Access, Video Are 'All In' at USTA

LAS VEGAS – TELECOM '04 – What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, according to the travel brochures, but don't tell that to the 235 exhibitors hanging a shingle in the 40,000-square-foot exposition hall at the United States Telecom Association's (USTA) annual meeting.

These vendors want to make an impression on the hundreds of incumbent carrier representatives in attendance, at a show that appears to be growing and gaining momentum. They're touting VOIP, enhanced broadband, and video delivery services, three areas in which carriers are investing heavily as they defend their turf against cable providers and other challengers.

UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI), in fact, is talking up an entire end-to-end video delivery network that scales to serve millions of subscribers. More on that in a moment.

Following is a sampling of what the vendors are talking about as the show doors swing open this morning:

Look, Ma! No Cable: Calix Networks Inc. intends to show off the Swiss-Army-knife-like qualities of its access box when the exhibit floor opens at 10 A.M. Pacific this morning. For carriers considering the transition from copper connections to FTTP, Calix is showing how it can use the same headend, transport network, access platforms, middleware, and set-top boxes to reach both copper-based and fiber-fed consumers (see Calix to Demo IPTV).

The demo is set to show Calix's C7 third-generation DLC providing simultaneous IPTV transmissions -- one over a BPON network and one using ADSL2+ (over copper). Calix says the significance here is that it is demonstrating the use of a single device to serve two access networks without having to rely on a radio frequency (RF) overlay network -- a cable TV network -- to supply the video content.

The Calix demo also features components from the set of CalixCompatible companies, including Amino Communications Ltd., Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Myrio Corp., and Westell Technologies Inc.

Pumping the Pipes: MRV Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: MRVC) this morning announced the availability of 10-Gbit/s transponder modules for its LambdaDriver CWDM/DWDM transport platform. The new transponder supports OC192 and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet in metro and long-haul networks. It can send signals up to 80 km over certain fiber types without requiring amplifiers. MRV's LambdaDriver accommodates a variety of network sizes, as it offers three different chassis, each with interchangeable modules, says the company.

Betting on VOIP: Fittingly, VOIP provider Nuvio Corp. chose this week to announce the latest ISP that is reselling its service -- LasVegas.net.

Nuvio aims to help ISPs plug in and get VOIP up and running in a hurry. It provides branded Websites, private-label billing, help with sales referrals, and tech support to ISPs that join its partner program to offer phone service and compete with their local incumbent carriers. Nuvio also sells hosted IP Centrex services to businesses.

Let it Ride: What looks like one of the bigger announcements so far, in size and concept, comes from UTStarcom, which unveiled its plan for a huge, massively scaleable, TV-over-IP network. This network plan will initially be pitched to large carriers in developing countries, and, eventually, the rest of the world, says Jeff Paine, VP of strategic marketing at UTStarcom. "A million-person city in China... is our starting point."

And the menu doesn't come à la carte. Indeed, while Calix and other vendors tout togetherness, UTStarcom argues that the recipe is too complex to involve dozens of chefs. "If you don't own or influence each part of a network-wide video delivery system, you're in for a headache," Paine says.

The solution, in its entirety, is called mVision, and it is made up of the following parts:

  • An encoding platform used to translate analog TV signals into MPEG (or other digital formats) so they can be transmitted over an IP network.

  • The MediaSwitch, an IP TV streaming platform that delivers the digital signals across DSL or fiber networks. The MediaSwitch also acts as a network video recorder, which gives subscribers the ability to watch programming as if it were recorded on a device at their homes.

    Company officials claim the unique feature of UTStarcom's switch -- and its proposed network -- is the capability to multicast and unicast content, with loads of storage capacity as a foundation. UTStarcom claims its switches can provide up to 40 terabits of storage per telco rack.

    That bundle of equipment would store about 100,000 hours of content and would serve about 20,000 to 22,000 subscribers, Paine says.

  • The Media Console, UTStarcom's family of set-top boxes, is the CPE gear that connects to the network, whether via fiber or copper. These set-top boxes also include built-in Web browsers so subscribers can surf the Internet, send and receive email, and manage their TV accounts. The idea is that once a box is installed, carrier truck rolls are history.

  • An OSS allows the carrier to preside over the whole network, bill for the services, and secure and control access, all while allowing the customers to do all their own account maintenance at home from their TV screens.

There are four Asian carriers that are beta-testing mVision right now, Paine says. The network, and all its components, will be generally available during the first part of next year.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

(Editor's note: You can also follow the less-serious-but-mildly-fun stuff from USTA on Phil Harvey's new show blog (or is it a Phlog?), called the Philter.

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