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Video software

NDS Joins Nortel's IPTV Party

LONDON -- IPTV World Forum -- Nortel Networks Ltd. , at last, is starting to show signs of life in the IPTV world.

Following news of a joint set-top box development, the Canadian vendor today announced a reseller and joint marketing agreement with NDS Ltd. , a company with significant experience in the TV world. (See Nortel, NDS Team on IPTV and Nortel & LG Prep New IPTV Set-Top.)

Nortel will resell NDS's Metro middleware product, which includes the MediaHighway set-top box middleware client that has already been deployed by multiple broadcast and satellite service providers, and is currently installed in about 50 million set-top boxes worldwide.

But Nortel's not just reselling the stuff. It's integrating some of its own technology -- a multimedia client -- into the MediaHighway middleware to enable carriers to offer integrated VOIP and messaging services alongside interactive IPTV services.

But Nortel already has an IPTV middleware partner in Minerva Networks Inc. , so is that relationship on the rocks? (See Nortel, Minerva Find IPTV Partners.)

Not at all, says Nortel's Leader of IPTV for the EMEA region, David Holt: "We've always said we are building an ecosystem. We'll continue with the Minerva relationship where it's most appropriate, but there are some market demands, for instance in Europe, that suit NDS."

Holt says these market demands include local language support, and NDS has already developed applications such as electronic language guides in multiple European and Asian languages.

That's not to say that Minerva can't cut it in Europe, as it has already proved, and Nortel executives stress that both relationships are global in nature. (See Minerva Powers Polish IPTV.)

But while NDS has plenty of experience with broadcast and satellite service deployments, its telco-focused middleware technology, which also includes a headend element as well as the set-top box software, is relatively new, having been unveiled in June 2006, and it doesn't yet have any telco reference accounts, having announced just one engagement at satellite-based service provider SES Americom . (See NDS, SES Team on IPTV.)

Holt says that's not a problem, saying that Nortel has tested the software for carrier suitability.

But one experienced IPTV executive says that will make things harder for the new partners, as carriers like to work with proven platforms that have reference accounts. However, the executive, who provided unattributable background comment, believes the Nortel/NDS combination makes sense. "NDS is a big name in the TV world, and Nortel is an experienced player in the telecom world. There's advantages for both in this relationship."

IPTV middleware is also an increasingly crowded market, with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), along with partner Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Siemens Communications Group , Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453), Dreampark AB , Orca Interactive Ltd. , Espial Group Inc. , Kudelski Group , and Kasenna Inc. just some of the vendors competing to be the carriers' TV service delivery platform of choice.

But Nortel is nothing if not confident of delivering hard and fast results from the new partnership. Sameer Sheth, Nortel's Leader of Video Solutions (head of global IPTV strategy), says the combination will deliver revenues to Nortel "in the near-term," most likely during 2007, and that Nortel will be making a lot more IPTV announcements in the coming months.

To date, Nortel's only notable IPTV engagement has been with Canadian operator Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T), where the vendor has taken Minerva in as its middleware partner. (See Nortel Helps Telus With IPTV.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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