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VDSL Gateway at CES

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As I’m still wrapping up coverage of the products and demos from CES, here’s a quick look at Motorola’s VDSL2+ gateway. Per my earlier conversation with Alan Lefkof, it looks like this will be a big year for upgrades from ADSL to VDSL. The gateway shown here (Motorola Netopia 7000 series) can reach throughput levels up to 100 Mbps and includes four Ethernet ports, two ports for VoIP and a POTS back-up port.

Interestingly, a consumer receiving TV over DSL needs both a set-top and a modem/gateway for access (cable TV only requires a set-top), with a lot of the quality of service (QoS) functions taking place on the gateway device. In other words, the gateway picks up a lot of the slack in making it possible for operators to deliver voice, video and data simultaneously without any service degradation.

Networking HDTV at Home

moca-motorola-set-top.jpgThere was a fair bit of noise at CES about wireless tech for networking HDTV around the home. On the retail side it looks like devices will come out this year, but expense and set-up complexity seem likely to keep the technology out of most households in the short term. So what about service providers? Will they step in to make wireless HDTV possible?

Not this year.

The real issue, which came out in a CES panel on next-gen entertainment, is that wired networking is much more cost-effective right now. And that’s okay. Very few people have networked HDTV at all right now, so the fact that operators (and content producers from a security perspective) have increased confidence in wired networking means that today’s lucky few should grow to significant numbers in 2008 and 2009. Verizon has been happy with its Multimedia-over-Coax (MoCA) deployments (albeit without HD networking yet), and the panel representative from BT I saw at CES acknowledged that Broadband-over-Powerline (BPL) technology has been very successful for his business.

As far as service providers go, the business model right now supports wired over wireless networking. As far as consumers go, does it make a difference? If someone comes into my house and sets it up so I can access live high-def TV and recorded HD content from any room in my home, I’m happy.

WiMAX at CES, Part 1

wimax-ces-motorola-xohm-sprint.jpgIt’s been difficult to sort through the debate over mobile WiMAX in my own mind. On the one hand, people who experience it walk away impressed. On the other hand, there has been significant skepticism since the break-up of Sprint and Clearwire and Verizon’s decision to move forward with LTE as a 4G technology. Fortunately for me, two sessions at CES have helped bring some clarity.

In this post I’ll talk about a panel session that took place with Sprint, Intel, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung. In Part 2 of WiMAX at CES, I’ll talk about a one-on-one session I had at the show with Motorola’s Fred Wright, SVP of Cellular Networks and WiMAX.

I slipped in a bit late to the panel session, which was officially called the “2008 Xohm Forum”, and had little time to digest the discussion as I frantically took notes. In later review, however, here are the three themes I found most interesting. First, everyone on the panel was a true believer. I heard over and over again that WiMAX is here now and that the movement is far larger than Sprint alone. The Sprint Xohm initiative is helping to launch WiMAX into the global mainstream, but it’s just the beginning. Everyone on the panel was firmly convinced that the WiMAX momentum would continue even if the Xohm network inexplicably collapsed.

Second, WiMAX represents an entirely new cost model from today’s 3G mobile broadband options. I don’t know enough of the technical background to explain the details, but the cost of WiMAX is low enough that an operator like Sprint doesn’t need a contract from its customers. That’s right, no contract commitment needed. Subscribers will be able to purchase WiMAX access for a week or even a day.

Third, the relationship between network and hardware can be completely different in the WiMAX model. Sprint has said it won’t subsidize hardware like mobile handsets. Instead, consumers will buy WiMAX-certified gear at retail and then purchase network access from Sprint. That brings an entirely new perspective to the range of WiMAX hardware that should become available.

There are still a lot of unknowns, but WiMAX certainly offers some intriguing possibilities. In Part 2, look for more details on Motorola’s projections for WiMAX in 2008 and beyond.

A Moment on Gizmodogate

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I have to admit that my mature adult side is warring with my inner adolescent. If you haven’t heard about Gizmodo’s prank at CES, the folks there used a TV-B-Gone clicker to turn off television displays throughout the show. Then Gizmodo edited a video montage of the group’s mischief and posted it for all to see. The video is very funny.

Unfortunately, the Gizmodo crew caused a lot of problems, most notably for Motorola. I happened to be in the room when Motorola executive Jeremy Dale started a press conference last Sunday night only to have several of his displays, including the teleprompter, go down. As you can see in Gizmodo’s video montage, Mr. Dale handled the difficulties very well. However, in such a high-pressure situation, what Gizmodo did is almost unconscionable, and if I were Jeremy Dale, I’d be furious. You just don’t mess with someone’s presentation.

The other thing that’s upsetting about this prank is that when reporters (and yes I am including bloggers in that category) behave badly, it puts people in a very tricky position. Companies are dependent on what the media say about them, which means journalists can get away with a lot while knowing that their targets can’t do much for fear of risking future bad press. Of course in this case, plenty of people have come out of the woodwork to condemn Gizmodo’s actions, but often things don’t play out that way. If you’ve ever been a victim of unfair press, you know.

In the end, I think Motorola came off well here because Mr. Dale made the best of a bad situation, and now everyone knows it. But I hope the company doesn’t have to face something intentionally undermining like that again.

More Photos from CES

I made it back from CES and am recovering well. However, I have a backlog of content, so expect to see more CES-related posts for a while. Here are some photos of the Mobile TV DH01 announced last week. From top to bottom they are the main menu, a side view (the scroll wheel is what you use to move through the menu), display of a photo on the DH01, and video playing on the device.

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Motorola Video from CES

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There are some new video clips up over on Motorola proper (the main website) showing interviews and product demos at the CES booth. Worth a look.

Caller ID on the TV

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Matt Doyle from Motorola ran through a great demo for me in the booth yesterday showing Caller ID on the TV. Unfortunately the noise in the video I shot is a bit overwhelming, so here’s the info in text form.

First, Motorola is showing both an OCAP/Tru2way Caller ID application and a non-OCAP version. The former is due out in Q2 and the latter will begin trials this quarter. The overall solution is comprised of a set-top, the actual application and an application server. The application server, or platform, is the same for both versions of the service. It’s also designed to support many other types of applications including social-networking features. Caller ID is only the first application for the platform.

On to the fun stuff. Not only does this application show Caller ID on your TV screen, but it will actually route calls from certain phone numbers to certain TVs in the house. There are also features like call logs shown above.

Wondering whether people actually care about Caller ID on the TV? Apparently they do. Expect to see it soon from an operator near you.