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Liberate, Samsung do video over DSL

The service will include a digital set-top box that supports the MPEG video compression standard to deliver interactive video over telecommunications companies' DSL networks.

    Liberate Technologies said Wednesday that it has teamed up with Samsung Electronics to provide interactive video over digital subscriber line networks.

    The service will include a digital set-top box that supports the MPEG video compression standard to deliver interactive video over telecommunications companies' DSL networks.

    Liberate is demonstrating the service at the BroadcastAsia 2002 trade show this week in Singapore. The news comes after an announcement Tuesday by Walt Disney's ESPN sports network saying it has chosen Liberate to provide technology for its first foray into interactive television.

    Analysts have been skeptical in the past about current broadband services having enough speed to deliver content such as video and interactive games.

    "The box is not where the bottleneck is; the bottleneck is in the DSL networks," said Ryan Jones, an analyst with research firm Yankee Group.

    Jones said video services need about 6 megabits of bandwidth, whereas most DSL networks offer only about 500 kilobits or 1.5 megabits. "In certain areas and for certain operators it will work," he said, but it will take many upgrades before most DSL providers can offer such services.

    Given the uncertain regulatory environment, in which the requirement that DSL providers share access to their networks is under scrutiny, it could be some time before those upgrades occur, he added.

    Samsung plans to offer the set-top box, called the SMT-F240, to network operators worldwide later this year. The box, which uses the Linux operating system, is based on Liberate's TV Navigator software.

    The demo at BroadcastAsia 2002 includes video-on-demand (VOD), a "Music eTV" application that uses a video jukebox with channels, interactive games, and a news ticker program that includes headlines in both English and Chinese.

    The companies touted the offering as the cure-all that troubled telecommunications companies have been waiting for.

    "Telco operators have long searched for a platform solution which leverages their Internet infrastructure and content assets," said Liberate President Coleman Sisson in a statement. "Our offer is the next step for this industry."

    But many analysts are also jaded by what they perceive as a constant stream of unfulfilled promises.

    "Since the introduction of Time Warner's Full Service Network in 1994, video-on-demand has been seen as a killer application," said Yankee Group analyst Michael Goodman. "Since then, every succeeding year has been declared 'The Year of VOD.'"