IPTV With a Spanish Accent

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Reaching across the pond for what it calls a “proven” system, Lucent Technologies will launch an Internet-protocol television platform based on code created by customer Telefónica, the Spanish telephone company.

The telecom-equipment company last week introduced MiViewTV, a multimedia platform for delivering broadcast TV, on-demand video, Web content, video games and telecommunications services tailored to individual customers. Telefónica developed the software for its Imagenio IPTV service, which has about 300,000 subscribers.

BOUGHT SALE RIGHTS

Lucent signed a deal with Telefónica in April 2006 to take over development of Imagenio, hiring about 150 Madrid-based engineers for the project. The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

Lucent, though, has the right to sell commercial versions of the IPTV system globally without restrictions, said Cassidy Shield, director and general manager of Lucent's broadband-video and multimedia-solutions group.

Shield said Lucent was driven toward the Telefónica agreement after it lost the bid for the SBC Communications (now AT&T) Project Lightspeed supplier contract to Alcatel in 2004.

Alcatel's five-year contract, worth an estimated $1.7 billion, covers equipment and services to deliver IPTV, high-speed broadband services, voice-over-IP and wireless services. (In April, Alcatel announced plans to acquire Lucent, a deal that's pending.)

“We looked at that from a lessons-learned point of view, and we developed a strategy on how to get into the IPTV market in 12 to 18 months,” Shield said. “That led us to Telefónica.”

Lucent said MiViewTV is able to support more than 1 million users.

“We accepted the Telefónica solution because it was shown to have scaled up to hundreds of thousands of users,” said Marcus Weldon, chief technology officer for Lucent's broadband solutions, adding that “there were many other options available to us.”

Colin Dixon, practice manager of IP media for analyst and consulting group The Diffusion Group, says Lucent needed an IPTV offering to compete with rivals in the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) market, which includes Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Siemens.

“I assume [Lucent's] customers were saying, 'Well, where are you on IPTV?' ” said Dixon. “It's a pretty smart move — go get something that works.”

The back-end MiViewTV software runs on Intel-based servers and systems from Sun Microsystems, and the client runs on Linux set-top boxes.

Lucent will couple that software with its IMS offerings to support the blending of multiple services to be able to handle new composite multimedia applications, such as interactive caller ID-on-TV, instant messaging on TV and transferring an IPTV session to a mobile device.

Knitting IPTV tightly into the core IMS architecture is appealing to service providers because they wouldn't have to deploy and maintain separate infrastructures, Dixon said. Today, for example, Verizon Communications' FiOS TV service runs on systems that operate independently of the company's telephone service.

Aside from Telefónica itself, Lucent has not announced any customers for MiViewTV. Telefónica's Imagenio service, one of the largest commercial IPTV deployments to date, provides TV and audio content and includes an interactive video-on-demand service.

Telefonica has rolled out IPTV services in Spain and the Czech Republic, and expects to launch similar ones in Brazil and Chile within the next six months.

MICROSOFT NEWS

In other IPTV news, Microsoft and four of its set-top partners — Cisco, Motorola, Philips Consumer Electronics and Tatung — last week announced the availability of system-on-a-chip set-top boxes that support the Microsoft IPTV Edition software platform.

The new system-on-a-chip boxes, according to Microsoft, will make it easier for service providers to deploy IPTV Edition more broadly and quickly and will help them launch new TV services such as digital video recording and picture-in-picture.

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