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, Curaçao, 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.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Spirent's Chairman Takes Over as CEO, Gustafsson Out

Spirent Communications' CEO, Anders Gustafsson, has left the company with immediate effect, following a boardroom coup.

Edward Bramson, who became Chairman of the company late last year, will take over management responsibilities. Bramson has launched a strategic review of the company's operations. Spirent expects to announce the results of the review in advance of is scheduled annual shareholder meeting in May.

1394 Trade Association Targets Copper Spec for Vehicle Multimedia Networks

The 1394 Trade Association, which supports "FireWire" connectivity technology, is forming a new task group to complete the IDB-1394 copper specification for use of copper in 1394-based vehicle entertainment networks.

The group is working on a design with 400 Mbps bandwidth capacity and the ability to move A/V through vehicle networks that reach 4.5 meters. The work will be consistent with the requirements of the auto manufacturers and their OEM suppliers.

The pending specification will cover the requirements for Shielded Twisted Pair, Twisted Quad, and coaxial. It also will provide the power budget criteria so auto manufacturers and their suppliers can implement cable lengths sufficient to deal with vehicle harness layout constraints and complexities.

The 1394 Trade Association said it has developed a POF specification for the vehicle network, and optical fiber has remained a preferred medium in some early applications. However, there are advantages and disadvantages with both copper and plastic optical fiber, so completing a copper specification will enable the automakers and their OEM suppliers to have as many options as possible for both the backbone and for individual controller modules within the network.

Major automakers from the U.S., Europe and Japan are currently implementing initial in-vehicle multimedia networks, with many manufacturers moving toward the use of IDB-1394-based technology.

IPv6 Forum Tests VoIP Interoperability

The IPv6 Forum, along with Viagenie, Stealth Communications and CounterPath Solutions, conducted a series of VoIP calls over IPv6, marking an important advancement in worldwide interoperability among VoIP technologies using IPv6.

The VoIP calls, connecting Viagenie in Canada and Consulintel in Spain, were conducted using the CounterPath eyeBeam softphone through the IPv6 version of Asterisk, ported by Viagenie, a consulting and R&D firm in advanced IP networking. The Asterisk-IPv6 server was located on Stealth Communications' Voice Peering Fabric (VPF) network.

"The IPv6 Forum and its IPv6 Ready Program are adding SIP into its test suite to promote SIP and IPv6 interoperability worldwide. This is another major milestone in demonstrating true end to end services," stresses Latif Ladid, IPv6 Forum President.

Sonus IMS Trunking Supports Billing Correlation between Network Operators

Sonus Networks released a new version of its IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)-ready solution featuring standards-based support for billing between different service provider's IP voice networks.

The latest release offers the ability for operators to track individual calls throughout their own network and when the call is handed off to other network operators. The Sonus GSX9000 Open Services Switch and the GSX4000 Open Services Switch both support this billing requirement.

Sonus' platform can generate identifying information and support the seamless integration of Sonus-based networks with other IP-voice networks. In addition, Sonus' Network Border Switch delivers this functionality to allow operators to continue tracking calls for billing purposes as the call crosses network borders. Sonus said it is one of the first telecommunications vendors to support this IMS-required billing feature.

CNBC's "FastMoney" Show Adds Streaming Video Viewer Interaction via WebEx

CNBC's "Fast Money" television program (8 PM-9 PM ET, weeknights) will allow viewers to interact with the show's hosts in real-time via webcams. Fast Money is using WebEx Meeting Center from the on-demand collaboration. The companies describe the video interaction as a convergence of Web 2.0 and broadcast television.

AT&T Appoints New President of Global Operations

Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. has been appointed as the president of AT&T Global Operations. This is a new position designed to accelerate the growth of AT&T's portfolio of IP services and solutions to global companies and institutions in key markets around the world.

Before the AT&T-BellSouth merger, Mr. Barros was the chief product officer of retail markets for BellSouth, where he was responsible for the management of voice, data and IP services, and the development and commercialization of future products and services. Previously, Barros was president of BellSouth Latin America. Before joining BellSouth in 2000, Barros served as corporate vice president and general manager of Latin America Group for Motorola.

ARRIS Decides Not to Increase Offer for Tandberg Television

ARRIS decided not to increase its offer to acquire Tandberg Television, following the higher bid Ericsson made for the firm. Tandberg Television has therefore terminated its acquisition agreement with ARRIS. In connection with the decision, ARRIS has received a termination fee of $18 million. ARRIS also expects to realize net gains of approximately $11 - $12 million on the sale of foreign exchange contracts that ARRIS had purchased to hedge a portion of the purchase price. ARRIS estimates that it incurred approximately $9 - $10 million of expenses associated with the transaction.
  • On 28-Feb-2007, Ericsson made a public cash offer to acquire Tandberg Television for SEK 9.8 billion (US$1.4 billion), or NOK 106 in cash per share -- representing a premium of 18.2% to Tandberg's 90-day volume weighted average stock price. The bid represents a 10.4% premium over the acquisition offer made by ARRIS on 15-January-2007. Ericsson said it makes a better strategic partner for Tandberg TV because together the companies could offer a complete IPTV solution.

Jury Awards $58 Million to Verizon in Patent Case Against Vonage

Verizon prevailed on two counts in patent infringement case against Vonage. Jurors for the U.S. District Court for the Virginia Eastern District ordered Vonage to pay $58 million in damages to Verizon for infringement of three U.S. covering methods of offering commercial-quality VoIP services, including wireless access to VoIP.

For its part, Vonage said it is "delighted that the jury rejected Verizon's meritless claim that we infringed their two billing patents. Of the seven patents Verizon originally sued on, they prevailed on only three and we expect that verdict to be reversed on appeal."

Telecom Argentina Reaches 457,000 ADSL Users

As of December 31, 2006, Telecom Argentina had 457,000 ADSL customers, up from 226,000 a year earlier. Lines with ADSL connections accounted for more than 11% of Telecom's lines in service. The number of cellular customers rose to 9.6 million (including Argentina and Paraguay), up from 6.8 million a year earlier. Fixed lines in service rose 4% to 4.1 million.

During FY06, Telecom Argentina's consolidated net revenues increased 30% (+P$1,719 million vs. FY05) to P$7,437 million, mainly fueled by the expansion of the cellular and broadband businesses.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Neuf to Offer 50 Mbps FTTx at EUR29.90 in Paris

Beginning in April, Neuf Cegetel plans to begin offering a FTTx service in Paris priced at EUR 29.90 (including VAT) per month. Like the company's "100% Neuf Box ADSL package", the new offer will include the phone line, unlimited calls to landline numbers in France and over 30 countries, a television bouquet, access to video on demand, and the Neuf Giga online storage service.

The Neuf FTTx service will deliver dynamic bandwidth of 50 Mbps (both uplink and downlinks at up to 50 Mbps). Neuf is also planning to offer a 100 Mbps premium service.

Neuf, which began its fiber rollout in December 2006, is planning to pass one million homes by end of 2009. Coverage areas will include Paris and its suburbs, districts of other major cities, and other areas selected on the basis of rollout costs and opportunities to increase market share.

Neuf Cegetel will mainly be offering all-fiber connections based on FTTH technology ; it will also offer FTTB connection using the existing copper cable and T-plugs already installed, as it is a more rapid and less invasive process, without work at customers' homes.

Since 1998, the company has invested some EUR 2.8 billion on laying 45,000 km of cable, building metropolitan loops in major French cities, and connecting operator and enterprise sites (around 4,000 to date).

CAPEX for the FTTx rollout cost, split over 2007, 2008 and 2009, will be around EUR 300 million. The average cost per customer (including infrastructure through to the home, plus connection) is expected to be around EUR 1,200.

Neuf Cegetel has also recently acquired Médiafibre, which serves around 3,000 FTTH customers in the city of Pau (among around 40,000 homes passed). On 20 February 2007, the group announced an agreement to take a controlling stake in Erenis based in Paris. This transaction should be finalized in March. In addition, the group's LD Collectivités subsidiary recently won its first public contract to develop FTTH in the Paris region. Through Erenis (operational in FTTx since 2003, with over 55,000 homes passed and over 10,000 customers connected), Neuf Cegetel will lead the field on FTTx rollout in Paris. The group expects a sharp increase in the number of homes passed over the coming months, as negotiations are finalized with landlords of many buildings within the programme's coverage area.
  • In September 2006, Neuf Cegetel agreed to acquire AOL's French Internet access business, including 500,000 broadband customers, and its AMSE operation, which manages AOL France's customer service operations (500 people), for EUR 288 million.

  • Neuf Cegetel's two key shareholders are the Louis Dreyfus and SFR groups.

  • In September 2006, the Iliad Group's Free division, unveiled plans for a widescale rollout of FTTH in Paris. The company said the new network would give it true independence from the incumbent operator, France Telecom. The project is expected to take 24 months to reach 2.1 million people. Free plans to invest EUR 1 billion in the project through 2012. The company initially will targets areas were its Freebox installation density is greatest. The Freebox HD's ADSL2+ terminal will be replaced by an optical box. The company plans to offer a EUR 29.99 per month service that includes 50 Mbps Internet access, HD TV, and unlimited calling to numbers in France and certain international locations.

  • In December 2006, France Telecom announced plans for a FTTx rollout in Paris using a GPON architecture. FT aims to have 150,000 to 200,000 customers connected by the end of 2008 out of a potential client base of 1 million.