Ericsson Brings the IPTV
Compared to some of its peers, Ericsson arrives a little late to the IPTV party. Vendors like Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) have already established technology partners, pieced together integrated solutions, and are now well into actual deployments. (See Microsoft, Alcatel Renew Deals.)
But according to Ericsson's technical director for wireline services, Peter Linder, the technology that makes IPTV happen is still relatively young. As a result, he says, the carrier market for IPTV systems is still young. (See Ericsson CEO Talks.)
Ericsson's IPTV strategy puts heavy emphasis on fixed/mobile convergence as a way of leveraging the company's strong track record in wireless. Sixteen of Ericsson's wireless carrier customers are now delivering mobile TV service to subscribers, Linder tells Light Reading. For those customers, Ericsson contributes gear from its wireless infrastructure portfolio as well as video encoding and content management software. Ericsson will offer fixed-line carriers its wireless infrastructure and mobile TV product combined with an IPTV middleware platform and VOD server software from Kasenna.
Some observers weren't suprised at Ericsson's choice for a middleware partner. After all, many of the best middleware makers have already formed partnerships with infrastructure provider partners. (See IPTV MiddleWARs: Far From Over.) "Ericsson is a latecomer to the IPTV space but Kasenna's IPTV middleware system is established," writes IPTV consultant Steve Hawley of Advanced Media Strategies LLC in an email to Light Reading Monday.
"Although it does not have a large installed base, Kasenna's system is designed with integration in mind, and it's not a surprising move for either company," Hawley adds.
Another key part of the Ericsson offering is its use of open-source components. "We don’t subscribe to the belief that one company should do all parts," Ericsson's Linder says. "Part of the reason we chose to use open-source technology is so that the operator can use a best-of-breed solution."
The Ericsson portfolio, which will support ADSL and VDSL access networks, will use MPEG4 encoding to deliver video (including high-definition video). The open-source approach will allow carrier customers to use the set-top boxes of their choosing, Linder says. Ericsson says it will provide its own flavor of video encoding systems instead of partnering, he says.
But another Ericsson exec, director of multimedia solutions, content and media Anders Bergtoft, tells Light Reading his company currently is testing Amino Communications Ltd. set-top boxes and Tandberg Television encoding equipment in its labs to ensure compatibility.
Bergtoft says his company's relationship with Kasenna is its only official IPTV technology partnership. Ericsson marketing director Mikael Halen adds that the Kasenna arrangement isn't exclusive, and that Ericsson will accommodate operators that wish to use other middleware platforms.
Ericsson says its video distribution system hews closely to the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) as a way to integrate content and communication services, as well as to deliver converged services to both wired and wireless devices. (See Ericsson Lands VDSL2 Platform.)
Ericsson is basing its home networking code on specifications developed by a standards group called the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA). Other companies participating in the alliance include Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453). CPE from any participating vendor will plug-and-play in home networks connected to the Ericsson IPTV platform.
While Ericsson's basic IPTV strategy has apparently been planned out, it's clear that some of the details are still being filled in. Partnerships to cover things like DRM and content management are still being formed. Ericsson has yet to enter carrier trials using Kasenna technology to enable fixed-line IPTV service, Linder says. (See Ericsson, Sony Team Up.)
Halen says Ericsson's approach to content also differs from many first-generation IPTV systems. Halen says his company intends to help carriers move away from the "one to many" or "scheduled" content model and toward a "one to one" and on-demand programming model.
Ericsson envisions doing something similar to a Napster service for both music and video. He describes a content clearinghouse where subscribers form playlists of various forms of music and video content. The system could interactively suggest new content based on viewing/listening habits of the subscriber.
— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading