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7 October 2009

Deals, launches and products

Intel sparked off intense interest in charging a handset wirelessly a year ago when it demonstrated the technology at its 2008 Developer Forum. Since then, the bandwagon has gathered speed, and now Nokia has joined the Wireless Power Consortium, which aims to create an international wireless power standard for rechargeable electronic devices. Other members include Samsung, ST-Ericsson, Texas Instruments, Sanyo, Philips and battery maker Duracell. Founded in December 2008, the Wireless Power Consortium is close to releasing the first full version of its standard. It unveiled the 0.95 technical specification for review by its members in August and began prototype testing last month.

US cable equipment supplier Arris said this week that its ConvergeMedia Management Suite, previously known as nABLE, can now dynamically manage heterogeneous VoD content across multiple video servers, optimizing network bandwidth and server storage at the same time. This all comes in Management Suite release 1.0, now generally available. The suite also supports dynamic ad insertion and interactivity, and can also use it to support internet streaming to PCs or phones.

Akamai has issued its 2nd quarter ‘State of the Internet’ report and says the US and China account for 40% of IP connections, and average connection speeds among the top ten countries went down, not up, in the quarter, contrary to expectation. They fell by 11% to 1.5 Mbps. Only 19% of connections globally were over 5 Mbps, a 5% decline from the prior quarter. South Korea had 69% of its connections above 5 Mbps, and in the US New Hampshire had the highest average speed at 6.4 Mbps with Delaware second on 6.3 Mbps. Akamai said there were internet attacks from 201 countries, but that the US and China are still the largest sources of attack traffic, with 45% of the total attacks originating from there.

US researcher Trender reckons that some 7% of US homes will dump pay TV for some form of hybrid viewing option based around over the top services such as Hulu and Netflix on devices like TiVo, and Roku, all by 2012. Trender offers a model for estimating the percentage of households who will ‘cut the cord’ from their Pay TV subscriptions. The report highlights lack of live TV, sports, and HD as slowing this trend, but warns that if these problems are solved then its predictions are conservative.

Another US report from Global Media Consult (GMC) echoes the Trender conclusions and says that the next five years could see an end to classic broadcast. Its survey took in the thoughts of 280 content experts from 20 countries and concludes that hybrid devices and business models will shape the market development over the next five years and says it is the Telcos, IPTV providers and manufacturers of CE devices such as Philips, Samsung or Panasonic, as well as vertically integrated providers of hardware, services and applications such as Apple, Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony which are seen as the winners of any fusion between broadcast and broadband. That would be the first time in a long time that Sony was both innovative and a winner. Sorry to be skeptical.

Yet another report, this one from NSR, applauds how well satellite pay TV services have weathered the recession driven primarily by a larger section of viewers choosing television as a cost effective means of entertainment. Some 99 DTH operators beam 13,800 channels to 114 million subscribers generating over $65 billion in subscription revenue as of the end of 2008 ‘ and the collective pie continues to grow. NSR says this will grow to 21,000 channels by 2018 and to 209 million subscribers, bringing in over $100 billion in revenues. Of course this directly contradicts the surveys cited above which says internet TV will kill or slow this growth, so take your pick.

Advanced TV News tells us that Telefonica and Italian broadcaster Mediaset are likely to join forces to acquire Sogecable, the Spanish owner of pay TV platform Digital Plus. We reckon that any attempt for control of Sogecable which starts anywhere near Telefonica will mean that the European Commission will have a long hard look, and possibly intervene on the ground of monopoly, although the two already buy some content collectively. Mediaset has Spanish channels and will absorb the Sogecable channels the report says. Sogecable is on the block due to high debt at its owner Prisa and an offer from Telefonica and Vivendi was previously turned down as too low.

Telephony webzine reports that the time it takes for an IPTV installation at a home is dropping due to the use of HPNA and says it has reached three hours at AT&T, CenturyLink and Telus in the US and Canada. HPNA uses twisted paid cabling and helps them avoid any rewiring which is what cuts the time right down.

Canal Overseas, the overseas subsidiary of France’s Canal+, has deployed a new version of NDS MediaHighway set-top box software, says NDS, allowing subscribers to transform set tops into DVRs by the simple addition of an external hard drive. It also uses a Flash based EPG. This service is being offered in markets around the Indian Ocean and in the Caribbean and shortly in the French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa and South Pacific. The new software detects the addition of a hard drive and formats it for use under MediaHighway. This has been shown using disk drives from Western Digital on Pace set tops.

Espial says that it has landed a tier 1 Chinese cable operator, Chongqing Cable TV Network, to use its MediaBase VoD services. Chongqing is in southwest China and has 4.2 million customers, and can now offer VoD and Network DVR services. Espial MediaBase is tightly integrated with business management tools offered to Cable Operators by Huawei. There is an awful lot (around 160 million) Chinese cable subscribers who’s operators need upgrading, so any wins here could be vital for the small Canadian company.

Point Topic expects broadband growth to be around 10% over the next 12 to 18 months taking the world past half a billion broadband lines. As availability continues to improve, new markets will offset at least some of the slowdown brought by saturation.

Following a trial with Citro’n in November across 100,000 French households, Orange is now launching interactive TV advertising over ADSL and can now send similar campaigns to 2 million households. Advertising campaigns use interactive banners superimposed on the screen during ad spots and clicking the remote on them takes viewers to dedicated websites on their TV. Viewers can also click to a mini interactive site downloaded to the set top. Viewers can ask to be contacted, request documentation, book a vehicle test drive and obtain a list of sales outlets.