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Video services

BNS's IPTV App Adds a Legacy Touch

SINGAPORE -- CommunicAsia 2009 -- Hong Kong IPTV integrator Broadband Network Systems Ltd. (BNS) has combined old media and new technology for a homegrown interactive e-commerce application it's pitching to the region's telco TV-savvy carriers.

Demonstrating the application BNS Touch here on the show floor, the company's CEO Jeffrey Soong demonstrated interactive shopping using a printed catalogue (that'd be the old media...) along with an interactive pen that wirelessly connects to a USB dongle in the user's set-top box, a specially developed supporting e-commerce platform (the new technology!), and a dedicated IPTV channel. (See BNS Pitches Shopping App.)

A user can surf onto the dedicated TV shopping channel and then request product-related video clips by scanning an item in the catalogue using the interactive pen, which is called "The Wiz," just like that trippy Michael Jackson movie from 1978. (What was Sidney Lumet thinking? Anyhoo...)

The pen can then be used to add an item to the viewer's shopping basket for purchase. Payment can be added to the customer's phone/broadband bill, or it can be handled through a special account set up with the service provider or a third-party service such as PayPal.

But why bother using the printed catalogue? It might seem soooo last century, but scrolling through screen-based menus is still too slow, complicated, and cumbersome, stated the CEO.

There's still a high degree of interactivity with the IPTV systems, the e-commerce platform, and the supporting business support systems such as the billing engine. That makes BNS Touch, which is commercially available, a very real part of the next generation of IPTV and multimedia applications being developed for triple-play service providers by multiple vendors and industry groups. (See SoftAtHome Gets Busy, Video Experience & Monetization: A Deep Dive Into Cisco's IP Video Applications, Cisco, Portugal Telecom Ally, Chunghwa, BigBand Strike IPTV Ad Deal, ATIS Issues IPTV 'Phase 1' Standards, AlcaLu Supports Mediaroom, and AlcaLu Updates IPTV Platform.)

Boosting IPTV-related revenues
BNS's VP of marketing, Anke Gill, tells Light Reading that all IPTV service providers in the Asia/Pacific region are looking to extend their services beyond the regular TV and video-on-demand services, a view that's shared by some of the region's key carriers. (See PCCW: IPTV Demands Innovation.)

She says applications such as interactive shopping are in demand to help increase average IPTV subscriber spending, as "I don't think there's an IPTV service provider in the world that's making a profit."

Interactive shopping is popular in South Korea and Taiwan in particular, says Gill, who adds that a major Asian IPTV operator is due to trial the technology soon.

While she couldn't name that carrier, Light Reading Asia spoke later in the day to a carrier executive who expressed interest in the BNS technology. Tzu-Han Huang, president of the Northern Taiwan Business Group at Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. (NYSE: CHT), which already has about 700,000 customers for its Multimedia on Demand (MoD) service, told us he was visiting BNS during his visit to the show.

The move into applications development is relatively new for BNS, although it has previously developed its own IPTV middleware. (See BNS Unveils IPTV Middleware.)

The company, acquired in February for 12 million Singapore dollars (US$8.2 million) by multimedia applications and new media specialist Auston International Group (which has since changed its name to Infinio Group Ltd.), has so far been best known as a vendor-neutral IPTV consultant and integrator.

In that role, it has pulled together technology and content for carrier trials -- including one at Telekom Malaysia Berhad , which has yet to commercially launch telco TV services -- and deployments, such as its involvement in the launch of mobile TV at Hong Kong's PCCW Ltd. (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008), the construction of a mobile TV network in Indonesia, and the sourcing of content for an IPTV service in Thailand. (See Trio Work on Indonesian Mobile TV, BNS Expands IPTV Services, and BNS Sources IPTV Contract.)

Gill believes there are plenty of IPTV opportunities remaining in the Asia/Pacific telecom operator market, particularly in China. She says the company is looking for a partner in China, though she admits it's a tough market to break into.

BNS isn't just focused on telecom operators for its IPTV opportunities, however. Gill says the company has focused much of its efforts on enterprises lately, and on the hotel industry, where the rollout of high-definition TV is driving demand for pre-integrated, low-cost video encoding. She also notes that the new BNS Touch can be applied to such markets -- for example, for ordering room service and other in-house services.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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