Ericsson's efforts to command the telco TV technology market through a series of major acquisitions and investments may have been rewarded with market leadership status, but strategic dithering following the acquisition of the Mediaroom business from Microsoft has led to uncertainty and unrest amongst customers and resulted in the defection of at least one major client.
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has built itself a significant position in the IPTV and video infrastructure industry with a series of acquisitions, starting with Tandberg TV in 2007 and, more recently, the purchase in September 2013 of the Mediaroom business from Microsoft, which had amassed about 40 telco customers including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY), Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM), Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF). (See Ericsson Offers $1.4B for Tandberg TV, Ericsson Closes Mediaroom Acquisition, Ericsson Buys Microsoft's IPTV Unit and Telefónica, Microsoft Build Global Video Platform.)
But industry sources tell Light Reading that Ericsson failed to act quickly following the Mediaroom acquisition, which closed a year ago, and left customers in the dark about its platform evolution plans.
That dithering contributed to the decision by Swisscom, which had built a successful IPTV business with more than 1 million customers based on the Mediaroom platform since its launch in 2006, to opt for an alternative IPTV technology strategy that is instead based on Android software and cloud capabilities. (See Swisscom Boasts FTTX Milestone and Swisscom Finally Launches IPTV.)
The operator, which faces intense competition from rivals such as Sunrise and UPC Cablecom (part of the Liberty Global empire), wanted to offer a video service that included full network DVR and multiscreen delivery capabilities to advance its service offerings, and ultimately couldn't wait for Ericsson to communicate and then act on a suitable evolution strategy for Mediaroom.
As a result, Swisscom launched its TV 2.0 service in April this year with a set-top box running an Android-based service delivery system that supports cloud-based DVR capabilities and multi-screen delivery.
"With Swisscom TV 2.0 we switched to an Android-based cloud solution which is mainly developed by Swisscom," said Olaf Schulze, a spokesman at the operator, in response to Light Reading's questions. "The reason for changing to a new TV platform is simply the higher flexibility we gain with our own developed cloud-based solution," he added.
The Mediaroom system is not being ripped and replaced -- it just doesn't feature in the operator's most up-to-date and recent IPTV offering. "There is still our Mediaroom-based TV product on the market for our more favorable TV bundles," added Schulze.
So what happened with Ericsson and Mediaroom -- does it have a platform evolution strategy yet?
It seems that something might be revealed at the upcoming IBC trade show in Amsterdam, but for the moment the company isn't saying much.
In an email to Light Reading, it stated: "Ericsson is making big investments in the TV space, which has included the acquisition of Mediaroom. Ericsson IPTV platforms are the most deployed platforms in the world, powering services to over 15 million consumers in 34 countries via 77 pay TV operators. Ericsson has shared its Future TV Anywhere vision outlining how we believe Pay TV platforms will evolve over the next several years. As the cloud will be a major transition for the industry, Ericsson is working very closely with operators to realize this vision." (See Ericsson Broadcasts its TV Anywhere Message.)
It did, though, admit that it had some work to do. "We have not yet launched any products related to the vision or shared timelines for availability," stated the company, adding that it expects to be able to share "a lot of news on the positive progress that has been made a year since the acquisition closed" during the IBC show.
It's unclear whether other operators have shared Swisscom's frustration and sought alternative IPTV delivery technology platforms. One industry source told Light Reading that many Mediaroom customers had issued RFIs (requests for information) to the industry seeking details of alternative solutions, but that source also noted that this was standard practice to keep all the vendors on their toes, adding that Ericsson had also managed to pick up some new and quite significant deals for the Mediaroom platform since the acquisition.
Other vendors in the telco TV service delivery platform sector include Beenius, Espial Group Inc. , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Minerva Networks Inc. , Netgem , Viaccess-Orca and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763).
For more on Ericsson's IPTV developments, see:
- Ericsson Bags Azuki Systems
- Ericsson Plans Big Expansion in Silicon Valley
- Ericsson Shares its Media Vision 2020
- Ericsson Lands Massive Russian CDN Deal
- Ericsson to Buy Red Bee Media
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading