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Video services

IPTV Forum: AlcaLu Ups Its Multimedia Game

LONDON -– IPTV World Forum 2010 -– Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) today announced its Multimedia Solution, a package of capabilities that includes its Multi-Screen Video Solution "blueprint," which enables the delivery of TV and video content to multiple screens, and its Multi-Screen Foundation "blueprint," a set of network-based capabilities that supports the multi-screen process.

(A blueprint, in AlcaLu-speak, is a solution that's the sum of multiple applications and capabilities. [Ed. note: Well, duh.])

The whole idea of Alcatel-Lucent's multimedia strategy is to enable network operators to extend their content services, such as IPTV, video-on-demand (VoD), cable TV, and so on, to other connected devices, allowing users access to the content they want from the device of their choice, be it a TV, PC, or mobile phone.

"The market has evolved -- there are new opportunities for content services," says AlcaLu's VP of multimedia solutions, Willem Verbiest. "There are new mobile devices on the market now with excellent video capabilities, and people are using them to consume premium content."

Alcatel-Lucent believes "cross-screen [capabilities] is important -- people want a consistent experience across multiple platforms," says Verbiest, who notes that his company has conducted extensive market research to verify this.

The problem is, he says, that there are so many devices, most of which are incompatible, so AlcaLu has been working on how to make the whole content ecosystem -- from ingest at the headend to the user's device of choice -- work together in a smooth and seamless fashion, so that service providers can develop service bundles and develop multiple business models, including those that incorporate over-the-top (OTT) content.

Building a foundation
The Multi-Screen Foundation solution is an extension of AlcaLu's "applications enablement" proposition, as the vendor has developed the Foundation set of tools so that, using the company's previously announced Application Exposure Suite, certain pre-determined assets can be "exposed" (using APIs) to internal and third-party applications developers. Those developers, in turn, can then create appropriate new services. (See AlcaLu Shows Off Its Apps Abs.)

The Foundation includes a number of existing Alcatel-Lucent products. At the headend, where content is introduced into the service provider's network, AlcaLu offers its 7450 Ethernet switch and 5920 MCM (Multimedia Content Manager), integrated with video processing capabilities from partner Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT), and storage platforms from another partner, Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN).

This combination of assets incorporates the "intelligence, business logic, and asset management capabilities" needed for three-screen delivery, says Verbiest.

In addition, Alcatel-Lucent includes its 8661 Directory Server and 8660 Data Grid Suite for the "federated identity" capabilities needed to manage the delivery of content to multiple devices used by a single subscriber. For converged payments, the 5920 MCM is again utilized, as is the vendor's 8610 ICC (Instant Convergent Charging) for real-time rating and charging.

And for messaging and communication services, AlcaLu offers its 5155 RCM (Rich Communications Manager).

Underpinning all this, of course, is the company's professional services offering for planning, integration, technical support, and managed services operations.

The Foundation provides the bedrock that enables content to be managed in a three-screen deployment, while the Multi-Screen Video solution contains specific applications for the delivery and control of content on the devices. This solution, explains Verbiest, is an overlay that works with the Foundation blueprint, but will also work with any existing video delivery system from any vendor.

It includes tools for the delivery of an electronic program guide (EPG), live TV, time-shifted TV, VoD, and DVR capabilities. It also enables multi-screen streaming (the ability to continue watching a stream of content on different devices), targeted advertising, and a Bell Labs-developed function called Mobile Smartloading, which enables up to four hours of content to be offloaded and stored offline for consumption on a mobile device.

Developing Velocix
AlcaLu has also unveiled a range of content delivery devices, which network operators can deploy in their own networks for content transport, based on the Velocix platform it acquired in July 2009. (See AlcaLu Buys CDN Specialist Velocix.)

Prior to the acquisition, Velocix, which had built and was operating a global content delivery network (CDN), had begun developing its own standalone technology, so this is Alcatel-Lucent's extension of that strategy. (See Velocix Launches Metro Kit.)

There are five devices for specific functions, including storage, content delivery, and routing, all developed in-house and all with varying levels of capacity.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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