Lucent venture dives into broadband video

For corporations frustrated by congested streaming media connections, a new Lucent Technologies venture may be the light at the end of the tunnel - or in this case, fibre.

GeoVideo Networks will provide a fibre-based broadband network for delivering better-than-TV quality video directly to the desktop. The company is partnering with Metromedia Fibre Network for the infrastructure, and the Community Stations Resource Group (CSGR), a consortium of public television stations that will provide local points of presence for broadcasting video.

"We're going to be a video service provider - VSP," says Cliff Schorer, co-CEO of GeoVideo. "We're moving from the copper network of today to fiber so we can bring the type and quality of video that the public wants to see."

GeoVideo is targeting media and financial service companies in metropolitan areas served by Metromedia's fibre rings. Currently, a handful of cities are up and running on Metromedia's network. The carrier plans to have the network operating in 67 major cities in the US and Europe by the end of 2003.

Metromedia will dedicate a portion of its bandwidth for GeoVideo's network, which in June will become available in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. GeoVideo announced that the Microsoft Network has already signed on to use the service.

Customers who sign up for the service need only install a special video browser (developed by Bell Labs) on each desktop that is to view the broadcast. The video browser currently supports all the standard video formats, including MPEG, and plans are in place to support some of the proprietary formats such as RealNetworks' RealMedia. The network can handle optical speeds of OC-3 to OC-192 and can deliver TV video at 30 frames per second.

"GeoVideo has a pretty well-thought-out plan to target specific markets," says Gerry Kaufhold, principal analyst with Cahners In-Stat in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Over the next year, they can turn on cities [served by Metromedia] one at a time. They don't have to turn them all on at once."

But some analysts are uncertain of the GeoVideo model. "I just don't see it," says Melanie Posey, a Web-hosting analyst at market research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass. "Traditional hosts like Exodus and Digital Island that do streaming have the capability included with the rest of the Web content being hosted."

Another possible problem with the GeoVideo offering is: What happens to companies that have Metromedia fiber connections to the LAN, but not all the way to the desktop? These companies could run into some of the same old congestion problems. In addition, GeoVideo requires users to install an additional piece of software, rather than using the traditional players (RealPlayer and Microsoft Media Player) found on the majority of desktops today, says Joel Yaffe, an industry analyst with Giga Group of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

GeoVideo has not yet announced pricing.

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