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NAB: Independents not without IPTV options, vendors say

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LAS VEGAS--IPTV equipment vendors are sympathetic to the plight of independent telcos who pioneered deployment of the technology and now say they are having trouble getting advanced features. Some of those who were present here this week say there are options, however.

Amino’s set-top boxes will no longer be compatible with newer versions of Siemens-Myrio middleware going forward, but the company does support several other middleware vendors, said Rick Sailor, vice president of sales. His company’s message is that independent telcos would save money by swapping out their middleware.

“We are partnered with Minerva, Conklin, Orca, Innovative Systems, Thomson and NDS Metro,” Sailor said. “If you are an existing Myrio customer, we have an alternative to replacing all your set-tops. We can re-flash the boxes.”

The process can be done on an automated basis, usually in groups or nodes, with the understanding that typically less than 10% of the boxes will require truck rolls, Sailor said. “You don’t get them all, there are always some homes where the lights were off or something, so there are some truck rolls typically to five to eight percent,” Sailor said.

Upgrading to offering High Definition or Digital Video Recording capabilities does require an upgrade of the set-top box, but Sailor said that can be done on a consumer-by-consumer basis, as those new services are ordered.

“If I want the service, I come in and bring my old box, pay $7 a month to get a new one, and you give me a new set-top with HD and DVR,: Sailor said. “You are going to have to swap out the set-top box to get those features anyway.”

Replacing Myrio service will also require mailing new remote control devices to customers, in advance of the re-flashing, Sailor said.

One of the middleware companies that Amino supports is Thomson, which has 1.3 million IPTV subscribers in Europe, mostly in its native France, but is just making a push here. Making the Thomson push even more compelling is the company’s newly announced 4 Megabit per second MPEG-4 solution for delivering High Definition TV.

“We are offering an end-to-end IPTV solution from the encoding platforms right down to the set-top box,” said Mark Marinkovich, director of market development for North America for both IPTV and Mobile TV at Thomson. The only thing the company doesn’t offer is conditional access, which it normally gets from Veramatrix, he said.

Thomson needed extra time to make modifications in the product for the U.S. market, Marinkovich said. Those included emergency alert notification capabilities.

“We are now actively marketing the system, through Falcon IP/Complete, a systems integrator for Tier 2 and Tier 3 companies, and through talking to a number of customers on our own,” he added. Marinkovich said he is aware of the growing discontent among early IPTV users, and is discussing replacing some existing middleware.

“The biggest obstacle there is that most of the companies don’t want to have to replace the set-top boxes,” he said. “We are working to support Amino [STBs] there.”

In addition, Thomson will integrate with existing conditional access providers other than its preferred supplier, Veramatrix, Marinkovich said.

The company provides HD, personal video recording and a 20-channel Mosaic display generator that looks like a single channel to the operator but functions as multiple channels for the consumer.

One other advantage Thomson is touting is a single management system for its IPTV and Mobile TV systems that can work to the benefit of telecom service providers wanting to provide both.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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