Brix Launches Triple Test for Triple Play
The company reckons carrier IPTV developments have reached the stage where service providers will be shifting their test-and-measurement strategies from the lab and pre-deployment stages into the network. (See IPTV: New Signs of Life , AT&T, Verizon Tout Telco TV , and RBOC IPTV: The Quiet Ones.)
Brix isn't the only company to have identified the IPTV service assurance niche as a growth market. The large test-and-measurement players, such as Spirent Communications and JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) are also targeting carriers with products, while a number of specialist startups, such as IneoQuest Technologies Inc. and Bridge Technologies Co AS , are focusing on measuring the quality of the video streams traveling across the network. (See Spirent Launches Tester , Acterna Puts Video to the Test, and IneoQuest Spews Video Test News.)
So, in conjunction with some of its carrier customers, Brix has developed what it calls BrixVision, a service assurance system based on the deployment of network probes that, by sending passive test signals across the network, monitor three things simultaneously: the IP network; the video equipment elements deployed to deliver the IPTV service; and the quality of experience of the end user.
The quality of experience measure is made by having one of the network probes replicate a set-top box. The test signals sent by such probes allow a service provider to determine how responsive the network is to user requests, such as a channel change.
The company has also developed what it calls an IPTV dashboard, a monitoring interface that provides a view of the statistics being generated by the BrixVision system.
The system, set for commercial availability in May, is being delivered to customers now for a "test drive," says VP of marketing John Burnham, while one carrier that Brix can't identify has "spearheaded the collaborative development of this product."
Rick Thompson, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, reckons Brix is entering the IPTV market "at a good time with a necessary solution, given the status of service provider IPTV rollouts. Until now, a vast majority of carriers' efforts have been focused on video network architecture issues," says the analyst, but "quality of experience for IPTV subscribers must be high from day one, or the telco solution will be a non-starter."
As IPTV services scale up and new applications, such as integrated video and communications services, are added, "continued focus will be placed on service assurance from service providers of various sizes. Brix has a good appreciation for the complexity of IP video, and a proven heritage with voice applications," which should help the company compete against other IPTV test-and-measurement players that are "solely focused on video. Brix's three-pronged approach should be welcomed by carriers, which understand that it’s each of these areas that combine to form a total service quality of experience," says the analyst, who has authored a number of IPTV reports in the past year. (See HR Sees B-RAS Role Expanding and IPTV Alters Network Landscape.)
But while Brix might have an attractive story for IPTV service providers, does it pack enough punch to get its foot in the door of the major players and win some deals? OSS Observer analyst Patrick Kelly reckons Brix has an offer that will attract the attention of IPTV service providers, but believes Brix needs to "consider its partnerships and team up with an established and influential systems supplier in the IPTV world such as Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). The service providers are investing billions of dollars in their IPTV strategies, so they're going to be reluctant to put their faith in a small vendor."
Brix says it's in partnership talks with "a number of the major IP infrastructure, middleware, and residential gateway vendors to collaborate to provide true end-to-end visibility into the delivery of IPTV services," but can't identify any of those companies at present.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading