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Asia embraces triple-play apps

Posted: 17 Oct 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:integrated device technology? idt? wireless? asia? video?

Wired and wireless infrastructure investments in Asia have boosted hopes for the thriving arena of triple-play network applications. The convergence of video, voice and data in a single ip carrier system has proliferated in the Asian region, and industry bigwigs are positive that this will further intensify in the wired and wireless spaces.

"I think Asia is well-prepared for triple-play," said Phil Bourekas, VP of worldwide marketing at Integrated Device Technology Inc. "As a consumer, I envy Asia in terms of being ready to do this," he added. Major cities in Japan are already providing high-bandwidth infrastructures that are slowly meeting the growing demand for this technology. Moreover, advanced video capabilities in countries like Singapore tend to move them up the value chain and place them ahead of the average growth curve.

Triple-play signifies the convergence not just of services, but of networks as well. Today, platforms are being developed for Edge in wireless infrastructures that are also being deployed in wireline. While radio network controllers, media gateways and DSLAMs can currently function with a backplane bandwidth of about 600Mbps, multimedia and triple-play services will drive the requirement for interconnect throughout the Edge networks.

John Hartley, Asia-Pacific general manager at Tundra Semiconductor Corp., believes that triple-play services will shape both wireless and wireline network architectures over the next five years. "In my view, Asia is very well-placed to embrace triple-play applications." Hong Kong, he said, is an example of where IPTV is rapidly being deployed. "South Korea and Japan have certainly led the way in introducing new wireless data services, so it is likely that triple-play services will roll out there soonest," Hartley said.

Countries undergoing rapid technology development such as China and India also seem to have the best chances of ramping up triple-play packages, said Michael Kennedy, co-founder and managing partner of IT and business consultancy firm Network Strategy Partners LLC. "If the focus is on the applications rather than the triple-play package itself, then Asia's wireless operators in the most developed markets are well on their way to wireless video and integration of Wi-Fi 3G," he said.

"It's a race," Bourekas said. "Korea has an impressive infrastructure for broadband capability, Japan is up and at 'em with its mobile segment and China is strategically placed as the overall investment site for such applications. Only time will tell who will emerge as the top dog."

However, Frank Capellari, business development manager for Asia and Japan at Agilent Technologies Inc., reminds industry players to keep everything in perspective. Although Asia is a promising region for triple-play applications, Capellari believes that there is still more work to be done in terms of providing the services and infrastructure.

"Korea is playing big in using voice and data because it hosts a lot of broadband implementations. But I don't think video is quite ready to pull off such a great demand," Capellari said. As such, he continued, companies are starting to look at places like China. "However, triple-play advocates need to contend first with some of China's regulatory constraints. TV broadcast there is currently provided by certain organizations, while the telecom infrastructure is handled by another group. So at this point, there is no deregulation and it's all still very separate. I think that if and when they deregulate, we will see a different picture."

Industry impact

If triple-play applications stick to a "me-too" offering as in the cable TV industry, then the impact won't be too great other than getting cable TV into areas not currently served or taking shares away from weak incumbent TV providers, said Network Strategy's Kennedy. However, if efforts are made to compete through service innovation, then quite a bit of new equipment and service is possible. Wireless providers are especially interested in providing video on mobile devices.

Another major issue is who will control content. With 10Mbps+ Internet download capabilities, there are no technical reasons why consumers can't obtain video from content owners over the Web just as they obtain streaming radio and low-quality video today. However, since phone companies are investing in triple-play to improve growth and profitability, they will very likely rate-limit competitive offerings so as to favor their own premium-priced video packages.

From May to March of this year, Hartley said, several new WiMAX 802.16 designs have been deployed by some wireless OEMs. Furthermore, he said that "there are efforts for new backplane architectures being considered in wireless and wireline systems in anticipation of supporting triple-play services, and some equipment providers are leading the way with these new system designs."

Since nearly all networking service markets are controlled by only a few large players, large-scale commitment to new infrastructure will only happen when the incumbents see a real strategic threat and all alternatives of quelling competition (i.e. law suits, new regulations or buying out the competitor) have been exhausted.

- Rey Buan Jr.

Electronic Engineering Times-Asia

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