Optical/IP Networks

Bay's House Is Back

LAS VEGAS, NV - When Dave House took over as chairman and CEO of Bay Networks a few years ago, he referred to it as "a small company" in an interview with Data Communications magazine. Bay didn't represent much of a challenge, he said, because he was from Intel Corp. http://www.intel.com

As things worked out, the big cheese from Intel ended up getting a big title - president of Nortel Networks - when his company got bought. Then he quietly dropped out of sight.

Now, House is back. And this time, he's with a truly tiny company. He's the chairman of VillaMontage Systems, Inc. http://www.villamontage.com a startup that's developing products aimed at enabling carriers to make money out of rolling out broadband connections to large numbers of homes.

All of this week, House has been holding court in suite 2430 of the Hilton Hotel next to the Network + Interop show in Las Vegas, briefing journalists and analysts on the big things they can expect from VillaMontage, now that it's come out of hiding.

So, what's the big deal?

VillaMontage is a startup founded by another ex-Bay staffer, Tony Clark, the CEO. It's raised a total of just over $9 million, from Convergence Partners and a bunch of private investors, including House. VillaMontage is aiming to help carriers work with content providers to offer applications such as Web-based video and interactive games over DSL, cable and broadband wireless connections to homes.

It reckons there's a huge market for this type of offering - possibly 25 million homes by 2003 in the US alone, according to Ryan Hankin Kent http://www.rhk.com.

A key element of VillaMontage's offering is its "Broadband Operating System Software", which enables content providers to develop applications without having to consider the network over which they will be delivered. Villamontage's software takes care of this, if necessary changing the way in which the content is delivered to match the characteristics of the access infrastructure.

Take an example of someone requesting a video. If the user has sufficient bandwidth, then it might be delivered as streaming DVD, in real time. If the user has less bandwidth, then he or she may be given the option of accepting a lower quality picture for less money, or waiting for a DVD file to be downloaded over the network, so that it can be run locally. These adjustments are made automatically by Villamontage's software, which also collects traffic statistics for billing purposes.

Villamontage's software runs on three hardware platforms that are used to deliver content over broadband access nets.

The first is a multi-gigabit switching and routing platform that sits in the carrier's central office and connects to the Internet. Each switch can shunt high speed streams of data, voice and video to 5,000 customers, over any type of broadband access net.

The second is a broadband wireless base station comprising an array of antennas that can beam signals to as many 1,000 homes.

The third is a low cost box that terminates the service in homes and provides connections for household equipment such as TV sets and PCs. Clark says that the overall cost of the whole system will cost around $550 per customer connection.

Right now, VillaMontage is demonstrating some of the functions of its software at the Networld + Interop show (booth 8114). It expects to start lab trials early next year, and start field trials by mid 2001.

By Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com

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