BigBand Networks Inc. and VideoTele.com Inc., now a division of Tut Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: TUTS), were among those making announcements at the aptly named TelcoTV conference.
BigBand, which hitherto has made its market among cable operators, unveiled a deal with independent carrier SureWest Communications (Nasdaq: SURW). And VideoTele.com revealed plans to add compresson technology from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to its wares.
While neither announcement is earth shattering, both point to the growth of interest in digital video, not just among the cable MSOs that seem to have finally gone full-tilt into building on their inherent video capabilities, but among telecom operators, which are starting to glom onto video as a value-added service with intriguing possibilities.
As noted in a recent Light Reading report (see Video Over IP) and Webinar, telcos see video not just as a triple-play element for bundling with voice and data, but as an enhanced service in its own right. Growing competition in the services market is helping things along. Technology too is opening up carrier options.
VideoTele.com, for instance, announced its licensing of Windows Media 9 compression from Microsoft. Like MPEG-4, a recently approved standard (see Video-Over-IP Charges On) with which it competes, Media 9 is a way to scrunch broadcast video into digital channels that consume less bandwidth. According to VideoTele.com, Media 9 takes about 50 percent less bandwidth than the current popular compression technique, MPEG-2. VideoTele.com plans to roll it into its Astria line of digital headend processors by mid-2004.
VideoTele.com says it's a couple of quarters away from offering a date for adopting MPEG-4, but a spokesman says support for that compression technique will be offered in 2004 as well.
VideoTele.com isn't alone in touting new compression techniques. Other digital TV gearmakers have announced support for MPEG-4, including Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), Tandberg, and SkyStream Networks Inc.
As for BigBand, it will supply independent carrier SureWest, based in California, with equipment to run broadcast TV, pay per view, video on demand, and related video services over the carrier's IP network. Terms weren't disclosed, but BigBand characterizes the arrangement as a straightforward order involving some professional services.
The significance is largely symbolic. BigBand spent the last two years supplying digital video equipment to cable operators like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. (NYSE: COX), and Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) (see Top Ten Vendors to Watch). So its first announceable telecom customer is a chance to demonstrate that its gear is up and running in IP environments, not just HFC networks.
According to Seth Kenvin, VP of corporate development at BigBand, the SureWest announcement is also a chance "to fly our flag in the market and start to get more partnerships."
Indeed, partnerships are vital in the carrier digital TV market, where video headend equipment must interoperate with a range of transport and access gear. BigBand counts Allied Telesyn Inc. and Internet Photonics Inc. among its allies, for instance. And for its part, VideoTele.com has agreements with Calix Networks, Catena Networks Inc., Occam Networks Inc. (OTC: OCCM.OB), and Zhone Technologies Inc., to name a few.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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