Video services

EchoStar Pitches Telco TV Package

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- TelcoTV -- Well, folks, it looks like satellite TV figurehead Charlie Ergen, chairman and CEO of Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), has his hungry eyes on a slice of the IPTV systems market too.

EchoStar Technologies LLC, the set-top and technology unit that split off from Dish Network early this year, is branching further into the telco world with a strategy centered on an all-MPEG-4 video satellite-fed distribution system and an integrated "turn-key" play that bundles in EchoStar's own IPTV set-tops, middleware, and conditional access (CA) system. (See EchoStar Ready to Split.)

EchoStar is pitching the concept to Tier 2 and Tier 3 telcos, though it could also be suitable for cable operators that migrate to IPTV platforms.

The video transport part of the package, introduced in 2007 under the VIP-TV banner, will compete head on with Avail Media Inc. and SES Americom 's IP Prime service. (See EchoStar Unveils ViP-TV.)

VIP-TV's present "proposed" programming transport channel lineup comprises 300 video and music channels. More than 40 are in high definition. Here's what VIP-TV GM Dan Daines told LRTV about it in July:

EchoStar is combining that offering with a more extensive IPTV platform that uses the NagraStar conditional access system (from the Dish-Nagravision SA joint venture), and EchoStar's own middleware and interactive program guide. EchoStar is also in discussions regarding the integration of conditional access systems from other IPTV players, including Latens Systems Ltd. , Verimatrix Inc. , and Widevine Technologies Inc. , according to EchoStar VP of sales and marketing Michael Hawkey.

EchoStar has also developed two IPTV set-tops: an HD-DVR box that can tune to two televisions or provide picture-in-picture in one TV; and a lower-end high-definition box, though this can be converted into a DVR by linking it to an external storage device with USB 2.0 connections.

Although the VIP-TV transport service is ready to roll now, the other turn-key elements should start to enter lab trials early next year, Hawkey says.

But how does EchoStar expect to stand out in a crowded field? Hawkey thinks telcos will give EchoStar more than a look because it's basing everything on an integrated system that's been "tried and tested" to millions of customers: That's a reference to the technology base used by Dish Network.

Beyond that, EchoStar is also looking to add more advanced features, including multi-room DVR functionality and some place-shifting applications from its Sling Media Inc. division.

If all that strategy sounds familiar, it should. EchoStar is also trying to win business in the cable industry with set-tops that use the tru2way platform. The company has acknowledged that winning cable's trust will be a significant challenge, but remains confident MSOs will give EchoStar a shot if the tech firm can offer competitive pricing and advanced product feature sets. (See EchoStar Blazing Way to Tru2way .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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