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Alcatel Rolls Out Telco TV Software

Alcatel has released the next generation of its Open Media Client software, a middleware solution for Internet-protocol TV rollouts among telcos worldwide.

Long known as a traditional hardware supplier for telcos, Alcatel has ventured into the software space over the past few years, gobbling up companies in order to develop software that complements its infrastructure and access hardware products.

“[The software] enables and manages applications. It’s a content management and content distribution solution,” said Steve West, marketing director in the fixed solutions division at Alcatel. “It’s an open media client, meant to simplify operator interaction with set-top boxes,” he said. “This gives telcos more choices and shorter deployment times.”

Alcatel has deployed its software in 20 projects serving about 100,000 customers worldwide, including Saskatchewan Telecommunications in Canada. It has also done integration and partnership work with Harmonic Inc., Tut Systems and SkyStream Networks Inc. for headend products. Alcatel also has a video-on-demand server partnership deal with Concurrent Computer Corp., and it’s working with Thomson Consumer Electronics, Amino Communications, Samsung Electronics and Pace Micro Technology plc on the set-top side.

To some extent, Alcatel is mirroring the work of Liberate Technologies or Microsoft Corp. in cable for telcos. It wants to provide the core software to make interactive TV, VOD, interactive programming guide and other applications run for telcos. It’s a competitor and an integrator with Microsoft in the telco space. Myrio TV also offers telcos a software application solution.

The software push grew naturally out of Alcatel’s hardware division and increasing telco interest in video. Alcatel isn’t in the headend and customer-premises equipment business, West said, but everything in between, including core fiber transport, switching, IP routing and access solutions.

Alcatel has a deal with SBC Communications Inc. to provide technology for its IPTV rollout. SBC has signed a deal with Microsoft TV, but Alcatel said it’s charged with the end-to-end system integration for SBC. “We’re putting these piece parts together. As master systems integrator, we’ll work very closely with Microsoft [to ensure] that SBC’s requirements are met,” West said.

SBC, for instance, is looking at matching applications across platforms, where consumers could direct their digital video recorders from the office PC or cell phone, view pictures from their PC on their TV, among other cross-media applications. West said Alcatel’s software could link all those applications, across devices, together.

West said Alcatel’s Open Media Client is a reference design, which application providers can write to. “We hope that other partners would adopt pieces of that reference design. We’d like to see other partners maximize the potential of the set-top box.

“It’s open to third-party developers to drop in applications,” he said. The company’s goal is to provide “a common user experience. We’ll work with third-party partners to meet specific application requirements.

“From a development perspective, we use open standards wherever possible,” he added. “It’s nonproprietary, to encourage party development. We focus specifically on needs of our customers.”

SaskTel uses Alcatel software and even the company’s guide for its video service. The Canadian telco also uses the software for local, interactive content.