Alcatel turns on triple play

French equipment manufacturer Alcatel has turned a new channel on the home entertainment and communications market by offering an Internet-based access system that guarantees a hefty chunk of bandwidth for broadcast TV and video-on-demand services.

The Paris-based equipment manufacturer has launched a new IP-DSLAM (Internet Protocol Digital Subscriber Line Multiplexer) that enables network operators to provide "guaranteed nonblocking, interactive bandwidth at speeds of 20M bps (bits per second) for each user," said Michel Rahier, chief operating officer of Alcatel's fixed communications group, speaking Tuesday in a news conference at the Broadband World Forum in Venice.

Each IP-DSLAM can support more than 1,000 users at the same time, according to Rahier. "This is a significant feature, especially for video services," he said.

Unlike ordinary DSLAMs, IP-DSLAMs don't share bandwidth, making them more reliable for distributing real-time broadcast traffic, according to Rahier. The technology supports unlimited TV channels, HDTV and interactive video on demand and gaming, in addition to high-speed Web surfing and VOIP (Voice over IP).

Alcatel calculated that users of new HDTV (High Definition TV) and video-on-demand systems need bandwidth delivery speeds of at least 16M bps.

The Alcatel product, called 7302 Intelligent Services Access Manager, is aimed at network operators eager to tap new revenue streams from so-called triple play services, which integrate voice, data and video over an IP-based architecture.

Although Alcatel provides its own TV middleware, the company's system is designed to run software from other vendors, including Microsoft, according to Rahier. "Customers can use alternatives but we provide full integration for those who don't," he said. "We're noticing, however, that many operators these days want one-stop-shopping solutions."

The executive declined to provide pricing details for the IP-DSLAMs, saying only that they would be more expensive than traditional DSLAMs.

China Telecommunications (China Telecom), which has been testing the technology, has agreed to become the first customer, according to Rahier. After initially deploying Ethernet technology to aggregate traffic in its access network, China Telecom is now shifting to all-IP broadband access, he said.

Alcatel intends to have a substantial volume of the new IP-DSLAM equipment manufactured in China, according to Rahier.

Currently, the French company is conducting TV over broadband trials with more than 20 operators, Rahier said. He declined to provide names.

At the Broadband World Forum, Telecom Italia SpA Chief Executive Officer Riccardo Ruggiero said the Italian incumbent operator was "extremely interested" in broadband TV.

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