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Lucent launches fiber net

The 27 public television stations that make up the Community Stations Resource Group (CSRG) Digital LLC will soon serve as hubs for GeoVideo, an international fiber network formed by Lucent Technologies' New Venture Group.

The network will be capable of handling both contribution-and distribution-quality standard-definition and high-definition video, at rates from 10 Mb/s for SD to 100 Mb/s for HD for contribution and from 1.5 Mb/s for SD to 19.39 Mb/s for HD for distribution. Initial applications will include such business-to-business functions as eCinema, film-production dailies and video conferencing. Plans are to eventually expand on the PBS educational mission by bringing lectures and video to desktops.

"We feel like this is the place we've been headed to for years," says Bill Kobin, president of CSRG, which will market and sell the GeoVideo services.

The CSRG stations will also offer production services to customers. "Co-locating the video hub with the production services makes smart business sense," notes Arthur Salvadore, GeoVideo vice president, networks.

The backbone of the network will be provided by Metromedia Fiber Networks, which will supply both metropolitan and long-haul fiber networking to 67 cities by 2002 or 2003. AboveNet Communications, an MFN subsidiary, will provide hosting capabilities for customers, and Lucent Digital Video will supply video encoding and gateway equipment at the hub. "Lucent MPEG-2 encoders will be used for both HD and SD alongside a professional video gateway product called LinkRunner and a new product that has the capability to do 4:2:2 HD encoding and decoding for contribution-quality HD," says Salvadore.

According to GeoVideo co-CEO Cliff Schorer, the network will offer 400 times the capacity of current copper-wire networks.

Another feature of the network is the GeoVideo Browser, the gateway from the desktop to the network. According to Vice President and General Manager Garrett Feinberg, the browser, which runs on Pentium-based PCs, is similar to Netscape or Microsoft Explorer but offers additional functionality allowing the user to take full advantage of the network's capability. Users will be able to fast-forward or rewind video and share PC files.

The initial plan focuses on "optically wired geographies," including New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas, according to Salvadore.

The first segment of the GeoVideo network, between New York and Los Angeles, is expected to be up and running by June.