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NAB2005: Telco Video Bingo

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
4/25/2005

LAS VEGAS -- NAB2005 -- Broadcast pros were talking IPTV and triple play last week, because they see emerging telephone company access networks as a promising new distribution channel for their content.

In the show's opening keynote, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) CEO Ivan Seidenberg set the tone by talking up fiber to the premises; and, all week long, Verizon peppered the show with announcements of its latest content distribution deals (see Verizon Attacks Video's 'Biggest Barrier').

Interestingly, the preponderance of telco TV announcements may have accomplished the most daunting task of all -- giving NAB some kind of focus. Everyone wants their video -- and more (see Video Is the Internet).

The show was gigantic -- 97,000 people were here last year and this year the number was projected to be well over 100,000. According to show officials, 21 percent of attendees are video production people, 17 percent worked for broadcasting entities, and the rest fall into the "other" category (station managers, journalists, hot dog vendors, fire-eaters, telecom engineers, etc.).



In any one of the four mammoth “technology pavilions,” attendees could walk by one booth selling digital cameras, right next to another selling studio furniture, next to a third selling set-top boxes.

But everyone was talking telco TV (see SBC: IPTV's Day Has Come). Like every other industry in a digital transformation, broadcast pros are replacing everything in the content distribution chain from the cameras that shoot the video to the set-top boxes that decode it and show it to consumers. And they definitely have an appetite to put their new, improved content on new, improved networks (see Who Makes What: Telco Video).

Here are a few notes we picked up along the transformation superhighway (groan!):

  • Hewlett-Packard Co.’s (NYSE: HPQ) Christina Schneider says her company wants to be a systems integrator for IPTV network build-outs. HP supplies the servers for an end-to-end solution. Its partners -- Kasenna Inc. and Widevine Technologies Inc. -- provide the software, while Amino Technologies plc adds set-top boxes, and Castify Networks glues the whole kit together with its middleware.

  • Scientific-Atlanta Inc. (NYSE: SFA) demonstrated its D9032 Dual Pass Encoder, which it says can help operators include more than ten channels in the 38.8-Mbit/s video stream. Espial Group Inc.’s Evo client TV middleware was also on display with Scientific-Atlanta's set-top boxes at the company's booth (see Espial Shows Its TV Middleware).

  • In the parking lot outside the convention center, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) built a whole house to demonstration its IPTV/DVR system running over the coaxial cable in the home. Using the Motorola system, every TV in the house had DVR features, even though there was only one DVR device in the whole house. The home also featured an "enhanced audio" chair, "The Buttkicker." Sound comfy?



  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) had a booth as big as a small apartment building, housing not only its own content creation and end-to-end IPTV distribution products but also those of numerous “Microsoft Partner” companies. Microsoft was pitching the idea of a “home communications server,” as a new iteration of the desktop-bound PC of today. As such, Microsoft is developing or partnering to play in as many parts of the distribution network as possible.

  • Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), for instance, trotted out its newest encoders and the company demonstrated in real time what it says is the first headend-to-set-top box system for distributing VC-1 files over IP. VC-1 is a compression standard developed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).

  • Thomson Broadcast and Media Solutions showed its new Windows Media-9 set-top box for IPTV delivery, and also a new compression and streaming device, the IPS 1200, which the company says is designed especially for telecom carrier networks. Its output is to Gigabit Ethernet, supporting stream speeds of up to 700 Mbit/s for DSL and FTTH networks.

  • Inlet Technologies Inc. and Tandberg Television displayed new Windows Media-9 encoders. Tandberg says its EN5980 encoder already has been chosen by a number of major telcos for trialing IPTV service delivery.

  • One huge concern of broadcasters is the digital rights management (DRM) functionality, which sets the rules for how, when, and where content may be viewed. “Content security is the lynchpin of the entire system of delivering IPTV,” says Widevine Technologies CEO Brian Baker (see IPTV Security: Content Is King).

  • The delivery of broadcast and video content to wireless devices, especially cell phones, was a hot topic both on the show floor and in the sessions. thePlatform Inc. demonstrated a Windows-based download manager that enables content owners and service providers to transcode, package, and set business rules around video content for delivery to cell phones. The systems support MPEG-2 and Windows Media-9 files.



Other announcements at the show included:



— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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