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Optical/IP

Cisco Pitches IPTV to the Hinterlands

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and satellite transport company SES Americom said Monday they're going to sell a turnkey IPTV solution to rural local exchange carriers (RLECs) in North America. (See Cisco, SES Americom Team.)

Under the agreement, the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) will acquire the video content rights on behalf of the small carriers. SES will transport that video via satellite from its "super headend" in Vernon Valley, N.J., to the video hub offices of RLECs around the country. Once there, the video packets will move over Cisco routers and switches on the way down to the set-top boxes in subscriber homes. (See SES Americom Uses Amino.)

The companies say their IPTV solution is aimed at telcos that aren't big enough to build their own video headends. "That's always the challenge with these small guys is to get that content aggregation and content distribution," says Cisco business development manager Bob Schattner. "The benefit of Cisco working with SES is to help these customers find quicker ways to market." (See Sources: Cisco Forming IPTV 'Ecosystem'.) Cisco and SES already have been busy testing the solution. "We are in beta trials with four customers, one of which is a Tier 1, and the rest are Tier 2 and Tier 3s," says SES Americom marketing VP Jon Russo. "We expect commercial availability in the summer timeframe."

The NRTC represents 1,200 small telcos, and Cisco's Schattner says his sales organization is already talking to "hundreds of them."

When it comes to the video infrastructure part of the turnkey solution, a few gaps remain. For instance, the companies say they'll work with the RLEC on a case-by-case basis to determine which middleware, content security software, and VOD servers will be used. "We have what we call an IPTV ecosystem, so we really give people a choice as to how they deploy their IPTV solutions," SES Americom's Russo says.

SES says it has interoperability agreements with NDS Ltd. and Myrio (Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE)) for IPTV middleware; with Amino Communications Ltd. for set-top boxes; and with Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) for scrambling technology. (See Siemens Wins IPTV Deal and NDS, SES Team on IPTV.)

Cisco and SES say they'll provide more than 290 standard- and high-definition channels from 30 networks as part of their package for RLECs. SES says it had prior transport arrangements with many of those 30 programmers.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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