As telecommunications-networking heavyweights Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies jump into the broadband-content fray, it's becoming clear that streaming media is more than a passing fad-it's seen as a key differentiator in attracting the masses to broadband connectivity.
Nortel led the charge by spearheading a consortium of network and content providers to form the Broadband Content Delivery Forum. The new group enlisted Enron Communications Inc., AT & T Broadband, Telocity Inc., British Telecommunications plc, NBC Interactive (NBCi), Bertelsmann AG, Qwest Communications International Inc. and others.
"What we need is a broadband alliance to make this new era happen now," said Hardy Heine, executive vice president of Bertelsmann Broadband Group. The group is pushing "content-mediation" and delivery technologies to allow access to an identified content base and enable targeted services.
Anthony Alles, president and general manager of Internet-protocol services for Nortel, will serve as the BCDF's interim chairman until the group meets next month.
Nortel brings personal-portal and personal-content-tunnel technologies designed to establish a network-login scheme to facilitate personalized content and applications.
Service providers can let subscribers trigger personal content tunnels by clicking on a service ad and connecting directly to local broadband-content servers over high-speed connections.
Nortel's fierce rival in the network-equipment market, Lucent, recently launched its own new broadband venture. GeoVideo Networks will deliver HDTV-quality (high-definition television), real-time IP video over an international fiber network for business-to-business and consumer applications.
"GeoVideo Networks aims to assemble the most sophisticated network for broadband-video services the world has ever seen," president and co-CEO Cliff J. Schorer said.
Lucent Digital Video will be the preferred supplier of video encoding and gateway equipment for the venture, which plans to enter 60 markets within five years. Rollouts are scheduled for New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas within one year. London will host GeoVideo's first international network hub.
Elsewhere, recognizing that many subscribers have high-speed connections, America Online Inc. rolled out "AOL Plus," which is designed to enable multimedia-content viewing.
The latest AOL browser contains a speed-detect feature that automatically downloads the software to view content such as full-motion video and streaming audio. Once downloaded, an "AOL Plus Tower" appears in the lower-right corner of the screen when users sign on with high-speed connections.
AOL has lined up several partners to provide broadband content, including Cable News Network, Fox Sports, CBS Corp.'s MarketWatch.com Inc., Spinner Networks Inc., Travelocity.com L.P. and House of Blues Digital