Market gets tricky as Cablevision buyout vote looms
By Brian Santo
Days after news that a buyout of Insight Communications is on hold (see story), another cable deal is being bollixed, and for the same reason. The tightening credit market is undermining the financing of The Dolan family’s attempt to take Cablevision Systems private.
Cablevision has called a special meeting of its shareholders on October 24, 2007 to vote on the Dolan family’s standing offer of $36.26 per share.
But that deal is predicated on the Dolan’s borrowing more than $15 billion, which is becoming increasingly more difficult given current credit market trends. The key factor is rising interest rates on the debt the Dolans would assume.
Shareholders of record at the close of business on October 4, 2007 will be entitled to vote at the special meeting of shareholders, which will be held at 11:00 a.m. ET at Cablevision’s headquarters at 1111 Stewart Avenue, Bethpage, N.Y.
CableLabs completes first interop for PacketCable 2.0
By Mike Robuck
Some of the best and the brightest converged on CableLabs’ headquarters just outside of Denver last month for the first interoperability event for PacketCable 2.0.
The weeklong interop event featured 11 industry vendors who came together in the PacketCable Application Lab (PAL) to focus on pre-PacketCable 2.0 IMS core networks, voice applications services, and voice clients. According to CableLabs, the sessions also “achieved an impressive level” of interoperability for SIP-based services across the various equipment combinations provided by the vendors. The testing also included voice interoperability with PacketCable 1.5.
Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Gallery-IPT and MetaSwitch provided the networking foundation for the event with their pre-PacketCable 2.0 IMS core networks. Alcatel-Lucent recently became the second major equipment manufacturer to permanently install its pre-PacketCable 2.0 IMS core in CableLabs’ PAL.
The voice applications servers were provided by Alcatel-Lucent, BroadSoft, Cedar Point, Gallery-IPT, IP Unity, MetaSwitch, Sonus and Sylantro. Embedded digital voice adapters, or E-DVAs, were brought to the event by Broadcom and Motorola. An E-DVA is a DOCSIS cable modem with an embedded PacketCable 2.0 SIP client for making voice calls.
“This event was highly successful, thanks in large part to the excellent level of participation and support provided by the equipment manufacturers,” said Ed Miller, CableLabs’ vice president of Broadband Network Services, in a statement. “Having established a solid base of voice interoperability, we’re looking forward to upcoming events when we begin exploring applications that extend beyond voice to cover areas such as cross-platform features, unified messaging, and presence.”
PacketCable 2.0 is an architecture and set of specifications developed by CableLabs, cable operators, and vendors that is designed to extend the cable industry’s VoIP platform’s capabilities beyond basic telephony into new services such as wireless, fixed-mobile convergence, business communications, video communications, and cross-platform features. The IP-services delivery platform will also help cable operators to rapidly deploy new services in a cost-effective manner.
“The ability to rapidly innovate advanced IP services is an important part of the cable industry roadmap,” said Tony Werner, CTO of Comcast, in a prepared statement. “Comcast appreciates the support that the vendor community provided for this first event and looks forward to their continued involvement.”
The lab, launched in April, will also be used as an interoperability test bed to help CableLabs and manufacturers prepare for PacketCable 2.0 certification, but timetables for certification waves and future interoperability events were not given.
GigaBeam’s WiFiber links to connect Boston
By Traci Patterson
GigaBeam Corp. has received an order for two 100 megabit WiFiber links from Weston, Mass.-based wireless service provider MetroNext Inc. The WiFiber links are expected to be deployed as access links to business enterprises in downtown Boston.
MetroNext is expected to deploy a network similar to the one deployed by another WiLEC in Las Vegas, One Velocity Inc. That was the first network to use the WiFiber 100 megabit product, and it covers 620 square miles across the Las Vegas valley, carrying voice, video, Internet and data over the metro Ethernet network.
MetroNext will provide the Internet backhaul and high-speed network backbone for Boston’s pilot Wi-Fi network. The project calls for seven WiFiber links to be utilized, connecting the Wi-Fi nodes to a central fiber hub at a point-of-presence (POP) in downtown Boston.
GigaBeam WiFiber products operate in the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz upper millimeter wave spectrum bands.
Verizon sues to overturn 700 MHz auction open-access rule
By Brian Santo
Verizon Wireless, taking exception to the FCC’s rule that licensees of a key segment of the 700 MHz spectrum must allow any device access to the network and any application on those devices, has sued to get the provision dropped (document here).
Verizon Wireless’ suit argues the FCC has no authority to make the rule, which the company called “arbitrary, capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence and otherwise contrary to law.”
The FCC included the provision as a means of opening cellular phone networks to potential participants in the market such as Google or Skype. It would break the tight control cellular providers have over their own networks.
Wireless broadband a bright spot for Internet America
By Mike Robuck
Houston, Texas-based Internet America released its fiscal year end results today that were bolstered by the company’s transition to wireless broadband Internet services.
The company increased its wireless broadband subscriber base by 80 percent as of June 30. Internet America, which provides Internet access to both residential and business customers, currently has a total of 7,100 wireless broadband customers.
Service revenues dropped from $9.9 million in fiscal year 2006 to $7.9 million, which Internet America said was due to the decline in its dial-up subscribers. Internet America’s total subscriber base decreased by 8.6 percent to 34,200.
The company’s EBITDA earnings for the fiscal year increased by 77.3 percent to $454,000 compared to $256,000 the previous year. Internet America’s net loss was $347,000 after posting a net loss of $636,000 in 2006. The company cited cost cutting measures in staffing and telecommunications expenses as the reasons behind the reduction in its net loss, and a reduction in operating costs for the improved EBITDA.
“We are quite excited with the steps that we took during the year towards establishing a stronger platform for our broadband wireless Internet business,” said Billy Ladin, chairman and CEO of Internet America, in a statement. “We have expanded in areas of Texas providing broadband wireless Internet access services to under-served and non-served markets in suburban and rural areas and we expect to continue to grow by completing additional acquisitions and deploying new infrastructure throughout the Southwest.”
Filling in white spaces: The move away from analog TV
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times
The looming shift from analog to digital television signals in February 2009 will open a prime set of frequencies to new uses. Nationally, UHF channels 52 to 69 are being cleared for public safety communications and broadband wireless services. Regionally, significant chunks of unused airwaves could open up between channels, depending on how many stations are broadcasting in the area.
These “white spaces” are the subject of an intensifying debate in Washington. Broadcasters, sports leagues and some TV manufacturers started an advertising blitz this week urging policymakers not to let portable devices transmit on those bands of spectrum. They are opposed by a coalition of high-tech firms and consumer electronics companies that want to use the vacant TV airwaves for high-speed Internet access, home networks and other digital services.
The broadcasters have raised some legitimate points, but their concerns amount to more of a caution sign than a red light for the Federal Communications Commission. If portable devices can be made in a way that avoids interference with digital TV and related signals, they should be allowed into the market.
The public has much to gain from the efficient use of TV spectrum. Allowing such prime airwaves to be used without licenses could yield the same sort of innovation explosion that fueled the growth of unlicensed Wi-Fi devices and services, which have transformed home computer networks and coffee shops around the globe.
Avoiding interference is a prerequisite – no one wants new devices interfering with the TV signals of neighbors – and that’s a relatively easy task in rural areas with few local TV stations. In cities such as Los Angeles, the airwaves are more saturated with licensed uses – not just TV programs but signals from medical equipment, public safety agencies, the wireless microphones used by news and sports crews, even astronomers. Yet a study earlier this year found that even in densely populated areas of the Northeast, at least 15 channels will be left vacant after the analog TV cutoff in 2009.
Tech companies argue that they can address all of the broadcasters’ concerns about portable devices. Sensors can detect which frequencies in the area have no usable TV signals, they say, and the devices’ transmissions can be limited to prevent them from bleeding into occupied channels.
These claims should be tested with prototypes in densely populated areas. If they succeed, the results can guide the FCC’s requirements for white-space use. Viewers shouldn’t have to put upwith interference on their new digital TV sets, but that’s no reason to leave empty airwaves empty.
Broadband Briefs for 9/14/07
* J:COM ups advanced advertising strategy
By Traci Patterson
Dentsu Inc. will acquire an equity stake in a consolidated subsidiary of Jupiter Telecommunications Co. (J:Com) – Jupiter Visual Communications Co. (J-VC) – and the two companies will jointly develop new advertising and media advertising techniques.
J:Com is Japan’s largest MSO, and it offers iTV and VOD services to its nearly 3 million subscribers. Dentsu is a Japanese advertising agency with more than 6,000 clients. Japan’s advertising market is second only to the U.S.
* United Online taps Ray as new CFO, executive VP
By Mike Robuck
United Online, which includes ISPs NetZero and Juno in its portfolio, announced on Thursday that Scott Ray is the company’s new CFO and executive vice president, effective Oct. 1. Prior to joining United Online, Ray was CFO for ValueClick. His resume also includes a stop at OpenTV.