Viodi View – 08/09/13

Ken Pyle interviewing Jaime Montes of SureWest at the Viamedia booth at the 2013 Indy Show.
ViodiTV @ The Independent Show – photo courtesy of Becky Jones

The moments of life blur together as the years speed by faster and faster. Travel tends to accelerate the blur, as the towns and conferences seem to melt into a collage of images and seem to be part of another life. The moments that standout are when those different paths intersect, like they did last week at The Independent Show in San Diego, when my kids literally got a close-up of my friends and colleagues from around the country. It was better than that, as my kids were active participants in bringing ViodiTV to the hotel channel of the conference.

Thanks boys for the great work and thanks ACA and NCTC for your support in making it happen and to AXS TV and Viamedia for the advertising on this extremely local channel.


Opportunities Amidst Uncertainty

An image of one of the banners at The Independent Show - 2013.
ViodiTV at The Independent Show

Slices of last week’s Indy Show with soundbites from several of the speakers are found in this video. Outdated rules, regulatory uncertainty and the burdens of regulations were on the minds of many of the speakers and attendees, as reflected by comments from Ross Lieberman of ACA, Shirley Bloomfield of NTCA and Matt Polka of ACA. At the same time, there was a sense of optimism around broadband.

Stay tuned, as Viodi will be releasing the complete video interviews of the aforementioned industry experts, as well as others who participated in the 2013 Independent Show.

Click here to view and to read more.


Be Careful What You Ask For

Ken Pyle interviews Mike Grebb of CableFAX at The Independent Show
Click to view video

Retransmission consent reform was a hot topic at this week’s Indy Show. In this interview, Mike Grebb, Executive Editor of CableFAX provides an overview of some of the discussions heard on this topic, including thoughts on the retransmission consent flare-up between CBS and Time-Warner, comments from Insight founder Michael Wilner on being careful what you wish for regarding legislative or regulatory relief and the potential for Aereo to disrupt retransmission rules.

Click here to view and to read more.


Advertising Partnership Drives New Revenue for Existing Networks

Ken Pyle interviews Becky Jones of Viamedia at The Independent Show.
Click to view video

Many years ago, a wise marketer suggested that the value from cross-promoting different parts of his triple play would, by itself, justify ad insertion in his channel line-up. His challenge was that there were higher priorities for his company’s staff and ad insertion was way down the list of priorities for his IPTV network. Fast-forward almost a decade later and his words echoed in my head as I spoke to Becky Jones, VP Marketing and Research for Viamedia, at The Independent Show.

Thanks Viamedia for advertising with ViodiTV on the hotel channel at The Independent Show.

Click here to view and to read more.


Arash Afrakhteh on How to Create a Successful Network Software Company by Alan Weissberger

Arash Afrakhteh
Click to read more

In 1993, Arash Afrakhteh immigrated to the U.S. from Iran to work at Microsoft. He initially felt like “a kid in a candy store,” as a result of the stimulating intellectual environment, bright people, and excellent software tools at the software giant. In 2001, Arash became an entrepreneur when he co-founded Cariden Technologies, Inc. without taking any money from VC’s or angel investors!

Click here to read his story.


AT&T Offers Faster U-Verse Internet in CA and NV by Alan Weissberger

A picture of conduit for fiber optic cable being laid in a city street.
Click to read more

AT&T has launched a very tangible piece of its Project Velocity IP (VIP) in Nevada and California, introducing a faster U-verse broadband tier that delivers theoretical download speeds of up to 45 M bits/sec and upstream speeds of 6 M bits/sec. The new broadband tier, called U-verse High Speed Internet Power, will cost $50 a month as a promotional price to consumers who bundle it with TV and voice services on a two-year deal, after which the tier will cost $76 a month, AT&T said.

Click here to read more.


The Korner – Back In, Safety First

An example of a backed in car. Nationally renowned safety experts recommend that this is the safest way to park one's car.
An example of a backed in car. Nationally renowned safety experts recommend that this is the safest way to park one’s car. Click to view the associated video.

“Attaboy,” is a quote from Chris Trembley that I will remember for a long time. Trembley and Dan Berg are safety experts from the Minnesota Telecom Association who train operator employees within Minnesota as well as other states, such as Iowa. In this video interview, they emphasize the importance of creating a culture of safety within an organization. They suggest that safety starts with and has to be a priority of the company leaders. Other good things will result, when safety is put first.

Dan Berg points out that safety doesn’t end at the workplace and that, “Slips, Trips and Falls are horrible on the job and off the job.” Of course, safety and driving go hand in hand. An important part of driving is parking and Trembley confirmed that backing in a parking spot is the safe way to park (better visibility when one leaves). Hopefully, Trembley’s comments will finally put to bed the decades long debate in the Pyle household as to the best way to park a car. Thanks Chris and Dan for your insight!

Click here to view the video.

The Advent of Ultra High Definition TV

[Note: The original article was authored by Catherine Wallace and edited by Ken Pyle for the Viodi View]

A new generation of television is here. Designed to leave current HD TVs in the dust, 4K televisions showed up in force at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year and the associated production equipment was demonstrated at April’s National Association of Broadcasters’ Convention. As amazing as these televisions are, some question whether consumers will be able to afford them and how many will even be interested after only recently upgrading to HD. So what is 4K and is the product worthy of the hype?

What is 4K TV?

4K refers to the resolution that the television will display. There is a slight difference between the technical definition of 4K — which refers to a 4096 x 2160 resolution — and an Ultra HD TV, which displays a marginally lower 3840 x 2160 resolution, according to TechRadar. For the average consumer, though, 4K and Ultra HD are the same. When a person buys an Ultra HD television, he or she will get a display capable of delivering quadruple the resolution of current HD.

The TVs

Ultra HD televisions have started to trickle out to consumers, but so far they have not been cheap. One of the most notable is Sony’s XBR-84X900, an 84 inch behemoth with a price tag over $20,000. Consumers can go even further if they desire by purchasing Samsung’s 85-inch Ultra HD TV for $39,999, as Mashable notes.

An example of a 4K television on sale in May 2013; they are real.
4K TVs are already showing up at retailers. This picture provides an example of a Sony 4k television on display in a kiosk at a major retailer. Customer education is a central aspect to this display, as the demo graphically shows the difference between HD and 4K . Whether the average customer can tell the difference will be the $6k question and may be a huge factor regarding the uptake of 4k televisions.

Prices like this had many people wondering if 4K would even be an option for more modest consumers. Sony recently announced two televisions to meet this need, with a 55-inch version for $4,999 and a 65-inch model for $6,999. The most interesting deal thus far, however, is Seiki’s 50-inch 4K TV. The company plans on selling it for the relatively meager sum of $1,500, according to Engadget.

The Transition to 4K — A Question of Content

Currently, there is little to no content available in the 4K format. Aside from the price tag, this is one of the main hurdles for early adoption of the technology. No television shows or films are released in 4K at the moment. Movies are increasingly shot with 4K-capable cameras, but none are released to the public in 4K. Sony aims to change that.

Sony plans on releasing a 4K media player over the summer, Forbes points out. The player (FMP-X1), loaded with 10 movies from Sony Pictures, will run $699. Ten movies may not sound like a lot, but the player will also connect online to a new service offered by Sony that allows users to download 4K movies.

Another potential content source could be the consumer, as the cost of 4k professional camcorders are already in the $4 to $5k and at least one consumer camera, the GoPro Hero3, Black Edition, for well under $500.

Intel is also releasing its own media box. Intel’s box is 4K-compatible, and the company hopes to break into the television market with the new device, according to Wired. Netflix has also stated that it is watching the developments in 4K, and that streaming will be the best way to access such content.

DirectTV has recently acquired several trademarks for terms related to 4K television, but actual services, such as DirectTVDeal.com and other providers do not currently support 4K TVs.

Potential Problems for 4K

4K television faces several major hurdles before it becomes mainstream. Price is often listed as an obstacle, but companies like Seiki and Sony are demonstrating that they can make it affordable. Content has also been listed as an issue, but with demand, the content will come.

Getting the content to the home via distribution is another challenge, as, even with the latest HEVC/h.265 codecs, the 4k video streams will require an estimated 10 Mb/s per stream.

One of the biggest questions surrounding 4K is whether anyone can tell the difference? The format undoubtedly produces a higher resolution, but can the average viewer even discern it? Some engineers, say TechRadar, claim that the average person cannot tell the difference on anything less than a 100-inch screen.

Sony claims that in more interactive situations, such as gaming, that those sitting closer to a 4K TV will appreciate the increased detail. Whether this will be enough to convince people to buy TVs, however, is questionable.

It is Coming

For all the questions surrounding 4K adoption by the general public, it appears that Ultra HD televisions are on their way. They are becoming more affordable. Content is being developed as well. How popular will they become? Only time will tell.

Multi-Screen Video Content and OTT Partnerships Enabled by New Video Network Architectures – Part 1 of 2

Introduction:

This article covers two types of sessions from the content rich OTTCON 2013, held March 19-20, 2013 in Santa Clara, CA:

  1. Second Screen Video from mainstream pay TV service providers OR via a partnership between an OTT network provider and local service provider (telco or cableco).
  2. Video Network Architectures that facilitate OTT video for second screens, smart TVs (with Internet connections), game players, OTT boxes that connect to TVs, etc.

The first article published on the excellent OTTCON 2013 addressed emerging technologies for next generation video.(http://community.comsoc.org/blogs/alanweissberger/technologies-will-offer-higher-quality-viewing-experience-enable-new-ott-servi).

Second Screen Video Content delivered by pay TV Service Providers :

Until now, second screen apps for mobile devices have been used primarily for searching, browsing and selecting content for the first screen (TV).   Examples include looking up information about a particular TV program, a movie review, actor bios, related programs, use as a remote control device, etc. There has not been too much OTT content being watched on those second screens, even though most pay TV customers have free access to “TV everywhere” from their pay TV service provider. Some may also have access to Hulu, Netflix, etc but don’t watch those much on second screens either (they use either game players or dedicated boxes like the one from Roku).  But in the future, there are other possible uses of the second screen such as social TV and watching pay TV/OTT video content from a service provider.

“Second-screen devices such as tablets, smartphones and ultrabooks are likely to be the principal force behind social TV experiences as companion apps are increasingly written for that experience,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner Group. “A combination of content integration, social interaction and loyalty programs are the key activities that will make up the social TV experience.”

Long-term efforts to connect traditional TV broadcasts to the Internet have largely been limited to either content companion websites or connected devices such as smart TVs, video format converter and set-top boxes.  None of these approaches has led to the creation of interactivity or a social networking type of viewing experience for consumers. Or watching OTT video programming from their pay TV service provider.

One company thinks that will change in a big way! Speaking at 2013 OTTCON in Santa Clara, CA, Alan Hoff, VP of Strategic Marketing at SeaChange said that MSOs/Cablecos and Telcos would soon be delivering multi-screen TV services; and it will not be just the largest service providers (SPs), either. Concerned about disintermediation from OTT players, multi-screen TV was said to be “in the sights of every (pay TV) service provider.” It addresses the OTT provider threat (think “cord cutting” or “cord-trimming”), while capitalizing on the IP and web technologies that may providers are now using to deliver video content to TVs (e.g. AT&T’s U-Verse network uses IPTV technology while Comcast uses a managed IP network to control VoD delivery).

Second screen video will provide SPs with new opportunities in long time content owner relationships. Advertisers were said to favor second screen video because of its interactivity capability. The Diffusion Group forecasts 2017 tablet video viewing (as a second screen) to be significantly greater than all the on-line/OTT viewing in 2011, in terms of total hours watched (58B hours versus 38B hours, respectively).

Several examples of collaboration between OTT providers and video SPs were given:

  • Virgin Media (UK) is offering YouTube and BBC iPlayer.
  • A Time Warner Cable app is being distributed on by Roku for use on their box that plays OTT content on TVs via HDMI cable connection.
  • Com Hem (Sweden) is combining OTT content with its linear, on-demand, and catch-up TV services.

Service provider/OTT integration examples were said to span all network operator types –cable, telco, mobile, and satellite. Superior reliability, quality of user experience, simplicity of a seamless experience, and presentation across multiple devices were the benefits to be realized, according to Mr Hoff.

Distribution of OTT content by SPs could be via: the on-demand program listings, local distribution of specialized content, or a pay TV event (e.g. VOOmotion+ created a pay per view offering for Belgian Premiere League Football).

+  VOOmotion is an innovative multi-screen video service offered by cableco VOO in Belgium. Launched in December 2012 and now available to VOO’s triple-play customers across Belgium, VOOmotion is founded on SeaChange’s Adrenalin video platform and Nitro subscriber experience software.

Summing up, Mr. Hoff stated that:
  • Service providers‘ multi-screen expansion will bring in a huge audience.
  • Think of the multi-screen platform as a brand-builder for the SP as an OTT content distributor.
  • The lines of video consumption are blurring: OTT needs to be everywhere, and “SP multi-screen is prime real estate!”

“You have to follow the video consumers.  They’re on the move and they’re using more and more devices to watch video content,” said Hoff.  “Blended content services are the key to consumer satisfaction and video service providers are in hot pursuit with their high QoS multi-screen offerings.  Ultimately, they’ll coalesce everything consumers desire into one convenient source and a powerful brand association for OTT providers,” he added.

OTT Content delivered by Partnership between OTT Provider and Local Service Provider:

Evegent slide 8 depicting role of local service providers.
Image courtesy of Evergent

In a related 2013 OTTCON session titled, “What does it take to be a global OTT Service Provider,” Evergent CEO Vijay Sajja said, “the opportunity exists for an OTT service that combines local LiveTV channels and premium VOD content.”  One method of achieving that vision is for an OTT provider to partner with a local pay TV service provider.   There’s also the possibility of the OTT player partnering with an ISP to deliver higher quality OTT content to (mobile and wire-line) Internet subscribers. Both types of OTT-Local Provider partnering are illustrated in the adjacent figure on the right.

High level slide depicting elements necessary to create a successful multiscreen service.
Image courtesy of Evergent

Note: In addition to this excellent presentation, Evergent showcased their OTT Subscriber Billing and Royalty Tracking software systems at 2013 OTTCON.

Among the key challenges for such a B2B2C (Business-to-Business-to-Consumer) partnership are: support for multiple devices, languages and payment methods; easy sign-up/service ordering/provisioning; video player integration; customer account management; customer care; and fraud alerts.  Key high level elements of an OTT solution is shown in the adjacent figure on the right.

Evergent slide depicting how service provider could offer OTT content.
Image courtesy of Evergent

For an effective partnership, the biggest issue is back office and systems integration between the OTT provider and local Service Provider (pay TV or ISP).  Integration of call centers will also be important for rapid problem diagnosis and repair. The functionality required for all such integration is depicted in the adjacent figure on the left.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article which will examine the architecture of video networks that make multi-screen video  (and other OTT environments) possible.

Viodi View – 10/19/12

Panels and presentations provide the skeleton for a conference, but sometimes the hallway conversations, sparked by something a speaker said or didn’t say, are the real meat of a conference. This thought occurred to me at last week’s TV Next 2012 conference, as organizer Greg Fawson did an excellent job of bringing together the various players from the interactive TV ecosystem into many good conversations. We will be providing a glimpse of those conversations with several video interviews over the next few weeks.


Second Screen Apps Enhance Viewing Experience & Offer Additional Capabilities – TVNEXT 2012 Conference Highlights by Alan Weissberger

There were many interesting exhibits, presentations and panel sessions at the 6th annual TVNEXT conference, held October 10-11th in Santa Clara, CA. Over-the-Top video, quality of experience, voice activated TV interfaces and multi-screen viewing and second screen apps were some of the topics of discussion. Due to time and space constraints, this article will focus on Second Screen Apps by reviewing selected presentations. Click here to read more.


Last Chance to Give Your Opinion about Local Content

A typical citizen journalist camera

Rural broadband operators – reply in the comment section below to get a link to our latest survey on local content. An Executive Summary will be provided to those who complete the survey. We will be sharing the results at the local content panel at the Calix User’s Group, on Sunday October 28th at 3:30 pm. This panel will also feature marketing experts sharing how they are making their communities and service offering better through their production of local content.


What Carriers Must Do to Accelerate Innovation-Summary of Telecom Council TC3, Part 3 by Alan Weissberger

Part three of this three-part series of the Telecom Council TC3 conference focuses on an Informa analyst presentation suggesting what carriers must do to innovate (or die). Consider that wireless carriers are more than ever in danger of being reduced to purveyors of “dumb pipes,” with little or no financial participation in the mobile network value chain. A link is also provided to innovation priorities from selected carriers; i.e. what they are looking for from suppliers and vendors (especially start-ups). Click here to read the entire post.


Verizon Close to Launching a Video Streaming Service with Redbox; More than 250M covered by VZW LTE Network by Alan Weissberger

In its third-quarter financial report, Verizon Communications profit margins grew as it added 136,000 FiOS broadband customers and 119,000 FiOS TV subscribers — about the same as in the prior quarter.   More importantly,  Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said the giant telco was “very close to launching” its video-streaming service with Redbox this quarter. Click here to read more.


Operational Savings and New Revenue

Kevin Larson, GM & CEO of CTC in Minnesota, provides insight on ways independent rural broadband operators can stay competitive in ever more challenging times. He discusses the importance of a fiber to the home network infrastructure in reducing ongoing operational and maintenance costs, while providing a more reliable network for the end customers. He also suggests that communications providers need to start charging the customers for things that typically provide with no charge.

Stay tuned for the other three parts of this exclusive interview, where Larson looks at the challenges and opportunities facing rural broadband providers. Click here to view part 1.


US ITC – Don’t Turn Out the Lights [Opinion]

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have been a 50 year overnight success. One supplier now threatens that progress, at least in the niche of videography and perhaps beyond, given the broad nature of its patents. Anyone involved in local content should take a minute to read this, as the number of choices of LED lights for videography could be greatly diminished and the prices will most likely increase, depending upon the final ruling of the United States International Trade Commission in mid-October. Click here to read more.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:


The Korner -The Video Generation

Click here to view video interview

Revision3 has demonstrated what the next generation TV network looks like for several years now and its success led to its recent acquisition by Discovery Communications. Revision3 is a complement to Discovery programming and there is even some cross-pollination between the programming of the two networks (think Shark Week meets tech, gaming and entertainment).

In this interview, filmed at TV NEXT 2012, Revision3 CEO Jim Louderback provides insight that is useful to anyone who is producing local content. Similar to a local content producer, Revision3 has found that authenticity has been a key to Revision3?s programming success. Louderback points out that they create a relationship between the on-air personalities and the viewers.

Louderback also explains that the younger generation has a way of learning that is different from most adults, who typically learn through reading. As former Editor in Chief of PC Magazine, Louderback certainly understands the power of the written word, but he points out, through a personal anecdote, that children now view video as the way to learn.

One implication of Louderback’s comments is that the importance of video will continue to grow, as the younger generations age. This shift to a video-centric world will have a profound impact on the network, as instead of thinking of multi-streams per home, service providers will have to think in terms of multi-streams per person.

Click here to view.

Verizon Close to Launching a Video Streaming Service with Redbox; More than 250M covered by VZW LTE Network

In its third-quarter financial report, Verizon Communications profit margins grew as it added 136,000 FiOS broadband customers and 119,000 FiOS TV subscribers — about the same as in the prior quarter.   More importantly,  Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said the giant telco was “very close to launching” its video-streaming service with Redbox this quarter.

Majority owned Verizon Wireless (VZW*) sold 3.4m Android phones and 3.1m iPhones in the third quarter.  VZW added 1.54 million net contract customers in the quarter, beating the 901,000 estimate by analysts. More than 250m people are  now covered by VZW’s  LTE network.

“The subscriber number beat the highest estimate on the street,” said Kevin Roe, an analyst with Roe Equity Research in New York. “Part of that was from tablets, and I also think the T-Mobile trend of losing significant customers continues.”

* Verizon owns 55% of VZW;  Vodafone owns 45%


Growth in Verizon’s FiOS video business continued to slow.  Subscriptions rose just 2.7% vs Q2 to 4.6M. The increase of 119,000 customers fell short of Wall Street’s expectation for 142,000. The company’s FiOS broadband unit had nearly 5.3M customers at the end of the quarter- an increase of +136,000 vs the Wall Street consensus forecast of +165,000.

“The read-across for cable and satellite incumbents is self-evidently positive:  lower growth for FiOS means smaller losses for their competitors,” Bernstein Research’s Craig Moffett said.

http://www.deadline.com/2012/10/verizon-q3-earnings/

Infonetics analyst Julien Blin wrote in an email:

“The expected launch of Verizon’s VOD streaming service with physical DVD delivery in 4Q12 through Verizon stores and Redbox kiosks, along with a continued push of its video aggregation engine Viewdini and other upcoming multi-screen offerings, should make Verizon’s video offering more appealing, put pressure on competing services (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video..) and be another key driver for Verizon’s future top line growth. We also expect Verizon to roll out advanced hybrid video gateways in the coming quarters which should help further improve the multiscreen experience. All this should help drive the growing popularity of FiOS in the coming quarters.”

—————————————————————————————

Related Article on AT&T’s U-Verse:  http://community.comsoc.org/blogs/alanweissberger/att-may-buildout-u-verse-remoteunderserved-areas-7m-u-verse-subscribers-get-ot

2011 – A Big Year for 3D to the TV?

3D Glasses at CES on a typical cnsumer2014- the year that Parks Associates predicts that 80% of the televisions sold will be 3D capable. According to Dr. Ajay Luthra of Motorola, Inc, 2011 will be a critical year in keeping the momentum going towards the widespread commercial deployment envisioned by Parks. I had a chance to catch up with Dr Luthra at the Set-Top Box 2010 conference in San Jose.

Luthra explained that the ecosystem, which consists of content production, distribution and display, are aligned for significant deployments next year; significant in that they will lay the groundwork for the beginning of a lifecycle which could be in the mainstream in a few years. The big question that remains and that has to be answered by the market is consumer adoption and satisfaction with 3D TV in their living room (click here to see an earlier post on 3D and the consumer).

The standards groups have made significant progress in a short period of time in terms of dealing with things such as closed captioning. For instance, the adoption of the AVC SEI standard for signaling tells the set-top whether the content is 3D or 2D and how its frames are positioned. This standardization is important, because it allows the transmission of 3D through the network without modifications to encoders and only firmware updates to set-tops, instead of forklift upgrades.

click here to watch a video interview with Howard PostleyStill, there are challenges that remain, such as how graphics are handled. As Howard Postley of 3ALITY Digital pointed out at Set-Top Box 2010, great care must be taken to ensure that graphics and text don’t jump around as scenes change. This sort of thing can cause motion sickness and dizziness. Postley, whose company sells equipment which facilitates 3D content creation, points out that the production process is critical to creating both compelling and longer-form content (click here to see an earlier video interview with Howard Postley). 

One of the things he emphasizes is the importance for all of the players in the distribution chain to pass through the metadata that is created in production. This data, which is a relatively small amount, relative to the audio and video stream, provides important information to ensure that the viewer has an experience that is truly better than what they would see in two dimensions.

He suggests that service providers need to be aggressive or else they could lose the 3D market to over the top services, whether these services use a PC or a gaming console. He said that 3ALITY Digital is seeing ten times the rate of adoption of 3D on the PC, as compared to the TV. Both the gaming and PC decoding platforms offer the advantage of powerful processors and can provide a much richer experience for a given bit rate. He also warned service providers about over-compressing, as it will degrade the service.

The video for distribution via a network will be encoded in half-resolution, while the Blu-ray standard uses full resolution. Both Luthra and Postley indicated that the bandwidth premium for 3D at full resolution will be no more than 20 to 50% compared to the same stream in two dimensions. Luthra suggests that starting at half resolution is a good starting step, as the investment required to bring 3D to the masses is relatively small. As 3D to the television finds commercial success and faces competitive pressure from the higher resolution of Blu-Ray, the electronic distribution chain can upgrade to full resolution.

The big question is customer adoption and acceptance of 3D on the TV. The 'aha' moment for people experiencing 3DTV will probably be different for everyone. The recent Masters golf event might have been the 'aha' moment for me, if I had seen it in 3DTV. Dr. Luthra told me that being able to see the slope of the green impressed him and literally gave the game a new dimension. It will be interesting to see how 3DTV develops and how it enhances different kinds of content (think downhill skiing).

Conundrum Continues: Mobile video drives mobile traffic but for how long?

Overview

With the success of smart phones, tablet PCs and game players, video continues to be the dominant form of mobile data traffic on wireless networks.  Cisco Systems predicts that mobile video will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 131% between 2009 and 2014.   Yet we constantly hear and read user complaints about poor video quality, stalling/ freezing.  Can mobile video traffic continue to climb while users are so dissatisfied with reception?   

The conundrum is that mobile video transported on 3G mobile networks cannot deliver the quality users desire, while the stand alone. broadcast mobile video networks are commercial failures with the new, standards based networks pushed off into the future.  How long can this continue without mobile video traffic falling off a cliff? 

Meanwhile, broadcast mobile video networks have yet to be profitable. Qualcomm's FloTV (AKA MediaFLO) has been a huge disappointment and the company is considering shutting it down, according to the Wall Street Journal.     Mobile-TV Push Gets Fuzzy Reception.

And, the mobile DTV network that we thought would be up and running by now is nowhere near launch.  The WSJ reports, "A group of U.S. local broadcasters, in fact, is just beginning to gear up an effort to deliver a broadcast service called Mobile DTV to U.S. markets, using transmission capacity freed up by a transition from analog to digital technology." 

Discussion:

Let's look at the market dynamics for mobile video:

1.  Poor video quality and bad reception due to cellular network congestion leads to customer dissatisfaction

 In its 2010 Mobile Minute Metrics report, Bytemobile states that mobile networks experience the most congestion at 10 p.m. when mobile video consumption peaks, causing users to have the most stalling.  In other words, it's not there when they want it most. 

"The mobile data industry is experiencing tremendous growth, with video as the key driver," said Joel Brand, VP of product management at Bytemobile. "While operators are enjoying revenue growth from data subscriptions, they are also experiencing rapid escalation of traffic, which is outpacing available network capacity and adversely affecting quality of service."   In addition to a deteriorating user experience as data traffic continues to increase, operators will have to implement stringent billing policies as way to curtail data usage, Brand said.

For more information see: Mobile Networks Falter Under Video Demand.   

The analogy of more memory and faster processors for improved performance also applies to mobile data traffic.  Apps developers and users have had no problem consuming more memory and increased processing power of speedier microprocessors.  We predict that as aggregate and individual mobile bandwidth increases, it will be consumed just as rapidly presenting the same congestion problem users now face with mobile video.  Chris  Koopmans, VP of Product Development for ByteMobile, states, "Many operators say 'the next speed will solve your problem'… the point we're trying to make here is however fast you make your network, users will consume it.  No matter how fast it is, you will always end up with congestion."  And, we totally agree with that comment!

2.  Qualcomm's FLO TV has been a commercial failure

Qualcomm built FLO TV as a broadcast network, featuring scheduled channels of programming that mobile users can tune to. It does not use the cellular networks for mobile video, unlike MobiTV.  Qualcomm's FLO TV powers mobile-TV services marketed by AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless (a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC).  After six years designing and building this network, Qualcomm has conceded that growth has been disappointing and may shut it down.  Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs, told the WSJ that Qualcomm was "considering a number of alternatives" for FLO TV. He wasn't more specific and a company spokeswoman declined to elaborate. But, he said Qualcomm is in early-stage discussions with unnamed companies about FLO TV and the radio frequencies it controls. 

The spectrum Qualcomm owns for mobile broadcasting is a distinguishing element of FLO TV. Most users of smartphones use conventional cellular networks to call up video programming, such as downloads from services like Apple Inc.'s iTunes store and streamed videos from sites such as Google Inc.'s YouTube.

The Journal reports that there are fundamental handicaps in the U.S. for mobile video.  "Unlike markets like Japan and South Korea, where mobile TV has a sizable following, many Americans are driving when they aren't at home or at work—and less able to watch TV on the go than users in countries where public transportation is more widely used."

"Here it is a little difficult," said Mark Beccue, an analyst at market-research firm ABI Research. The market-research firm estimates that 12.8 million people will subscribe to mobile TV in North America in 2010, which he expects to grow to 25.9 million in 2012 in response to factors such as a proliferation of devices with bigger screens for watching videos. By comparison, the firm's worldwide estimate calls for 178.4 million subscribers this year and 384.5 million in 2012.

So with such slow growth and no profits, will Qualcomm redeploy the spectrum they own from FLO TV to something else?  We think so.  Qualcomm has "very valuable spectrum, and now the question is are we using it well with the FLO TV service," Jacobs said at the Wall Street Journal's D Conference last month.

Qualcomm isn't the first to pursue, and drop a similar broadcast approach, according to the WSJ. Crown Castle International Corp., which had been planning a service similar to FLO TV called Modeo, in 2007 changed strategies and announced plans to sell its wireless spectrum. Later the same year, Aloha Partners LP, whose subsidiary HiWire had tested a mobile broadcast service, instead announced a deal to sell its spectrum to AT&T for $2.8 billion.

 3.  Mobile DTV standard based networks still in a holding pattern

We really thought that this standard would solve the congestion problem by providing a separate band for broadcast mobile video.   Here is what we wrote last Fall:   Will the new mobile DTV standard enable Mobile Video to succeed in 2010?

Why hasn't it been deployed yet?  The WSJ reports:  "The backers of Mobile DTV, dubbed the Open Mobile Video Coalition, is pressing ahead with plans for services that also require special chips for receiving broadcast signals, typically built into media players or included with a device called a dongle for outfitting a laptop computer to use the service."

Anne Schelle, the Open Mobile Video Coalition's Executive Director, told the Journal that its research shows that Americans are willing to pay for the right mix of locally generated programming and other content. "I don't think [Qualcomm's experience] means that consumers aren't interested in this," she said. "Consumers are highly interested."

But why is it taking so long for market liftoff?  The mobile DTV standard is almost one year old.  In my independent research, I have not found a single investor or developer for the mobile DTV standard- not even Motorola, which talked about the need for a separate mobile video broadcast channel at a conference I attended last Fall.

Significant questions about the business model for mobile DTV still need to be answered. These include whether the technology should broadly launch as a free, ad-supported service or as a subscription offering, and whether stations have the right to simulcast their normal network programming through mobile DTV. And, while wireless carrier Sprint is participating in the Washington trial, which was organized by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), no formal deal with a carrier to implement mobile DTV technology in handsets or other devices has been reached. If these questions aren’t addressed soon, the commercial launch of mobile DTV could be delayed well into 2011 or beyond.  Will it be DOA?  Only time will tell.

4.  Most users prefer to watch video on their TV, rather than a mobile gadget!

Chris O"Brien, one of the most incisive tech reporters I've ever read had another great article in the Aug 1, 2010 San Jose Mercury that documented users strong preference for watching video on a TV (and not a mobile gadget).  "Almost 99 percent of all video is still watched by people using their televisions. While our viewing options have multiplied, our viewing preference hasn't much changed: sitting on a couch in front of a TV. In fact, we're spending more time watching more video on TV than ever before. In Silicon Valley, home of YouTube and a host of online video startups, this seems astonishing, where we believe with near-religious fervor that the future is coming faster than ever and changing everything.  It's not. Rather, this is a good lesson in how consumers' most deeply ingrained habits can slow down the pace of change. And it's a reminder of how living here can sometimes warp our sense of technology's true impact."

O'Brien: BitTorrent and the reason things are changing slower than you think

We find this article quite reassuring and on the money.  As a result, we predict that in the near future, most folks will watch Internet video on their new TV's and not on mobile gadgets and gizmos.

Conclusions:

We think something has to give and very soon.   For mobile video to be successful, it will take the initiation and success  of live and on demand videos delivered via mobile DTV networks in conjunction with more 3G network capacity  (i.e. aggregate bandwidth for users) to have a better experience watching You Tube, Hulu and other Internet Video sites on their mobile gadgets.  If this does not happen, we think that the wireless telecom industry will be in big trouble.

Broadband Wireless and the Connected Home: Telecom Council Meeting Review

Introduction

This article covers the wireless networking aspects of the Connected Home – both inside and out. It is primarily based on the Telecom Council’s[1] May 14, 2009 meeting titled, “The Connected Home: Services and Models.” Trends in delivery of multiple residential services, mobile broadband, home networking, and remote access to the connected home are examined. We also highlight a few related news items from Sling Media (now Echo Star) and Motorola. 

In advance of the meeting, the Telecom Council published the following statement:   "The PC, the TV, the Internet and the home are converging in a very real way. Real products launched into the market don’t just blur the lines between TV and PC, but in fact make it increasingly clear that any screen is fair game for any content, and the service will come from both broadcast, uni-cast, and from within the home. Of course, screens and media are just a part of the Connected Home. Media sharing, photo display, home security, fixed phones, cameras, HVAC control, entry control, family organization and communication, are all becoming inextricably entwined."

While we are skeptical that all the consumer electronics in the home will be connected to each other any time soon, we were aware that mobile devices are now remotely accessing TVs (Sling Box), and will soon be accessing video content on DVRs, and videos/photos/ images stored on a home based file server.   This trend will likely accelerate with the growth of mobile broadband networks.
 
Presentations and Discussion
 
Gabriel Sidhom, CTO of Orange Labs (South San Francisco) and VP Technology for France Telecom R&D provided Orange/FT’s perspective on delivering multiple services to the home via an integrated IP network. Orange/FT provides fixed and mobile telecom services in France, U.K., Spain, Poland, Africa and the Middle East. They see mobile broadband and IPTV growing at annual rates of 70% and 66% respectively in the countries where they provide services. 
 
A key point is that broadband growth is coming from services- both triple- play to the home, mobile data and video.
 
Rob Hull, Vice President – Business Development, British Telecom offered his views on “The Mass Market Digital Home.” Rob shared what BT had learned from the video services (e.g. broadcast digital video, VoD and PVR) they provide to residential customers:
 
  1. The mass market is considerably behind the early adopters.
  2. Selling the concept is harder then selling the box (e.g. STB).
  3. Customers expect SPs to provide excellent customer service.
  4. Don’t try to pre-empt what customer’s want.
Mr. Hull listed several requirements for Digital Home 2.0:
 
  • Access networks with sufficient speed to support all the equipment/ devices in the networked home
  • High speed home network coverage for the entire home (wireless repeaters may be needed for large home networks
  • Ubiquitous access to content: in-home on different devices; outside of the home
  • Monitoring services: energy, people, home security
  • Easy to set up and manage (considered critically important for success)
  • Inexpensive enough for mass market adoption
Gary Iosbaker, Distinguished Technologist, Hewlett Packard presented his company’s strategy and vision for the connected home and remote access to it.   A few very important industry trends:
 
  • Broadband communications has gained critical mass
  • On-line content is exploding
  • Communications and entertainment services are converging
  • Home networks are growing in number and in connected equipment devices
  • Mobile Internet- independent of access technology and devices
  • Mass customization will be required
  • Centralized home storage and connected devices will enable sharing of content and services from within or outside the home (eventually from anywhere there is an end to end broadband connection).
  • Uploads of photos, multi-media images, and videos will continue to grow very rapidly (placing new demands on upstream bandwidth)
  • New services will be created for uploading and downloading user content to/from the connected home.
Mr. Iosbaker made what was perhaps the most interesting remark during this Telecom Council meeting: remote users will access home digital storage via broadband wireless networks– on their smart phones, new gadgets, and/or notebook and netbook PCs.  Mobile WiMAX and LTE were seen driving this capability to access any home information from anywhere. 
 
This capability exists now to some degree with Slingbox remote TV access (see What’s New With Sling below). I’ve heard that a few “geek-like” users had a home network set-up whereby they were able to remotely view pre-recorded TV programs on a DVR from their mobile phones or notebook/ netbooks.
 
Chris Dobrec, Senior Director – Strategy & Business Development, Cisco talked about home networks and consumer networking gear. Home networking and entertainment has become a $3.5B business for Cisco, with their acquisitions of Linksys (WiFi routers) and Scientific Atlanta (STB). The company has announced several additional networked consumer electronics initiatives at the CES earlier this year and is advertising this theme on popular media like TV commercials . 
 
Mr. Dobrec sees a “media enabled home,” with many connected devices and equipment. These include: TVs, DVRs, PCs, game consoles, smart phones, networked audio, MP3 players, storage devices, media servers, IP cameras, and other gadgets. He says that the average number of devices on a home network is approaching a half dozen in broadband homes.  But early adopters have many more than that. Chris thinks of himself as a Home Network CTO.  He has 18 devices on his home network!
 
According to Mr. Dobrec, the devices and equipment on a home network will not only share a broadband wide area connection (as they do now via WiFi), but also they will also connect with one another. Can this really happen with the proliferation of home networking technologies? Chris says yes and Cisco will make it real! He indicated that Cisco is making home network converter boxes that have the capabilities of multi-protocol home network PHY and DL layer translation and routing. They plan to support Ethernet over twisted pair, WiFi (including 802.11n), HPNA, MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance), and BoPL (Broadband over Power Lines). Not all the technologies will be available in the same converter box, but some of these boxes are now available and being sold.
 
In conjunction with their Clearwire partnership, Cisco is developing Mobile WiMAX/ Wi-Fi devices that extend its Linksys line of home network routers. The devices, expected later this year for the CLEAR 4G Mobile WiMAX service, will be marketed to consumers, small office/home office, and small-to-midsize business users. We now expect those devices will essentially be WiFi to USB converters that require an external WiMAX modem or USB dongle to access the CLEAR network. We hope they will soon contain an integrated WiMAX radio and air interface.
 
What’s New With Sling?
 
No discussion about broadband access for the connected home would be complete without examining the Sling Box. For the last five years, this device, has allowed users to pipe all their existing cable and satellite TV channels onto the Internet and then to any computer or smart phone with a broadband connection.   In 2007, Sling Media was quietly acquired by satellite TV company EchoStar. Soon thereafter, Echostar split itself into two public companies: the Dish Networks for consumer TV business, and the Echostar Corporation, which owns Sling and is devoted to developing and licensing digital equipment for the television industry.
 
Sling also offers cable and satellite companies an easy way to get television to a variety of mobile devices without having to develop specific video services for each. Sling recently released a $29.99 application for the Apple iPhone, for example, although AT&T insisted that it work only over WiFi, and not over the carrier’s 3G network. AT&T said it feared that Sling’s streaming video could hog its bandwidth and lead to dropped calls.
 
This summer, Dish Networks plans to offer a set-top box embedded with Sling’s features to its 14 million subscribers across the country. Called the Sling Loaded HD DVR ViP 922, it will be offered to subscribers for $199.   Later, EchoStar plans to license Sling technology to other satellite and cable TV operators and consumer electronics companies. If successful, the concept of “place shifting” or “Slinging” shows to any device or PC could become a standard feature of most high-end cable TV set top boxes.
 
For more on this topic, please see:

Slipstream: From TV to the Web to Your Phone

Motorola enters embedded consumer device market with broadband wireless data cards

Manufacturers looking to take advantage of the increased speeds offered by 3G and 4G mobile broadband wireless networks such as WiMAX, HSPA and LTE can soon add off the shelf Motorola PCIe data cards into their notebooks, netbooks, portable gaming devices and other networked consumer electronics.
 
Motorola sees embedded wireless as a potential goldmine down the road. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, there will be 100 million devices with 3G or 4G technology embedded in them by 2014.
 
Gary Koerper, vice president of engine systems for Motorola Mobile Devices had a lot to say about Motorola’s new opportunity: "We see wireless broadband in consumer electronics being a tremendous growth opportunity not just for Motorola, but for the entire industry, In the next five to seven years everything you own will be connected to the Internet. As operators continue to deploy higher speed wireless networks to accommodate for growing consumer demand for mobility, there are opportunities for manufacturers and operators to roll out a wide range of low-power consumer electronics to enhance today’s mobile lifestyles. We look forward to working with the leaders in the wireless broadband ecosystem to incorporate high-speed broadband into more devices."
 
A variety of circuit cards will be offered:
 
  • The Motorola WTM1100 is an IEEE 802.16e Wave 2 compliant, single-band Half Mini-PCIe wireless network adapter that operates in the 2.5 GHz or 3.5 GHz spectrum for WiMAX connectivity.
  • The Motorola HTM1000, a 3G/2G HSPA, EDGE and GPRS Half Mini-PCIe WWAN adapter that supports HSPA data rates up to 10.1 Mbps downlink and 5.76 Mbps uplink.
  • The Motorola offers the LTM1000 single-mode LTE card, which is capable of speeds up to 100Mbps downlink and 50Mbps uplink. All three products conform to the PCIe revision 1.2 standard. 
For more information, please see this press release:
 
Conclusions:
 
Home networking with broadband Internet access should be a major growth area in the converged world of computing, communications and entertainment.  We can expect to see lots more innovation in the connected home and remote (especially mobile) access to it. But first we need media and storage servers to be present in home networks and web addressable as if they were a web server on the Internet. Watch HP for new technology in this area. 
 
The idea of multi-protocol home network routers is very enticing, given the plethora of home networking wireless and wire-line standards (WiFi, Ethernet, MoCA, BoPL, etc). We expect Cisco to be the leader in this market segment. 
 
Keep your eye on Sling technology being embedded in new set top boxes and mobile applications for smart phones.  It will be interesting to see if EchoStar can successfully license their technology to other satellite, cable TV, or telco video providers.
 
Finally, we expect Motorola’s new wireless PCIe data cards to accelerate time to market for many new mobile and wireless devices for consumers.

[1] The Telecom Council (www.telecomcouncil.com) meets regularly to discuss key business issues for telecom decision makers. Carriers and their venture capital divisions located in Silicon Valley are the principal members (the Council was formerly known as the Service Provider Forum).

 

Viodi View – 03/18/2009

Banner

Reach out from IP Possibilities with sponsored video’s by Viodi for IP Possibilities and news releases. The ePublication and Viodi View Newsletter mailing will reach over 8,000 industry professionals twice during the 2 day conference. Check here for details.


Click here to get a view on the future of the newspapersIf you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you. That was the approximate tag line that NBC used about a decade ago to promote its summer rerun season. Similarly, what is news to one person may be an old story to another. The demise of the print newspaper is quickly becoming an old news story, as every week we are hearing of the demise of another print daily (the Seattle Post-Intellingcer conversion to online being the most recent to fall).

This video, shot at the Minnesota Telecom Alliance’s Convention, features brief interviews with Lynn Schofield Clark, Professor of Mass Communications and Journalism of the University of Denver and author and former CNN correspondent, Dave Kenney, regarding the future of the newspapers. Kenney suggests the telecommunications industry may be able to help fill the gap left due to the loss of the print newspapers.


The broadband stimulus is a news story that is still unfolding. There was quite a bit of positive feedback from our video interview with Andy Brown of Bennet and Bennet, PLLC. Emmett Smith watched the video and wrote this piece that argues that the stimulus should have never been undertaken.  Thanks Emmett for the kind words and insightful commentary. 

If nothing else, the broadband stimulus has stimulated lots of discussion. Here is a sampling of some of the many ongoing and upcoming stimulus activities:

  • Occam is blogging on the NTIA/USDA meetings
  • Consulting company, CCMI has a no-cost webinar slated for Thursday, November 19th
  • CPUC Hearing – San Francisco, Monday March 23rd

Finally, Alan Weissberger reports on a recent stimulus event in the following article.


Telecom Council Panel Session: Update on U.S. Broadband Policy by Alan Weissberger

In a lively Telecom Council panel session sponsored by AT&T, seven industry executives discussed the ramifications for the U.S. government’s stimulus package and federal budget proposal as related to broadband policy. The sober and candid assessments offered a realistic view at what is involved in building out broadband, particularly using wireless technology, to underserved and rural areas in the U.S.  Click here to read more. 


 A Tale of 2 Meetings:  Mobile Telecom in Crisis by Alan Weissberger

With the current credit crisis, economic meltdown, and stock market crash, both business and individuals are facing significant challenges: Big corporations are cutting cost and downsizing workforce while startups are struggling with shrinking market and drying capital sources. The soft job market makes people more cautious about the future. But crisis and downturns can lead to significant opportunity.  Click here to read more.


Monetizing Web Video with Social Networks by Roger Bindl

Monetizing video wtth social networks - the video

The key message from a CableFAX webinar on monetizing web video, social networks, and other on-line activities is that success comes from various places, is likely based on a plan, and the plan includes a means to insure success.  Click here to watch and read the rest of Roger’s report. 


3 Degrees of Separation – Or Almost Full Circle

My friend Dutch was stationed at the Naval Air Station at Point Mugu in Southern California in the 70s. In the 80s, I worked with Dutch at a company called Catel, a leader in producing AM & FM TV modulators. Norman Gillaspie consulted for Catel. I ended up consulting to Norman at many of his companies. His most recent venture, Transparent Video Systems, just sold an all digital RF system, which includes multiplexers and QAM modulators, to Communications Services, the cable system that serves Point Mugu. This announcement comes on the heels of an announcement TVS made last month regarding an RF to USB dongle that effectively eliminates the need for a traditional set-top. Congratulations Norman.


The Korner – Unique Economic Developments

Click here to see the unique things Spring Grove Communications is doing to help its community.One of the things I enjoy about co-producing ViodiTV is having the chance to dig a little deeper into comments made by speakers at the various telecom conferences. At the MTA Convention, Craig Otterness of Spring Grove Communications, who accepted the 2008 MTA award for economic development, had an interesting one-liner about his company’s unique video solution. This prompted us to track down Craig and find out more about the special developments that will prove to be quite stimulating for their local economy and which make for truly newsworthy topics.

Economic development requires leadership. Spring Grove Communications provide an excellent example of leadership, as they worked with their community to build a new library, 24 hour fitness center and digital cinema/public meeting place that can be used for much more than movies.  Click here to watch the video. 

Will Cisco Succeed in the Consumer Electronics Business?

Update: See comment below on Cisco entering the Compute Server Business.

Cisco is thought of as a successful network equipment vendor selling switches and routers to enterprise customers and service providers.   The company also sells (Linksys) WiFi routers and (Scientific Atlanta) set top boxes for use within homes.  Sensing a new opportunity, the company now wants to make significant inroads in the digital home based entertainment market. 

At CES next week in Las Vegas, Cisco will announce a new line of products, including a digital stereo system that is meant to move music wirelessly around a  house.  Sometime later in the year, the company plans to introduce a residential video conferencing system using camera’s and high-definition televisions (HD TVs). The quality will certainly be much better than today’s web cam technology, but will consumers be willing to pay for it? Cisco believes that in the near future, all TVs will be connected to home networks, but they don’t say how (we think it will be wirelessly-perhaps via IEEE 802.11n).

Cisco started to pursue the home networking market with Linksys WiFi routers and by acquiring set top box manufacturer Scientific Atlanta which is sold to MSOs. But the CES announcement is an attempt at a much bigger penetration of the home electronics market. Cisco hopes that people will want to use a version of its corporate videoconferencing system (Telepresence) for video chats with their friends and family over their HDTVs.

Opinion: We think it will be very difficult for Cisco to compete with brand name home elecrtronics companies like Sony, Panasonic, Apple, Samsung and many others. Considering the global economic contraction and its negative effect on consumer discretionary spending, this could be quite a challenge.  Do you think they can compete?  Do you think their timing is right? 

References:

With a Digital Stereo, Cisco Systems Is Starting a Push Into Home Electronics

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/technology/29cisco.html?_r=1&ref=technology

Cisco tests out home electronics market

http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/topstocks/archive/2008/12/29/cisco-tests-out-home-electronics-market.aspx

Cisco’s Misguided Foray Into the Living Room
 

Postscript:  Have you noticed the raft of new Cisco TV commercials for Telepresence and home networking?   They are evidently directed at consumers to build brand awareness.