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Alcatel + Microsoft = Internet TV Over IP, a.k.a. "IPTV," Coming Soon To a PC or TV Near You

Alcatel and Microsoft To Develop an "Integrated IPTV Solution"

Microsoft is teaming up with Alcatel - the company that developed Amigo TV, a community TV application, and the world's leading DSL equipment provider - to try and carve itself a slice of the fast-emerging TV and video-over-broadband market.

The two companies yesterday confirmed they've entered a global agreement to accelerate the availability of TV over IP (IPTV) for broadband operators.

It is a marriage made in technology heaven: Alcatel is a leader in broadband, in networking over IP, and in the growth and integration of multimedia and end-to-end video while Microsoft is a leader in software for TV.

The sorts of services the partnership hopes to facilitate include video streaming on-demand, interactive TV, video and voice communications, photos, music and home video sharing, and online gaming.

Analysts say that the chief aim of the partnership will be to tie up agreements with as many of the world's top 20 operators as possible, who between them account for between 60-70% of the world's access lines. On a conference call yesterday, Moshe Lichtman, VP of Microsoft's TV division, confirmed that "with Alcatel we will be able to target those [top operators] much more effectively."

Internet Protocol television is the accepted term for the notion of TV and/or video signals distributed to subscribers using Internet protocols - often in parallel with the subscriber's Internet connection, supplied by a broadband operator using the same infrastructure and possibly bandwidth.

The playback of IPTV generally requires either a personal computer or a "set-top box" connected to a TV. 

In a joint statement the two companies declared that their global collaboration agreement was aimed at accelerating the availability of next-generation IPTV service offerings by broadband operators globally and that the integrated IPTV delivery solution, once developed, would help reduce the deployment costs and time-to-market period for IPTV service producers.

"Together, Alcatel and Microsoft will usher in a new generation of exciting entertainment, information and communication services, enabled by the marriage of powerful broadband networks and advanced software," said Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer.

"We are committed to integrate the current Alcatel video solutions with Microsoft TV IPTV Edition, resulting in a market-leading integrated offering," added Alcatel Chief Executive Serge Tchuruk.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
Ravi 01/17/08 03:01:55 AM EST

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henkepek 02/23/05 10:34:31 AM EST

without every user having broadband SUX.
i can tell...coz i tried it ....i have broadband,and my IP provider,whom i have telephone + internet via cable from, last week started to launch streaming TV ( videofilms on demand).... for starters ,i could chose a free film to look at ...but if i go over my 10 Gigs a month ,they put me on smallband....and they did ...if i wanted speed again on my regular internetconnection i had to pay more(1 Gig/1 euro)......

Suburbanpride 02/23/05 05:40:37 AM EST

Microsoft probably has the cash to muscle out (or buy out) a lot of start ups in this area, but It wouldn't suprise me to see someone like apple, or maybe someone less consumer oriented like cisco stand up to microsoft and not let them take the market without a fight. Apple has a patent out on an implementation of TV in quicktime.

EmbeddedJanitor 02/23/05 05:19:03 AM EST

###elid commented on 23 February 2005:
The real question is how much will something like this cost to the consumer? ###

The other question: how crap will this be? Given the problems involved in doing VoIP, the mind boggles as HDTVoIP with its far bigger hunger for hbandwidth.

elid 02/23/05 05:17:10 AM EST

The real question is how much will something like this cost to the consumer?

moosesocks 02/23/05 04:36:23 AM EST

Verizon has far more ambitious plans.

They are in the process of wiring several states with Fiber lines to the home to provide phone, internet, and in the future, television (most likely provided by some form of DirecTV due to verizon's recent dealings with DirecTV).

I believe service is already live in a few cities with reported speeds of 50mbps down/15mbps up. All for about $60/month.

This regulation should speed up deployment in a few states such as NJ, which have the networks in place but cannot be turned on due to the regulatory hell that is NJ telecom.

Does this have... 02/23/05 04:34:16 AM EST

...Digital rights management implications? I fear so.

DumbSwede 02/23/05 04:11:27 AM EST

Broadcast is dying, I think this year is the tipping point (at least it is for me). With the exception of live events like Sports and News why would you need simultaneous broadcast over the air? Storage is large and cheap and getting more so. Download your favorite programs and watch them at leisure on a portable player.

I had thought this was at least 10 years away, but inevitable. Perhaps it is now only 4 or 5 years away.

PhillC 02/23/05 04:08:27 AM EST

You're still probably watching "NTSC" based HD TV. Most HD broadcasts in the US today are in what's known as 1080/59.94i (to give it its full name). "1080i" stands for resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and the magic little 'i' means that the video is being interlaced. The "59.94", which is usually just rounded up to 60, refers to the Hz refresh rate. NTSC is at 60Hz, while PAL is generally at 50Hz.

Plus, most of the shows your watching have probably been upconverted from Standard Definition (SD). Granted, there's still a quality improvement over SD for upconverted footage, but it will largely depend on the originating format. So if a fairly newish show was originally produced on 16mm or 35mm file, or even DigiBeta tape, the upconversion will look pretty good. Older shows that may have been recored on 16mm, and others on formats like BetaSP or D3, will in general not have the same level of upconverted quality.

Actual production in HD is still in its infancy. And the whole NTSC vs PAL fun is about to begin again. The US seems to have adopted the 1080i HD standard, while Europe is leaning more towards 720p (progressive).

an00n 02/23/05 04:07:16 AM EST

i have trouble watching standard def tv now.
with a plasma 50" tv and the hidef tivo, the picture quality on shows like CSI, Law & Order, Lost, and all the hidef hbo's unbelievable.
PBS in HD is incredible. watching great nature documentaries with the fully lifelike saturation and tonal quality that ntsc cannot deliver is pure goodness.

Magickat 02/23/05 03:19:28 AM EST

HDTV on IP - no thanks, I'd rather surf the net. Whilst developing all these new television technologies, perhaps someone will eventually consider that the majority of television programs are terrible regardless of their high quality sound and pictures etc.

Whether the program is interactive or on demand, or how it's delievered, doesn't matter to me so much as what I'm actually watching. and I'm getting less and less impressed every year.

I find myself watching less and less television, and using the Internet more and more. As for the phone, most people I know use it mainly to talk about television. I'm getting close to the point where I almost solely use email.

Wesley Felter 02/23/05 03:17:59 AM EST

MS is late to the party. Companies like Minerva and Pace have TV over IP stuff that works and is deployed today. Microsoft is going to have to offer something either cheaper or better if they want to take over the TV over IP market.

NotAnotherReboot 02/23/05 03:16:20 AM EST

On the flipside, one could take their failure as an important lesson that they will build upon.

I would think a project like this would actually be easier if it is digital the entire way through. Microsoft also has plenty of experience with streaming media these days.

I'm not sure how much this tale impacts expectations of this project.

sakusha 02/23/05 03:14:31 AM EST

MS failed at this before, with plain old NTSC. A friend of mine worked at a TV station that I am not permitted to reveal (but is right in MS's backyard somewhere). They had a multimillion dollar pilot project to use Microsoft software to deliver digital signals between the studio and the transmitter (and cable distro point) with dedicated, unlimited bandwidth digital circuits. Microsoft threw millions of dollars of research money into the project, it was to be their showpiece, to demonstrate how MS could provide end-to-end digital infrastructure for TV stations.

It was an utter failure. Despite the use of supposedly uncompressed video, everyone started complaining the picture was fuzzy and the audio didn't sync perfectly. The station abandoned the project after millions of dollars of their own investment, MS lost even more money.

And this was plain old NTSC video, not even HDTV. If MS couldn't get this project to work with the entire company behind it, what in the HELL makes people think they could succeed at HDTV?

nmb3000 02/23/05 03:13:10 AM EST

So it's starting. As much as I wonder how this is going to play out in terms of cost and DRM issues, I'm glad to see at least a few introductory steps taking us in the direction.

I really look forward to getting rid of the old standard twisted-pair copper wire infrastructure that we're currently using and moving towards a "one connection for everything" system. Assuming we don't run into issues with monopoly-dictated pricing and/or start revisiting the old problems with massive telecoms, I'd love to get all my services through a single cable and a single provider, not to mention a kickass Internet connection.

How much federal regulation will eventually need to come into play to prevent history from repeating itself as with the telecoms? Should something as huge and important as the nation's information infrastructure be regulated directly by the government as the railroads were for a time?

mr_gerbik 02/23/05 03:07:14 AM EST

The problem with VoIP has nothing to do with bandwidth problems, and everything to do with poor latency due to software switches along the way. VoIP needs to get data end to end with no hiccups at real time.

HowaboutSBC 02/23/05 03:02:38 AM EST

SBC Communications, the dominant local phone company from the Midwest to California, is already deploying a full-blown IPTV system, which it plans to launch by year-end in "undisclosed markets." What techology does that use?

aclidiere 02/23/05 02:57:11 AM EST

The idea of watching whatever you want, whenever you want is definitely exciting. As part of my job, I have been studying the possibility to watch any program one would have missed in the past week of programming. You don't even bother to record the programs! All are recorded, on the server side!

However, a big, big factor to consider is scalability. I don't think you can let 100% of IPTV subscribers watch TV at their own pace. The network cannot handle that.

What happens when designing an IPTV system, is that you make guesses about what percentage of users will want to watch live TV and what percentage will watch on-demand, or will want to control live, at a same time.

Live TV works in multicast, and NVOD (Network Video on Demand) works in unicast. If 10 people watch the same show -- but want fine control over it -- that's 10 unicast streams, instead of of 10 "joins" to a single multicast stream. In other words, if you give everyone control, you multiply the bandwidth that is required by ten (in this particular case).

I'm sure that in the future IPTV providers go towards more unicast, on-demand connections; but there will always be live and multicast because that's the best use of the bandwidth.

mpesce 02/23/05 02:56:24 AM EST

One of the things that both programmers (TV programmers, that is) and consumers usually fail to "get" about IPTV is that it takes us completely away from the channel model of programming. A channel is a set of programs - just like a DJ's set is a selection of tracks. There's nothing intrinsic about the programming - it exists because TV spectrum is limited, so programmers pick the programs that they feel will get them the highest ratings in the market.

But when you move to IPTV, where you can send a highly individualized, per-program stream to each user's STB, why do you need a channel? Can't the customer just directly select the programs they're interested in - from a very, very, very long list of available programs - and watch those? Why do you need a TV programmer at that point?

Of course, there are all sorts of licensing and copyright issues which need to be observed in that situation (so that everyone involved gets to make some money) but that's just a legal nicety.

aussie_a 02/23/05 02:54:48 AM EST

Will Americans who come over to Australia for 12 months as exchange students be able to still watch their shows thanks to IPTV? How about us aussies? We often don't get American shows, will we be able to sign up for American IPTV and get it while in Australia?

dstone 02/23/05 02:53:35 AM EST

Manitoba Telecom Systems have been serving digital television over DSL lines for a while (in Winnipeg only right now, but if a "small" operator like MTS can make it work in a small city like Winnipeg, that's probably good news for the rest of us.)

JustNiz 02/23/05 02:51:12 AM EST

I can't see that the current internet infrastructure can support anything like the kind of bandwidth needed for this.
Millions/Billions of simultaneous full res video streams will surely bring everything to a crawl.

iowaIPTV 02/23/05 02:50:14 AM EST

Here in rural Iowa, a small telco is actively rolling out IPTV to its customers. It costs about the same as the local Large Cable Company's extended basic cable service ($45-50), but the Telco's offering has over 100 digital channels.

The downside is that, due to bandwidth limitations, you can only get 2-3 (depending location) simultaneous channels. I'm hoping to be able to MythTV-ize it.

The main obstacle is that, due to town rules, there must be a vote here in this town (every resident must vote) explicitly allowing Telco to provide TV service. It's quite stupid imho.

ottothecow 02/23/05 02:47:51 AM EST

As we start routing everything over IP, we had better hope that new technologies emerge to provide guaranteed connection availability and bandwidth because nobody wants their Desperate Housewives to be laggy.

agraupe 02/23/05 02:45:53 AM EST

Imagine if this was available to people who get hi-speed Internet via cable. Sure, it would serve no purpose to get TV-over-IP-over-TV, but some people would do it just to be cool. Also, why should I get DSL (or fibre-optic, or whatever this needs) and ditch my TV any more than I should get cable tv, internet, and VOIP?

jd 02/23/05 02:41:47 AM EST

TV-over-IP, because it would be unregulated, completely bypasses all ownership rules. This means that newspapers and radio stations that are looking to muscle into TV would have an advantage as they could get into IPTV without restriction, whereas TV companies are limited in what they can do in other media.

yabos 02/23/05 02:38:12 AM EST

For one thing, instant channel switching from one digital channel to another. Most satellite and digital TV takes a second to switch channels but the MS IPTV is instant.

They also have live previews of the shows in the guide which is pretty cool. So you are watching one channel and you have the small picture in picture at the bottom of the show you are previewing with the guide.

craXORjack 02/23/05 02:37:13 AM EST

What benefits does IPTV offer besides my TV viewing being at the mercy of DOS attacks and trackable (you think http cookies have been abused, just wait) and limited since I can currently buy more satellite receivers if I want more simultaneous HD streams?

Bad News 02/23/05 02:34:26 AM EST

This is good for Microsoft. But you can bet it isn't going to be good for the rest of us in the long run.

Microsoft does a lot of smart things, but the smartest thing they did was pouring all that money into snapping up nearly every researcher in video codecs in the world and having them all work on WMV. There have been a number of things resulting from this; the main one is that within not too many years, WMV will be the only remaining non-MPEG standard in the field, and MPEG will be declining in importance.

Another possible result, which as of today seems a lot more likely than before, that within 10 years the Tivo will be utterly gone and there will be no difference between the terms "PVR" and "Microsoft Media Center".

M$skeptic 02/23/05 02:29:30 AM EST

I smell DRM! How could there *not* be DRM with microshaft involved

Infopoint 02/23/05 02:27:36 AM EST

Microsoft says its IPTV technology will allow a home to receive 3 standard TV signals, 1 HD channel, and high-speed Internet access all at the same time.

quezztion 02/23/05 02:24:13 AM EST

So IPTV delivers TV content in much the same way as VOIP delivers phone service, right. Does that mean it relies on fiber optic speeds?

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