Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chunghwa Telecom at 435K IPTV Subscribers

Chunghwa Telecom of Taiwan ended 1Q08 with 435 thousand MOD IPTV subscribers. This is an increase of 41 thousand in the quarter and a growth of 52.7 percent over the previous 12 months.

Chunghwa's MOD IPTV service increased its video on demand library to 5,000 hours, an increase of 500 hours in the quarter. It also offers more than 60 broadcast chanels. It plans to add HD for the Beijing Olympics and Major League Baseball.

Chunghwa now has 634.5 thousand FTTx subscribers, which is up 97.7 thousand in the quarter and 391.3 thousand over the previous 12 months.

IPTV continues to grow steadily. It should easily add more subscribers in 2008 than the 150 thousand it added in 2007.

Deutsche Telekom Announces IPTV Appplication Winners

Deutsche Telekom announce the ten semifinalists in its IPTV applications contest. Each of these semifinalists will win 50 thousand euros. These ten semifinalists will develop prototypes. The top three of these will then be selected for the final round. Each of these three finalists will win 100 thousand euros each. The three finalists will develop their applications onto the Deutsche Telekom platform. A winner will be selected from these three and will receive 200 thousand euros.

This is a great concept to stimulate application development and to generate new, creative applications. It would be great if other large IPTV providers in other regions would create similar programs.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Verizon at 1.2M IPTV Subscribers

Verizon added 263 thousand IPTV subscribers in 1Q08 ending with a total of 1.206 million. It also ended the quarter with 1.803 million FiOS Internet subscribers, adding 262 thousand in the quarter. Verizon can now offer FiOS TV to 82 percent of the 7.9 million homes that the service passes. It believes that it is on track to attain its goal of 25 percent FiOS TV penetration and 35 to 40 percent FiOS Internet penetration.

Verizon's FiOS TV FTTH IPTV service continues to grow strongly. For the first time it added more IPTV subscribers during the quarter than Internet subscribers. This indicates that it is successfully upselling TV to Internet customers as the FiOS TV service becomes available.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Telia Sonera at 407K IPTV Subscribers

Telia Sonera ended 1Q08 with 407 thousand IPTV subscribers. This is an increase of 29 thousand in 4Q08 and an increase of 27 thousand in 1Q08 and 286 thousand in the previous 12 months. The country by country results include:
  • Sweden ended with 318 thousand IPTV subscribers in increase of 14 thousand in 1Q08 and 236 thousand in the previous 12 months.
  • Norway ended with 4 thousand IPTV subscribers in increase of 2 thousand in 1Q08 and 4 thousand in the previous 12 months.
  • Lithuania ended with 25 thousand IPTV subscribers in increase of 7 thousand in 1Q08 and 16 thousand in the previous 12 months.
  • Estonia ended with 60 thousand IPTV subscribers in increase of 6 thousand in 1Q08 and 30 thousand in the previous 12 months.
Telia Sonera had no IPTV subscribers in Finland or Denmark.

Telia Sonera's subscriber growth slowed significantly in 1Q08, especially in Sweden. It has built up a significant subscriber base in both Lithuania and Estonia.

Friday, April 25, 2008

KT has 567K IPTV Subscribers

Korea Telecom ended March 2008 with 567,230 IPTV subscribers, which is an increase of 528,465 since the end of March 2007. Its broadband service grew by 177,446 subscribers from March 2007 to March 2008 ending with a total of 6,627,175 subscribers.

Also, a Hanaro spokesman stated that it now has 680 thousand IPTV subscribers.

KT's IPTV service grew rapidly in the last 12 months. It appears that this accelerating rate of growth should continue over the next 12 months.

One reader of this blog confirmed that KT's and Hanaro's services are Telco IPTV services. I am more comfortable about this statement relative to KT than Hanaro at this point, but my mind is open. I would appreciate more comments from readers on the scene.

Qwest's FTTN Services

Qwest in the U.S. announced two new data services for its VDSL FTTN roll out:
  • 12 Mbps at $49.99 per month
  • 20 Mbps at $99.99 per month
The two new services will be offered in 23 markets across 10 states.

Qwest is using VDSL to offer a high speed service without IPTV. The 12 Mbps is high enough to easily support SD over the top Internet TV, and the 20 Mbps will support HD over the top Internet TV. Qwest should become a real testing ground for over the top Internet TV services. It will be interesting to see what develops from this.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

KDDI at 710K FTTH Subscribers

KDDI announced that it added 118 thousand FTTH subscribers in its fiscal year ending in March 2008 giving a total of 710 thousand. It missed its previous target of 900 thousand FTTH subscribers by a wide margin. Its target for March 2008 is 1.14 million subscribers.

KDDI stated that its FTTH ARPU was quite flat at $45 per month. It also stated that it is under significant margin pressure where it uses unbundled NTT fiber loops. In this case its gross margin is 28 percent, with 72 percent going to NTT. It believes that it will have to build out its own infrastructure to a greater expense to improve its business case.

It is not clear why KDDI will achieve its objective for FTTH subscriber growth over the next 12 months when it missed so badly in the last 12 months.

KDDI does not disclose its number of IPTV subscribers. My estimate is that that they have somewhat more that 100 thousand.

New Cable IPTV Option

I met with Verimatrix yesterday and they told me about their partnership with with GoBackTV to provide an IPTV video option for cable providers. GoBackTV provides a system that uses DOCSIS cable modem technology to carry broadcast or on demand TV programming to an IPTV set-top box in the viewer's home. Verimatrix is providing content protection for both broadcast and on demand content delivered over this system.

This system can use MPEG-4 which is more efficient than the MPEG-2 that the cable systems typically use. It also can use IP Multicast across the links to the IPTV set-top boxes so that only one packet stream is sent for each broadcast channel viewed.

Verimatrix said that this system is well adapted to smaller cable companies with 550 MHz plants because it provides the ability to do IPTV switched digital more efficiently than the typical architecture.

This is an interesting approach that should appeal to the smaller cable operators. It does require a separate set-top box and two set-top boxes for the home that watches both the IPTV and the standard cable content. It is one more technology alternative for cable companies that need to upgrade their service to compete with Telco IPTV and satellite TV services. TelecomView's new report U.S. Cable: New Strategies for a Competitive World describes a number of other technologies available to the cable companies.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ATT Reaches 379K IPTV Subscribers

ATT added 148 thousand IPTV subscribers in 1Q08 giving it a total of 379 thousand at the end of the quarter. It stated that it has achieved over 10 percent penetration in its established market areas in less than 12 months. Its U-verse IPTV service can now reach more than 9 million homes. The company stated that it is on track to achieve its goal of 1 million IPTV subscribers by the end of 2008.

ATT needs to increase its average to a bit over 200 thousand new subscribers per quarter for the rest of 2008 to achieve its goal of 1 million IPTV subscribers. It subscriber adds increased by 43 thousand in 1Q08 over 4Q07. It appears that its goal is well within reach. I think the major U.S. cable companies are going to start to take notice of ATT.

Tele2 Netherlands at 237K IPTV Subscribers

Tele2 Netherlands reported that it added 12 thousand IPTV subscribers in 1Q08 giving it a total of 237 thousand. The company added 24 thousand IPTV subscribers in 4Q07.

Tele2 continues to move forward with its IPTV service. It will be interesting to see how the rest of 2008 shapes up for the company since it has lost its exclusive rights to the Dutch football broadcasts.

Monday, April 21, 2008

ITU Standards Webinar

Light Reading will be holding a webinar on May 7 on open standards for IPTV. ITU-T IPTV experts Ghassem Koleyni and Simon Jones will lead the webinar.

This is an important subject and I plan to attend. I spoke to a UK interactive TV middleware provider at NAB who explained to me how standards have separated the application from its rendering. The set-top box manufacturer can select one of several middleware packages that displays the displays built by the broadcaster. Bringing a similar architecture to Telco IPTV services could open up the Telco IPTV architecture.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Comcast's new Addressable Advertising Trial

Comcast is preparing a second and larger trial of its addressable advertising technology that will include 8,000 homes in the Baltimore area. This technology provides the ability for the set-top box to select the most appropriate of a group of ads that are provided for a particular spot based on a demographic profile of the home.

Comcast appears to be serious about this form of targeted advertising to blunt a key advantage of IPTV systems. IPTV has more flexibility since it is not limited by the spectrum limitations that the cable systems have to face.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mirimon Measures the Viewer's Video Experience

Also at NAB I sat down with Paul Tinkler, CEO and David Richards, outside Director of Mirifice. This company offers agent software that sits in a set-top box and measures the video quality of experience of the viewer. This agent in the set-top box sends alarms to a central management system that makes the operator aware of the problem. This system can be used to identify and resolve problems before the viewers are aware of them. It is also used to identify whether the problem is unique to a single user or is common to a number of users and caused by a failure in a network element. This system can be applied to both cable and IPTV systems.

Comstar in Russia will deploy the Mirifice agent on its Amino set-top boxes. Comstar plans to start by putting the agent in 100 thousand IPTV set-top boxes but plans to expand that number rapidly.

Tinkler believes that this agent will be an important tool for the technical support representatives that will increase satisfaction and decrease churn. He has found that there is a high correlation between the level of dissatisfaction and the propensity to change service providers. The happy customers tend to stay where they are.

The other video quality of experience systems that I have seen focus on network issues. I have always felt that measuring the video quality of experience at the viewer's home was key. The problem resolution process should work back from there. Obviously monitoring the network is important, but if the operators do not know what the viewer is seeing, they do not really know what is going on.

NAB Interview with Edgeware

I spoke at NAB with Joachim Roos, the CEO of Edgeware, a Swedish video on demand systems company. We had spoken a couple of years ago and he then outlined his plans to develop a flash memory based video on demand system. I next heard about Edgeware in January of this year when Tus Telecom in Slovenia was enthusiastic about them.

Edgeware had a significant win with Telia Sonera in Sweden. Edgeware's video on demand systems replaced Siecor equipment and now provides video on demand and catch up TV services to the more than 300 thousand IPTV customers that Telia Sonera supports.

Edgeware uses a distributed approach. Its edge servers use flash memory to store content and library servers backed up with disk storage at a central location. It records the catch up TV broadcast content at each edge node and lets it age off of the edge servers relatively quickly if it is not accessed. The library system can bring back any TV program that a viewer requests after it has aged off the edge system. Roos said that this approach has been very effective reducing the video traffic on the metro/aggregation networks. His experience is that about 95 percent of viewer requests in busy periods are satisfied by cached content on the edge servers and do not require transfers from the central libraries.

It was interesting to hear Edgeware's statements that its caching approaches are that effective in reducing network traffic. Of course, the number of Telia Sonera's IPTV customers is still a small part of its broadband base. It will be quite interesting to see how video on demand traffic on its network builds as IPTV penetration increases.

Cable Channels Object to a la Carte Programming

Light Reading published an article describing the reaction of the major U.S. cable networks to the FCC Chairman's proposal for a la carte programming that operators should be allowed to strip from expanded basic tier any network that required a monthly carriage fee of 75 cents per. The position of the cable networks is that this will raise the cost to the subscriber and, consequently, hurt consumers.

Both the FCC and the cable networks should take a good look at Manitoba Telecom's (MTS) IPTV content strategy. It breaks the premium channels down into small groups of three to five channels. Each subscriber decides which set of groups that they want to receive. MTS's has found that its customers really like its approach. They spend the same as they do with more structured offerings, but they get a much more useful set of channels for their money.

Ultra High Def at NAB

I just got back from NAB in Las Vegas. There were over 100 thousand people there. I spoke to several prominent IPTV vendors there. There were a couple of interesting new things that I saw that I will write about separately. The established IPTV companies are continuing to make good progress and to evolve their products.

The most interesting exhibit I saw was made by NHK. They showed 3D HD that is actually available from a satellite provider in Japan. The demo included an arrow being shot at the camera, a classic. It looked quite real and would be great to have. They also showed great shots from a Japanese probe with an HD camera orbiting 100 km above the surface of the moon.

The most interesting thing that NHK showed was its ultra high def technology that provides a 7680x4320 image. It showed a six minute demo displayed on an array of four 56 inch HD screens. There are not 7680x4320 monitors available today. It also provides 22 channel audio. The experience was spectacular. An aerial shot of Mount Fuji made felt like I was flying in a helicopter over it. Shots of a football game also gave the experience of being at the stadium, but at better seats than I have ever had. You could see the whole field and yet follow the play.

NHK was compressing the Ultra HD image using MPEG-4 AVC technology by segmenting the image from an Ultra HD camera into 16 parts, compressing each part with one of 16 encoders, and recombining it. It needs 128 Mbps to transmit the compressed image.

NHK said that it expects Ultra HD to be commercially available in 2025.

Ultra HD is clearly a huge step up from HD and should have a reception that is as strong as the reception for HD. The bandwidth required to transmit Ultra HD over an IPTV network will be very high. My guess is that it should get down to the 50 to 75 Mbps range at least by the time that it is introduced. Ultra HD will be viable only on fiber based access technologies, VDSL and cable modems will not be able to cut it. Ultra HD will be a primary driver for a gigabit connection to every home.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

TelecomView Report on U.S. Cable Strategies

TelecomView issued a report U.S. Cable: New Strategies for a Competitive World that discusses the options that the U.S. cable companies have for responding to the increased competition from satellite TV and the new IPTV services from Verizon, AT&T, and the other U.S. Telcos. It discusses the technical options that have to increase the capacity and efficiency of their cable plants. It also discusses the options that these companies have for entering and expanding their presence in other markets that are dominated by the Telcos today.

In particular the report discusses strategies for entering the wireless industry. This is the most important and most difficult problem that the U.S. cable companies face. We believe that the cable companies have to enter the wireless business to remain competitive with AT&T and Verizon.

There is a white paper that can be ordered from our website that describes the issues covered by the report.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Verizon to Eliminate Analog Tier

Verizon will eliminate its analog tier by the time of the U.S. analog switch off on February 19, 2009. It will start by eliminating its analog tier in New York by April 21. Verizon received a waiver from FCC requirements to provide integrated security set-top boxes on the condition that it convert its offering to 100 percent digital by the analog switch off date.

Verizon has had a very low take up of its analog only offering, so this should not cause a big disruption to its FiOS TV customer base.

France Telecom to offer 3 Screen TV

France Telecom will begin offering a premium TV service to its Orange broadband TV, mobile, and PC users in the fourth quarter of 2008. This premium service will provide six channels of movies and TV series with all content to be available on all three screens on demand. It will also provide the ability to download films and programs to portable devices including mobile phones.

Orange will provide access to new films, series and catalogues from Warner Bros.
International Television and HBO, as well as exclusive access to all the new movies from Fidélité
Films, and a large selection of films from the Gaumont catalog.

Orange cinéma séries will be offered as an option on Orange TV, available on broadband Internet or by satellite. Orange broadband TV coverage will be supplemented by satellite access
following a deal signed with GlobeCast, an Orange subsidiary, and Eutelsat, to start. The service will also be available for PC and mobile viewing.

France Telecom's Orange has been a leader in offering 3 screen content. This is the first 3 screen offering that I have seen that goes beyond a novelty or special event offering.

Monday, April 7, 2008

180Squared Launches

The IPTV start up company 180Squared has officially launched itself. It was formed by Microsoft Mediaroom alumni to support and extend Microsoft's Mediaroom IPTV system. Its key technology is a framework that encapsulates Mediaroom and promises to provide a set of higher level interface functions that will remain stable as Mediaroom evolves underneath it. 180Squared states that this framework will allow applications based on Mediaroom to continue to operate without change as new versions of Mediaroom are deployed underneath it.

180Squared stated that its framework will provide interfaces to both OSS/BSS systems and to applications that provide additional features to Mediaroom. The company is using the framework to support its own TV caller ID display feature and its own 911 features as well its own device activation module and billing module. It also uses the framework to support its services business which assists operators deploy Mediaroom based IPTV services.

180Squared has assisted NTELOS with its Mediaroom implementation. NTELOS operates as a rural telco and as a CLEC in Virginia and West Virginia. 180Squared stated that tier 1 Mediaroom customers have also expressed interest in its framework.

Microsoft's Mediaroom has been well accepted by tier 1 operators globally. This will provide a large potential market for 180Squareds products and services. Large operators have shown strong interest in developing and customizing their IPTV software. 180Squared should do well if it can tap into this.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I was at the ZTE analyst meeting in Shenzhen, China on March 25 and 26. ZTE was quite serious about its telco IPTV system. It offers an open system that combines ZTE and third party components, including:
  • Headends from Tut Systems (now part of Motorola), Optibase, Tandberg TV, envivio, and Thomson
  • Video On Demand Servers from ZTE
  • Middleware from ZTE
  • Content Security from ZTE, Irdeto and Verimatrix
  • Set-top boxes from ZTE, Sunniwell, and Yuxing
ZTE stated that its systems are in more than 20 deployments and trials and are currently supporting one million telco IPTV subscribers, including
  • China (with 50 percent market share according to ZTE's numbers)
  • Free Internet, Thailand
  • VNPT Vietnam
  • Belorussian Telecom
  • Progroup, Estonia
  • STC, Saudi Arabia
  • Emcali, Columbia
  • CanTV, Venezuela
ZTE's basic business strategy is to focus on developing countries, especially China and India. This is a good strategy, since this is where the new opportunities are coming from.

Comcast's Targeted Ads

Light Reading published an article describing trials of targeted ad technologies that Comcast is running. Comcast is using technology from OpenTV that sends four ads to the set-top box, which selects which ad will be shown to the viewer based on anonymous demographic data.

This is an interesting approach that fits the spectrum limitations of a cable network. A telco IPTV network can use a similar approach without a limit on the number of ad choices. This is another way that cable companies are developing technologies to address advantages of IPTV deliver.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Comcast Introduces 50mbps DOCSIS 3.0

Comcast has introduced a 50 mbps DOCSSIS 3.0 broadband data service in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. The service supports 50 mbps downstream and 5 mbps upstream. It is using Cisco CMTS systems for this service.

This rollout is typical of how DOCSIS 3.0 services will be rolled out. DOCSIS 3.0 systems are still going through CableLab certification. The rollout of DOCSIS 3.0 services will be limited until that takes place. DOCSIS 3.0 services are likely to be high priced premium services designed to establish market leadership rather than a mass market service in the early stages.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

SCTE Launches Fiber Standards Project

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) launched a standards effort for its RF over Glass (RFOG) project. RFOG will include a range of interfaces that enable new FTTP networks to interconnect with the cable operator's HFC network. Some of the RFOG project will involve specifications for passive splitters and directional couplers, gateway RF levels, gateway environmental requirements, and fiber-optic passive filters. It will also ensure that traditional digital set-tops and DOCSIS modems can run on FTTP plants managed by cable operators.

This is additional alternative that will improve the ability of cable companies to compete with the telcos. Home developers are showing a preference for fiber broadband rather than cable coax systems. RFOG will give the cable companies the technology to respond to these requests.