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Optical/IP

Siemens Gears Up for IPTV

Siemens Communications Group has pinned down a strategic partner in the video/TV-over-broadband sector as it, and every other major vendor worth their salt, chases equipment deals from triple-play (voice, video, and data) service providers.

The German vendor has struck a global OEM deal with middleware provider Myrio Corp. that will see Siemens integrate Myrio's IP video software into its next-generation service delivery platform, dubbed Surpass Home Entertainment (see Siemens to OEM Myrio System).

The two firms, in competition with many of the major access equipment players, are hoping to pick up valuable new business from carriers hoping to turn a buck or three from video and TV services as their traditional voice income disappears (see Video Profits on Pause? and Carrier Comes Clean on Triple Play).

The partners have already worked together in delivering a system to European incumbent Belgacom (Euronext: BELG), and Myrio marketing VP Roger Shanafelt says the two have signed other deals, including some outside Europe, that have yet to be announced (see Belgacom to Trial Interactive TV). These are deals with large, well-known operators, he claims, rather than the smaller, more regional players that account for the majority of Myrio's existing 50 or so customers (see Myrio Rides Triple Play Wave and Myrio Adds CLEC Users).

The OEM arrangement is a natural next step for the two companies, and one that will likely be replicated by others, reckons Shanafelt. He says that putting together a full video-over-IP system involves a lot of different companies, and that the market is now starting to develop "natural alignments" of vendors that have already shown their technologies can work together. "These alignments are now maturing into formal relationships," he says.

And for Myrio this is a big deal, as it gives it a big-name carrier access equipment partner that can help it compete with one of its key rivals, Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). Likewise, for Siemens it signals its intent to deliver a pre-integrated solution for carriers. "With this deal, Siemens is showing its commitment to compete with Alcatel in this market," says Shanafelt.

Not that Siemens wasn't already trying. The vendor set out its video-over-IP credentials at the recent Broadband World Forum event in Venice, where even the fastfood vendors were labelling their wares as "triple-play ready" (see Venice Awash With Triple Play). At that event, Stefan Cronjaeger, a director in the Siemens next-generation applications division, told Light Reading that Siemens had identified a number of key partners that together gave it the full range of capabilities required by service providers: Myrio for the middleware; nCube Corp. for its video server; Verimatrix Corp. for digital rights management; Tandberg Television for encoding; and a wide range of set-top box players.

Cronjaeger says Siemens plays the role of integrator and provider of the access platform, "which must have multicast capabilities" to ensure a speedy response for changing TV channels. He adds that Siemens has also brokered content deals directly with the Hollywood studios, though this is more for the smaller operators, as "the large carriers go direct to the studios themselves."

Cronjaeger says the market is just picking up for video-over-broadband solutions. "We're seeing a lot of requests for small deployments. The carriers want to test it, see how it works, and see how well the customers accept the service. But there's a lot of standardization work to be done, and there are a lot of different technical solutions. It's definitely the right time for a trial," says the Siemens man.

Meanwhile, Siemens and Myrio are butting up against a host of competitors as other partnerships take shape. Both Cronjaeger and Shanafelt identify Alcatel and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) as the big hitters, while acquisitive video-server vendor Kasenna Inc. is starting to punch above its weight (see Video Smokes in Amsterdam).

Alcatel has been building its own capabilities through acquisitions, parnerships, and internal development for some time now, and has been building up its IP video customer base (see Alcatel Unveils Open Media Suite, Alcatel, Concurrent Partner on Video, Alcatel, Acer to Deploy IP TV in Taiwan, Russians Pick Alcatel for Entertainment, and Alcatel Denies iMagic Fadeout).

Microsoft, meanwhile, has been making a lot of noise over some big-name trials, though its IPTV system isn't yet in commercial deployment (see Microsoft IPTV: Now That's Italian!, Microsoft TV Names Partners, Is Microsoft Finally Carrier Grade?, and SBC's $6 Billion Banquet). Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and ZTE Corp. are among the equipment firms pushing the software giant's solution.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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