Paris Presents Blurred TV Picture
PARIS -- If there's one major take-away from the first day of this bustling and energetic TV-Over-DSL 2005 conference in Paris, it's this: No one can agree on anything. And that's got to be confusing for carriers hoping to map out a strategy for delivering TV and video over their copper plants.
After nine hours of presentations, debate, and show floor shuffling, the average carrier executive's head must have been spinning. While large vendors such as Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Siemens Communications Group say that almost anything is possible right now with the technology that's already available, smaller, niche players are warning that technical incompatibilities, content rights dilemmas, and set-top box confusion are waiting to bite the service providers in le cul.
So as the show exhibitors and conference speakers rev up following a night out in Gay Paree, here are some snippets from yesterday's proceedings.
Microsoft: Alcatel Link Just Talk
Hemang Mehta, group product manager at Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq: MSFT) TV business, was vague when asked about a potential partnership with rival Alcatel (see Alcatel, Microsoft Tuning IPTV Deal).
"There has been speculation of a relationship, but we are always talking to a lot of potential partners. We're working with Alcatel at SBC, and I think people have maybe jumped to conclusions because of that," says Mehta (see SBC Awards Microsoft $400M IPTV Deal ).
The Microsoft man, who also appeared on a 10-person panel at the close of the day (there's a moderator's nightmare -- who's at the end of the table again?), says his company is in a number of trials with European operators other than the already announced Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) and Telecom Italia SpA (NYSE: TI) engagements, but he can reveal no more. And he only smiled when asked about BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). (See BT Puts IPTV to the Test.)
RFPs to the Left of Us, RFPs to the Right
Word on the show floor here in Paris is that a number of cities and municipalities have issued RFPs for TV-over-DSL projects, with the Netherlands at the heart of the action.
According to one visitor, who requested anonymity, Amsterdam has issued its second request for proposal to vendors as it looks to provide video over its planned citywide fiber network, while Rotterdam issued its first late in 2004.
And the Spanish are taking an interest, too, according to this source. Amsterdam's project involves about 450,000 homes, but a city collective in Northern Spain that comprises many more homes has also issued a tender document that's exciting the interest of vendors.
Quote of the Day
Rik Missault, VP of marketing at Alcatel's fixed solutions division, reminds attendees what the event's all about: "TV is still the main application for TV over DSL."
What to Do With the Set-Top Box?
With so many companies focused on major network elements that enable video delivery – DSLAMs, encoders, servers, and so on -- a major preoccupation of conference attendees in Paris is the role of the set-top box.
Should it be dumb? Or intelligent? Sold at cost, with a margin, or as a customer-attracting loss leader? And who owns the end-user device? The carrier or the content owners?
The debate is linked to the discussion over personal video recorder (PVR) services. Should the PVR be a hard drive on the set-top box, and situated at the home (where children can stick pencils into it and the family pet fait pipi on it). Or should PVR capabilities be held in the network?
Guess which option the storage vendors favor.
TV and video system news announcements of note from the past few days:
- Tut Systems Reports Q4
- NetCentrex, Thales Team on Triple Play
- Siemens Touts TV Over DSL
- Alcatel Enhances Open Media Client
- Orca Services 40,000 IPTV Subs
- Alcatel Signs With ANT
- Tut Struts Its IP Video Stuff