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Microsoft alum launch 180Squared

Start-up focused on Mediaroom B/OSS integration

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After a year operating in stealth mode, a team of former Microsoft Mediaroom architects today officially launched their middleware services startup, 180Squared, with a framework for the integration of existing billing/operational support system (B/OSS) applications and third-party software. Hoping to leverage the Microsoft connection, the company’s goal is ease carriers’ integration of their middleware platform for the two new IPTV subscriber households Microsoft adds per minute.

At this rate of subscriber growth, Microsoft Mediaroom was poised to reach one million STBs worldwide by this year’s first quarter, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates announced at this year’s CES show in January. And MRG forecasts that the total global IPTV subscriber rate will reach 72.6 million in 2011. With such high expectations for IPTV, 180Squared is coming to market with a narrow focus – banking on the success of Microsoft as the middleware of choice for IPTV providers, particularly at the tier two level.

The platform provides a standard interface for application development, both native and third-party driven, agnostic to underlying updates and changes to the Mediaroom platform. After integrating Mediaroom with operators’ existing business logic and processes, 180Squared monitors the health and traffic flow of the services and applications. For the time being, the company is focused on reducing a carrier’s capex and opex while speeding time-to-revenue, according to Amir Littman, vice president of business development.

“What we are seeing is that there is going to be a time within the next 12 to 18 months where opex is the next big hurtle,” Littman said. “Beyond that, it will be the next big, snazzy app that is coming out the door, but we as a company are looking to solve the first one first.”

Like CEO Mark Cooper, who led the development of Mediaroom for Microsoft’s largest customer, AT&T, Littman has spent the last four years implementing Mediaroom at Microsoft. Until now, he said the market has really been lacking a competitive landscape. While the idea of building a framework for IPTV integration and implementing a middleware platform is by no means new, no company can claim the level of Mediaroom-room specific expertise and knowledge as 180Squared, Littman said.

"We think our knowledge is second to none besides perhaps Microsoft,” Littman said. “They know the product inside and out, and we know it almost as good as they do. We’ve been keeping very close ties with them; we are partners with them; we have a pretty proven process as we go out, and we have a pretty decent size partner program that has helped us channel out to the carriers.”

As a technology still in its early stages, IPTV installations are still long and intensive, often involving unforeseen issues with technology integration and wiring. In an installation –often upwards of eight hours long – the first seven hours are typically devoted to wiring and the last hour is devoted to provisioning the device in the home. This is the one hour in which 180Squared comes into play, Littman said.

As a product and services provider, 180Squared is also aimed at helping carriers customize their IPTV offerings with consumer applications like remote DVR and caller ID on the TV set. As today’s launch, the company revealed a suite of their own applications, including a device activation module to automate provisioning of customer CPE, billing module for integration into legacy billing and records systems, Emergency Alert Systems module for regulatory digital alerts and remote-DVR services.

One customer that 180Squared has already announced, rural provider Ntelos, is using 180Squared to integrate Mediaroom into its IPTV platform. 180Squared provides custom applications, network design, monitoring and real-time operations support for the IPTV provider. For many rural providers, like Ntelos, growing the customer base is still a large concern. Whereas with AT&T has already moved on to improving quality of service, many tier twos are singularly focused on getting over the capex hurtle, Littman said. As a small company itself, 180Squared said its singular focus on Mediaroom makes it uniquely positioned to help the tier-two telco market.

“Everyone is trying to figure out who is going to win the IPTV battle,” Littman said. “Thousands of different middlewares are out there. Some are doing their own, some are doing individual ones, and there are companies trying to work on every single platform. The problem with trying to work on every platform is you become very broad, but you don’t become specific. Your skill sets are very limited. Your development team spends a lot of time trying to figure out every single platform that comes down the pike. We can’t afford that; we’re too small. We need to hitch on to one thing and we are going to specialize in it and be experts on it.”

According to Littman, the name 180Squared represents the challenge that they are facing in the IPTV market. After operating in telephony often for more than 50 years, carriers are now attempting to transform from a phone company into a video company. When an executive at a tier-one operator proclaimed that they would be run out of business if not in the video business by the year’s end, Littman realized the necessary evolution from telephony to video was essentially a 180 transformation.

“I have to help them take their business from wherever they were going and completely change the direction of the core business,” he said. “Not just that, but make it happen exponentially and take it to the next level.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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