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Mission of the Viodi View:
In this on-line publication, we share our analysis, opinions and direction on the interactive television news and views that we believe will be of interest and use to our friends associated directly or indirectly with independent telephone companies. For more information as to the various ways Viodi works with independent telephone companies, please go to http://www.viodi.com/alliance/
The Viodi View [Viodi, LLC] and its associates used their best efforts in collecting and preparing the information published herein. However, the Viodi View [Viodi, LLC] does not assume, and hereby disclaims, any and all liability for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions resulted from negligence, accident, or other causes.
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By Ken Pyle, firstname.lastname@example.org, Managing Editor, Viodi View
Chaos is the word that is heard at TELECOM ’05. Part of the chaos is due to the number of good sessions that are concurrently available. There has also been a rather unusual mix of industries at this conference, including a large number of broadcasters and more content people than ever before. That Starz had a booth and a keynote speaker is significant, as it points to this being more of a show about video. The addition of the broadcast track seemed out of place to me. But after talking to a few broadcasters, I realized this was a brilliant move by US Telecom, as the local broadcasters and independent telcos could have some interesting synergies – more about that in a future Club Viodi issue.
If I my ears weren’t continually filled with wax, I would need earplugs to attenuate the noise surrounding IPTV. The hype machine is in full gear surrounding IPeeTV, as the message from so many of the speakers seems to be that cable can never do what IPTV can. This question was posed in the panel, ITV – Is It IPTV’s edge and the fundamental conclusion was that, in the end, IPTV, HFC and, perhaps even, satellite platforms can all evolve to support pretty much the same set of services. The real important thing for operators is to understand how to package, promote and price interactive services such that they meet the needs of their market. We discussed this topic in the panel, Content Differentiation, What’s An Operator to Do?
As has been written previously in the Viodi View, the cable industry has had the cable operator-owned, CableLabs to drive the industry specifications and ensure interoperability. The movie industry has just put together a similar effort, known as MovieLabs, and bankrolled it to the tune of $30 million and is based on the CableLabs approach. There is a European telco-founded group, the Home Gateway Initiative, which is specifying requirements for the residential gateway. An operator-owned organization that would lead the IPTV interoperability and standards efforts does not exist and, I believe, is sorely needed.
The idea that telcos need to take a much more proactive approach to standardization and interoperability of IPTV was the idea behind the Viodi-organized panel, called Standard This, Can’t We Work It Out. The key take-away from this excellent panel was that telcos, no matter what their size, need to have their voices heard at these events. The industry needs to participate in either existing forums, such as ATIS, the ISMA and the ITA, if we are going to get the standards that will be necessary to turn the IPTV hype into business reality.
One company that is leading by example is SureWest. I had a chance to talk to Bill DeMuth, CTO and Vice President of Engineering about SureWest’s just announced IPTV, HDTV deployment. For curious Viodi View readers (and one emailed me to find out, so there is at least one curious reader), the set-top that they are using is the Amino 120. HD is becoming a critical piece of the rollout, as evidenced by the comments of Will Helmly, President of Home Telephone, who reported 18% penetration of HDTV service in an upscale area of 1,500 homes served by his company. An RF solution was his only practical solution for meeting these customer demands in today’s environment.
A story that got some press was the NRTC-SES partnership to provide Satellite-Content and Headend IPTV (Hey, what about a new acronym - SCHIP TV) services. The really big news, that I did not see reported, but noticed at the “Look Ma, No Headend”, panel was that NRTC and NTCA have partnered to bring these services to their respective members.
The Look Ma, No Headend panel was somewhat of a shootout between all of the players, ATCI, Auroras TV, Broadstream, Eagle Broadband, NRTC and PanAmSat, in this nascent market segment. Even after this shootout, the verdict is still out as to which of these entities will provide the winning combination. Factors that will determine the winner will be the date when MPEG-4 set-tops are commercially available, the financial strength and how well the business model works for the independent telcos. Maybe these topics will be worthy of another shootout.
OEN, the fiber-based headend and programming service, continues to make a flurry of announcements since the FTTH Conference issue of the Viodi View. Their MPEG-2 approach eliminates the aforementioned MPEG-4 availability challenge and has allowed them to sign a deal with ViewNow for VOD content. ViewNow, TVN and iNDEMAND all brought some good ideas as to how operators can drive on-demand purchases in the On Demand Success Cases panel. Cauldron Solutions discussed the importance of having an online product management system in order to maximize on-demand profits.
And the above comments are just a small slice of what has been going on at TELECOM ’05. I have not even reported on the two topics from the IP Video track which may have been the most important sessions of TELECOM ’05 – local content and Peer to Peer distribution. More about those in a future issue.
The October 12th, 2005 issue of the Viodi View, provided an overview of the HomePlug conference and the promises of that interesting technology to solve home networking issues. While I was attending that event, Alan Weissberger was attending a Wi-CON Americas conference that promises to use wireless technology to free us at long last from the spaghetti nest of wires required to connect our home electronics gear. Click here to read why Weissberger believes that two emerging wireless broadband technologies hold great promise for multi-media distribution within the digital home and multi-dwelling units: IEEE 802.11n and Wireless USB.
I was fortunate enough to attend an NTCA regional meeting on economic development a few weeks ago in Vancouver, British Columbia. This conference provided telcos with ideas and examples as to how to jumpstart their local economic development programs. Independent Telcos are often the primary spark of economic development in their service areas, so this is an important conference series. Shirley Bloomfield, Vice President of Government Affairs and Association Services for NTCA, suggested that independent telcos need an economic development strategy, a mechanism to fund that strategy and they must work with other partners in the community.
Bloomfield provided numerous examples of how telcos are enabling rural economic growth by doing things such as town beautification, assisting public agencies by participating in their economic development efforts and leveraging their in-house resources to create new businesses. Bloomfield explained that the impetus behind the newly formed Coalition to Keep America Connnected, which consists of 750 to 800 telcos represented by OPASTCO, NTCA, WRTA and ITTA, is to paint a picture of the important role of independent telcos at connecting areas that were traditionally ignored by the larger telecom providers.
The most unique thing on the show floor was from a company called, Sanswire Networks, a division of a larger private label telecom provider called GlobeTel Communications Corp. GlobeTel has mostly been focused on providing telecom services, like long distance, debit cards, etc. for international markets. They are working on an airship that will serve as a sort of floating cell tower operating in the stratosphere, above the weather.
At 13 miles above the earth, it is close enough that it doesn’t cause delay, but high enough that it could provide service to 126,000 square miles of territory. As can be seen in this Discovery Channel video, they are currently building the prototype and a commercial version could be ready next year. They are working on military versions as well. If this works and is as cost effective as it seems like it could be, it could a revolutionary way to bring communications to rural and underserved urban areas. I was thrilled as I met their CFO – Chief of Flight Operations – who is responsible for, literally, making sure this project flies.
Normally, I don’t report on things across the pond, as I figure other people cover that much better than I ever will. I thought the EasyNet acquisition should be of interest to Viodi View readers, as BSkyB is Rupert Murdoch controlled. It will be interesting to see if this purchase is a sign of things to come here in the U.S. That is, will DirecTV make a play to acquire a large U.S. ISP to give them control over their return path?
The TELECOM ’05 agenda reminded me of the Internet or the 10,000 title VOD world in the sense that navigation and discovery of content was difficult. This content clutter added a bit to the chaos of the conference. There were so many panels and so many that were similar, it was difficult to determine which panels to attend. Thanks to the Krazy Ken’s Trivia contest, however, we were able to rise above the clutter a bit.
Contests such as this one, represents one of many simple, but effective, techniques that independent telcos use every day to achieve superior DSL and video penetration. The contest involved sponsors (listed to the right), the online presence in the form of micro website, www.viodi.tv, and real world participation by the customers. I hope it was a bit of fun as well.
Here are the questions and the answers:
Trivia Question #1
What is the name of the only independent telco which has exchange boundaries that extend into the county that is the home to Silicon Valley?
Answer: Global Valley Networks (formerly Evans Telephone) – Evans brought telephone service to the San Antone valley area of Santa Clara in the late 70s time frame – 1970s, that is.
Trivia Question #2
Name the former IP Video speaker (from either TELECOM 03, 04, IP Video @ Supercomm 04 or 05 who was the author of an off-beat book about the Vietnam-war era.
Answer: Dick Jones (aka Rich Allan) of Verizon. His book
received great reviews at the 12th Annual International Book Awards as
the judges awarded "DRAFTED" by Rich Allan with a 5 of 5 for
Plot, a 4 of 5 for characters, and a 4 of 5 for cover design. Check out
his book by clicking
What is the name of the first interactive television program?
Answer: Winky Dink – check out the Interactive Television Alliance’s web site for info on this one.
Trivia Question #4
What is the name of the entity that first used peer to peer networking for legitimate applications?
Answer: Chip Venters, CEO of Digital Containers, was the judge on this one. He accepted the US government as a correct answer, although he had initially been thinking of telcos as the correct answer.
Trivia Question #5
What is the name of the earliest HDTV system that is still in operation?
Answer: MUSE developed by NHK in Japan –The development on this analog HDTV transmission standard began in 1979.
Trivia Question #6
What is the name of the movie starring Nicolaus Cage as an alcoholic writer?
Answer: Leaving Las Vegas
Bonus question: Who was the leading actress in that movie?
Answer: Elizabeth Shue (thanks Zhone for adding the Leather bag to the prize mix)
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