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DSL/vectoring/G.fast

BigBand Plays It Personal

BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) has developed a new network-based media processing platform that aims to help both cable operators and telcos alike migrate from broadcast video to a personal model that can target programs and advertisements to individual customers.

The company views the new system, dubbed the Media Services Platform (MSP) 2000, as a complement to its Broadband Multimedia-Service Router (BMR), but claims the new product can also work with video "groomers" and multiplexers from other suppliers.

Each MSP comes equipped with 16 slots of capacity -– enough for 200 gigabit/s of throughput -– and can hook into cable and IPTV environments.

"We're committed to open architectures," says BigBand CEO and president Amir Bassan-Eskenazi.

The MSP looks to deliver a wide range of "personalized" video services, including IPTV, broader high-definition lineups, and interactive video applications, as service providers evolve their "unicast" strategies.

However, BigBand believes addressable advertising, which is set to be one of the hot topics at the upcoming IBC2008 show in Amsterdam, will be the first viable application for the MSP. (See Europe Gears Up for IPTV Showcase.)

That's not exactly a huge surprise, considering that several large U.S. cable operators are plowing money into Canoe Ventures LLC, a cross-MSO partnership that is working on a uniform targeted advertising platform. (See Verklin Picked as Cable's Canoe Captain and Introducing 'Canoe Ventures'.)

In addition, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), one of BigBand's big telco customers, is also vetting its own advanced advertisement strategy.

To date, BigBand has already completed integration deals with two ADS (advertising decision system) vendors -– Visible World and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), the latter of which has become more aggressive in the sector after gobbling up aQuantive and Navic Networks. (See Microsoft Pushes Advanced Ad Needle and Microsoft Nets Navic Deal .)

Today, BigBand's BMR can help operators do zone-based addressable advertising using ZIP codes, but the MSP could extend that addressability to individual set-tops.

Although BigBand can expect to see competition in this area from network-based ad splicing vendors such as Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and RGB Networks Inc. , it will also be crossing swords with advanced ad architectures that call on the set-top to make advertising decisions.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s early trial work with OpenTV Corp. (Nasdaq: OPTV) used that approach, as will a larger pilot with Invidi Technologies Corp. that's expected to kick off in Baltimore later this year. (See Comcast Advances With Targeted Ads and Comcast Bulks for Baltimore Ad Trial .)

Bassan-Eskenazi views the set-top ad decision model as a "short cut" that will have challenges scaling. "We think the network-based solution always wins," he says.

Although BigBand has been developing the MSP for about three years, it's still at the start of the deployment ramp, having entered some lab trials in June with undisclosed operators. Bassan-Eskenazi hopes the MSP will enter field trials later this year, with commercial deployments to follow in 2009.

James McQuivey, a principal analyst with Forrester Research Inc. , says BigBand's success with the MSP will hinge on whether cable and telco service operators feel compelled to step up and invest in a system that could improve the potential capabilities of their respective video platforms.

Given that cable and telcos are looking to differentiate their platforms, BigBand "may be at a unique moment of time where their innovation stands a chance of getting [adopted] right away," McQuivey says.

However, BigBand's big challenge in the early going, he notes, will be communicating to the market that the MSP is a necessary addition.

But getting service operators to jump in early could go a long way in helping BigBand establish a new growth engine that would complement its existing work with switched digital video (SDV). BigBand claims its SDV platform is deployed, or in the process of being deployed, in cable systems passing more than 14 million homes, a figure that hasn't risen appreciably for several months.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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