km of terrestrial network fiber and subsea cables, and offers the greatest diversity to, and within, India.

VSNL is a part of India's Tata Group.

  • In July 2005, India's Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) agreed to acquire Teleglobe International in a deal valued at $239 million.

  • Also in July 2005, VSNL completed its acquisition of the Tyco Global Network (TGN), a state-of-the-art undersea cable network that spanned 60,000 km (37,280 miles) and the continents of North America, Europe and Asia. With the acquisition of TGN, VSNL is now one of the world's largest providers of submarine cable bandwidth. VSNL acquired the network for $130 million (not including the assumption of certain liabilities). In addition to the submarine cables, the Tyco acquisition gave VSNL 30 Points of Presence in 12 countries in North America, Europe and Asia. VSNL also has business operations in Sri Lanka and Nepal and is soon entering South Africa.

Verizon and DIRECTV in New Venture to Offer Wholesale "Triple Play"

Verizon and DIRECTV will form a new venture to enable Verizon wholesale customers to sell a package of voice, DSL and DIRECTV services. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The packaged offering will be available to telecom service providers that utilize Verizon's Wholesale Advantage voice service. Verizon expects to make the bundle available to wholesale customers in July.

"The triple-play offer for wholesalers enables DIRECTV to reach a new segment of customers with an attractive array of services that will more effectively compete with the local cable provider," said John Suranyi, president, DIRECTV sales and service.

  • In February 2006, BellSouth signed a five-year exclusive marketing alliance with DIRECTV, allowing it to offer digital satellite entertainment service to its customers.

  • Also in February 2006, DIRECTV confirmed that it is preparing to launch a Broadband Video by the end of the year that would deliver content-on-demand to a DVR. Hundreds of hours of popular content would be available for download via satellite, and thousands of hours would be available for download via broadband over the Internet.

  • DirecTV currently has over 15 million customers, 2.5 million DVRs in service and one million HD customers. The company added 1.2 million net subscribers in 2005, down from 1.2 million net subscribers in 2004. By the end of 2007, DirecTV will have 11 of its own satellites in service, providing it with the capacity of 3,200 channels, including 1,650 HD channels (mostly Ka-band). This will enable 150 national HD channels and local HD programming in nearly all markets across the country.

China Netcom to Sell Asia Netcom, Undersea Cable System

China Netcom agreed to sell all of its Asia Netcom assets to an investor group led by Ashmore Emerging Markets Liquid Investment Portfolio and also including Spinnaker Global Opportunity Fund Limited and Clearwater Capital Partners, for approximately US$402 million. Completion of the deal is conditioned on regulatory approvals.

Since China Netcom purchased the former Asia Global Crossing and launched Asia Netcom in 2003, the company has emerged as a top regional provider of IP- based communications solutions. It operates a subsea cable system, EAC, as well as extensive terrestrial backhauls and telehouses, that serves key Asian markets.
  • In March 2006, Asia Netcom completed a major network upgrade that will bring a 50% increase in lit capacity to its pan-Asia submarine cable systems, EAC. As part of the upgrade, 10 Gbps was lit up on each of EAC's four fiber pairs, effectively adding 40 Gbps of new bandwidth to EAC's existing 80 Gbps. The EAC system spans 19,500 km within Asia connecting Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and soon, China.

  • In January 2006, Asia Netcom selected Lucent Technologies to upgrade its pan-Asian submarine cable network, known as EAC. Lucent will replace EAC's existing platform with the Lucent LambdaUnite Multi-Service Switch (MSS). With the LambdaUnite MSS platform and its support for ASON (Automatically Switched Optical Networks)/GMPLS (Generalized Multi-Protocol Label Switching) technology, Asia Netcom will be able to adopt a meshed, network architecture on the optical layer, and offer a wide variety of "Class-of-Service" options as part of its optical transport services.

AOL and Warner Bros. Expand 'In2TV'

AOL is expanding "In2TV", its free TV over the Web service, with two new channels: "Gone But Not Forgotten TV," showcasing recent, but prematurely cancelled series, and "Get Real TV," a reality TV channel. "In2TV" also adds twelve new series including many episodes that have never aired on television and more than a dozen new video features.

SIRIUS Signs Space Systems/Loral to Augment Satellite Constellation

SIRIUS Satellite Radio reached an agreement with Space Systems/Loral, a subsidiary of Loral Space & Communications for the design and construction of a new satellite.

SIRIUS FM-5 is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2008 and will carry an X-band uplink and S-band downlink payload. The companies said the satellite will be one of the most powerful ever constructed, with end-of-life power capability at more than 20 kilowatts. SIRIUS FM-5 is based on SS/L's flight proven 1300 platform and will have a specified service life of 15 years. It will carry a range of technologies, including a 9-meter unfurlable reflector, which will allow for highly-concentrated transmissions to small, advanced devices.

SIRIUS plans to launch the satellite on a Proton rocket under a contract previously announced between SIRIUS and International Launch Services (ILS).

The aggregate cost of designing, building, launching and insuring the launch of the satellite will be approximately $260 million. As part of its commitment to SIRIUS, Loral has agreed to provide a $100 million vendor financing facility. http://www.sirius.comhtttp://