Optical/IP Networks

Routers Answer IPTV Call

The clarion call of video is prodding one equipment vendor after another to spin an IPTV story, with Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) being the latest entrant.

The company's SmartEdge platform already pulls double duty as an edge router and a broadband remote access server (B-RAS). With enhancements being announced today, Redback is adding Ethernet aggregation, turning SmartEdge into a three-in-one deal (see Redback Smartens Up SmartEdge).

Redback officials say this is the biggest product news they've had since 2003, when SmartEdge got its B-RAS smarts, and the announcement further cements the four-year-old platform's role in the company's comeback attempt (see Redback Sharpens SmartEdge and Can Redback Come Back? ).

Redback already supports IPTV, of course -- that's a primary reason why the company won a recent BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) deal (see How Redback Won BellSouth). By adding Ethernet aggregation, however, Redback hopes to entice carriers into handing over more of their IPTV infrastructures to SmartEdge.

To that end, Redback is giving SmartEdge 4-, 10-, and 20-port Gigabit Ethernet modules, a decision driven by IPTV. "The demand for high density comes with video," says Marco Wanders, vice president of Redback's Europe, Middle East, and Asia operations.

Other add-ons launched today include a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet module and software features like high-availability multicast, an area particularly important to TV deployments (see Alcatel Eyes Video Market). The enhancements are powered by a new spin of Redback's proprietary network processor, the Broadband IP Engine, which now includes hardware to investigate packets at Layers 4 through 7, opening the possibility of assigning quality of service (QOS) depending on application specifics.

Redback also is adding hierarchical QOS to SmartEdge's bag of tricks. That's important for services such as video, because it "enables per-subscriber QOS and per-service QOS to scale effectively as the number of services per subscriber grows," says Rick Thompson, senior analyst with Heavy Reading.

Wireline carriers in every major region are prodding equipment vendors for IPTV-related enhancements (see Europe Tunes In to IPTV, SBC: IPTV's Day Has Come, and China Shapes Up for IPTV Boom, and the LRTV segments Why the Future Is Now for Triple Play and Carrier Ethernet Services: Five Key Drivers). It's a survival thing. "One of the reasons the service providers are making IPTV such a big hype is that they finally found a place where they can differentiate themselves," says Dror Nahumi, vice president of business development at ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL).

In response, vendors are putting on the IPTV heat in preparation for Supercomm next month. For example, IPTV was the motivation for ECI to acquire Laurel Networks Inc., using that company's router and B-RAS platform as the foundation for future IP offerings (see ECI to Buy Laurel for $88M).

On the product front, Hammerhead Systems Inc. released a bevy of Ethernet products, some motivated by video (see Hammerhead Releases Ethernet Suite). The announcement included a density push, to 240 Gigabit Ethernet feeds in each of Hammerhead's HSX 6000 chassis. Separately, Anda Networks Inc. unveiled a high-density Ethernet aggregation platform today, targeting Ethernet services in general (see Anda Unveils Ethernet Aggregator).

"At the edge of the carrier infrastructure, what is most important is for the service provider to offer as many spigots to the customer as possible," says Houman Modarres, Hammerhead director of product management.

Redback expects carriers to embrace the SmartEdge's multifunctional nature, because they can expoit it to remove strata of the network, combining B-RAS with Ethernet aggregation and IP routing. "Carriers are trying to eliminate layers of the network, not because they want to, but because they have to," Wanders says.

Thompson agrees this could be a selling point for Redback. "The flexibility to either consolidate or separate aggregation from edge routing and next-gen B-RAS will be important," he says.

Still, there's a case to be made for keeping Etherent aggregation separate, an approach Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) supports with its 7450 Ethernet Service Switch and 7750 Service Router (see Alcatel Eyes Video Market).

As Thompson notes in his recent opinion piece about the ECI-Laurel deal, carriers undergoing large IPTV deployments might prefer to buy relatively cheap Ethernet aggregation boxes and have them feed IP routers. That keeps the Ethernet switching cheap and potentially simplifies the router requirements as well, since the routers would handle only aggregated flows of traffic (see ECI's Laurel Hedge) .

Redback officials say the platform is also suitable for doing one task at a time -- it could be used solely as an Ethernet aggregation switch, for example. SmartEdge would seem to be overkill in those cases, considering its other abilities would go unused, but Redback says the value in the box lies in its ability to add functionality such as B-RAS without having to swap out a chassis.

Even if a carrier never plans to add those features, SmartEdge is a worthwhile Ethernet aggregator because of the volume of traffic it handles -- 64,000 virtual LAN (VLAN) sessions per chassis, for instance. "It's the number of VLANs that makes it fundamentally different from what's out there," Wanders says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

iponthebrain 12/5/2012 | 3:13:56 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call House approves telecommunication bill
Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN GÇö Phone companies won a victory over the cable industry Sunday when the House tentatively approved a bill that would make it easier for SBC, Verizon and other phone companies to sell TV services.

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, had tried unsuccessfully twice before to get the bill approved before prevailing Sunday.

The bill, approved on a non-recorded vote, would allow phone companies to get a TV franchise from the state rather than requiring them to go to each city they want to serve to obtain franchises.

The bill also would allow phone companies to serve only the areas in a city that they choose to serve. Current law generally forces cities to require cable franchise holders to serve all homes.

Cable companies dominate TV service now but phone companies are trying to get into the business by offering video service over fiber-optic networks that also could carry voice and high-speed data transmission.

King said the bill will create billions of dollars of investment for Texas, spur job creation, increase revenue for municipalities and increase competition.

Verizon Communications Inc. spokesman Bill Kula said Texans deserve the benefits of cable competition as soon as the equipment and facilities are ready, not months or years later.

"Genuine competition will happen faster by creating a statewide franchise for video services in Texas," Kula said.

The cable industry has said poor households would be discriminated against under terms of the bill because telephone companies want to build fiber-optic networks only in upscale neighborhoods.

The telecommunications provisions were added to a bill that allows the state Public Utility Commission to continue its operations for another six years. Other provisions in the bill would stregthen the PUC's oversight of the state's electric grid operator.

After final approval in the House, expected Monday, the bill will go back to the Senate, which has already approved the PUC bill. The Senate bill, however, does not contain the TV service language. Republican Sen. Jane Nelson of Lewisville said she opposes including that language in the PUC bill.

If the Senate rejects the bill, a group of lawmakers from each chamber likely will be appointed to work out the differences.

Also Sunday, the House approved a related bill that continues the functions of the Office of Public Utility Counsel, which represents consumers in dealings with the Public Utility Commission.


The PUC bill is SB 408 and the Office of Public Utility Counsel is SB 409.

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:13:51 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call Comments rj????

The FCC has been monitoring this and expects to use it for it's starting model, so read very carefully!

It has moved further through the Texas legislature today for Texas Senate compromise. Todays Dallas Morning News statements were similar but added the following of interest;

"It is not a utility, like making sure everyone has electricity or water," he said. "This is entertainment, and it's just not the city's place to regulate."

"Mr. King said cities would still get the same amount of revenue from cable providers. Cable providers would pay to cities a fee equal to 5 percent of their gross revenues."

This seems to have cities favoring cable and the state (PUC) favoring telcos for revenue!!!

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:13:50 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call
Well, I will comment. Here is what you can expect. SBC will serve the richest communities in Texas and the poorer ones will get nothing.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:13:49 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call SBC will serve the richest communities in Texas and the poorer ones will get nothing.

I agree with this.

Seven; Sorry about the accusations in my earlier posts. I shouldn't have done that.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:13:48 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call
See this is what is funny about this whole thing. I agree that Internet and cable service is a utility. The Franchising issues were done to ensure fairness of access and payment for the use of city land. I have no truck with that.

I think we have a land of outmoded rules to deal with the current situation. However, I am still greatly in favor of letting the market do its job. Unfortunately, this law could discourage broader competition by ensuring only those with lots of money will get lots of service.

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:13:48 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call Comments rj????

I'm reading a book called Ties that Bind written by Charles David Jacobsen which discusses the history of electricity, waterworks and cable television. It has some interesting points.


One was when the US Supreme Court decided an antitrust action against AP, where members were barring competing newspapers from joining the cooperative. The court voted against AP's actions. Here's an excerpt:

Justice Hugo Black spoke for the majority: "[The First] Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society. Surely a command that the government itself shall not impede the free flow of ideas does not afford non-governmental combinations a refuge if tehy impose restraints upon that consitutionally guaranteed freedom... Freedom to publish is guaranteed by the Constitution, but freedom to combine to keep others from publishing is not."

The FCC has been monitoring this and expects to use it for it's starting model, so read very carefully!

Thanks for the "heads up". So far, this FCC and I don't agree much on policy. They seem to be catering to what SBC wants vs. doing the right thing.

"It is not a utility, like making sure everyone has electricity or water," he said. "This is entertainment, and it's just not the city's place to regulate."

Many people take this position. I think that is the fundamental basis for our disagreements. I believe societies that don't respect free speech and a free press are terrible places to live. A modern communications infrastructure is all about free speech, a free press, and the diffusion of knowledge. This FCC treats it like its only pipes for MTV or ESPN. It's very sad to me when policy makers don't strive for the ideals which are the foundations of a civilized society.

There is a reason that people choose internet access over cable access, even with the bandwidth imbalance towards the latter. Cable policy has been failing us. It helps nobody to extend these failed policies to the phone companies.
DarkWriting 12/5/2012 | 3:13:47 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call So much for "free markets".

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:13:46 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call So much for "free markets".

A problem with the free market ideology is that people treat so-called "free markets" as an ends in themselves. They rarely, if ever, ask the deeper questions like what is the purpose of a modern communications infrastructure? Or why did Justice Hugo Black have to use the US Supreme Court to make the Associated Press do the right thing?
OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:13:40 AM
re: Routers Answer IPTV Call I forgot to mention that the Texas Rep Joe Barton is Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce that will start work/have hearings updating/a new Telecom Bill, supposedly later next month.

Obviously he will work in concert with the FCC as a major contributor looking at what the Texas legislator has done. (No update today on Texas legislation).

But first they will try to make me buy a digital receiver for my analog TV so congress can sell that analog TV BW.

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