NEC Pins Its IPTV Hopes on IMS
At least it's got a gimmick. Having announced its IPTV end-to-end offering just yesterday, in preparation for the IPTV World Forum in London, NEC is arguably a bit late to the party. Companies such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI) have claimed chunks of the IPTV market already. (See NEC Provides IPTV.)
Even so, NEC is claiming it sees a chance to gain ¥50 billion ($486 million) in IPTV sales by 2010.
That NEC is getting into IPTV at all might seem surprising, but Nick Satomi, NEC vice president of business development, notes that the company has been selling gear into video networks for years. Only now is it tying those pieces into a whole that's labeled as IPTV.
The IMS tactic bears some similarity to what's brewing at Nortel Networks Ltd. , where executives are betting that new IPTV applications will help it grab the attention of big-name carriers. (See Nortel 'Applies' Itself in IPTV.)
NEC is looking further into the future. Most telco TV projects aren't running IMS yet. NEC's hope is that as carriers upgrade IPTV networks, they'll want to add advanced services that are best provided through an IMS infrastructure.
"Some of those people may talk about a future direction using IMS to deliver value-added services to go with IPTV," Satomi says. "The service delivery platform, along with an IMS platform, is flexible enough to accomodate e-commerce or telephone services."
In particular, NEC is touting some of IMS's quality of service (QOS) attributes. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) 's Tispan NGN standard, for instance, describes a Resource and Admission Control Subsystem (RACS) that lets applications reserve bandwidth and QOS levels in the access and aggregation networks. That's the kind of functionality NEC wants to add to IPTV. (See Tispan: IMS Plus.)
NEC's isn't the first IMS-capable IPTV product. Alcatel-Lucent's IPTV system can work with the company's IMS offerings, for instance.
There's a problem, though. So far, implementing an IMS strategy costs too much to get consideration in current IPTV networks.
"It's a shame, because it holds a lot of promise. It's just so expensive," says Colin Dixon, an analyst with The Diffusion Group (TDG) . "Operators can't stomach it."
He points to the example of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), which is spending billions on the FiOS network upgrade, which doesn't incorporate an IMS topology.
Japan is an obvious target for NEC, but Satomi says the company has its eye on U.S. telcos and even cable TV providers.
Most pieces of NEC's IPTV offering come from the company's internal R&D efforts. The centerpiece is a new video-on-demand server, the NC7500-VD, that's debuting at the IPTV World Forum.
NEC won't make its own set-top boxes, instead relying on the established vendors in that space. And its transport options include the MX line of Ethernet switch/routers from Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). (See Juniper Antes Up on Ethernet (Finally).)
Its IPTV middleware is the QualiTVision software platform from Cascade Ltd. , a subsidiary of PCCW Ltd. (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008). That middleware is being used in PCCW's own Hong Kong-based IPTV deployment, one of the biggest TV-over-broadband deployments in the world, and also in Thailand. (See Top Ten: IPTV Carriers.)
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading