Following SBC’s (quote - news -alert) announcement yesterday about serving residences with a new VoIP calling plan in 2005, the telecom made public today that it selected Microsoft’s (quote - news - alert) IPTV to provide television services. The SBC IPTV deal with Microsoft, valued in excess of $400 million over 10 years, becomes one of the first of its kind for any U.S.-based telecommunications provider.
Yesterday, I briefly mentioned SBC’s Project Lightspeed, among the future plans of the telecom giant. Project Lightspeed is what the company calls its initiative to deploy fiber closer to customer locations to provide new, feature-rich, IP-based services, including IP television, voice over IP (VoIP), and ultra-fast Internet access. The telecom plans to complete this project by 2007, and expects the bundled services to reach 18 million households nationwide.
"Project Lightspeed and the Microsoft and SBC relationship underscore what the future holds for consumers: a virtually unlimited opportunity for innovative, cross-device services and entertainment experiences enabled by the marriage of powerful broadband networks with the magic of software," said Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. "The selection of Microsoft TV as the IPTV services platform provider for SBC recognizes Microsoft's leadership position in the rapidly emerging IPTV industry and the benefits it will bring to customers."
Included among the SBC’s IP-based service tests, is the company’s IP TV effort which is being developed by using Microsoft’s TV IPTV Edition platform. Both companies have been testing the product in the SBC labs since this summer. SBC and Microsoft will begin field trials in mid-2005 and plan commercial availability of the IP-based television platform during the end of next year.
"Our service will change the way people experience TV. Finally, customers will watch what they want, when they want -- from a virtually unlimited and interactive content selection," said Edward E. Whitacre Jr., SBC Communications Inc. chairman and CEO. "We will deliver integrated communications and entertainment services to enhance the digital lifestyle of our customers."
Microsoft says its TV IPTV Edition also provides strong security features and efficiency in delivering standard and high-definition TV programming to multiple TV sets in the home over the SBC fiber-enhanced network, while leaving ample bandwidth available for ultra-fast Internet access and VoIP services.
By using IP technology to deliver video, voice, data and other advanced services and applications over a single network connection, telecoms can offer services that may be accessed and shared via any number of IP-enabled household devices, such as TVs, set-top boxes, PCs, PDAs or phones.
SBC plans for its IP TV service to include instant channel changing, customizable channel lineups, video-on-demand, digital video recording, multimedia interactive program guides, event notifications, content protection features and more. "We will have a rich multimedia program guide that makes it easy to find the programs you want to watch, and provides full control over when and how you want to watch them," said Whitacre. "Channel surfing becomes easier because you can continue to watch your program while viewing live previews of other shows using innovative picture-in-picture (PIP) technology."
Consider some additional potential applications for SBC’s IP TV service:
+ Using two-way broadband networks, SBC companies might be able to send alerts and notifications to customers watching TV in new ways. Some examples include the ability to alert a customer of upcoming favorite shows, or Caller ID and instant messaging right on their TV screen.
+ The Microsoft TV IPTV Edition platform could enable new services and applications such as tuner-less picture-in-picture functionality. The PIP feature enables users to preview other shows and channels while the primary channel runs in the background.
+ Photos could be easily shared from a networked computer and played back through the TV.
+ To enable optimal use of bandwidth, SBC companies plan to use a switched video distribution system, which streams only the content the customer requests instead of broadcasting all channels to everybody at once. This cutting-edge technology frees up large amounts of bandwidth for other applications.
"Our video on demand will come with a substantial content library," said Whitacre. "The customer gains additional control over the content they want versus what is delivered to them. We get the flexibility of not being constrained by bandwidth."
You can view a demo of potential services made possible by IPTV online.
SBC Communications, Inc.
Microsoft TV Platform
|Johanne Torres is contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was
assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She
can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.