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Motorola, iMagicTV help forge the way for interactive TV

The companies ink a deal to help telecommunications companies offer interactive TV and Internet content over high-speed phone lines.

Motorola plans to team with Canadian firm iMagicTV to help telecommunications companies offer interactive TV and Internet content over high-speed phone lines, the company said today.

Motorola and iMagicTV will jointly offer products for integrated interactive TV and Internet services delivered over broadband networks. The pair will offer Motorola's Streamaster set-top, which was introduced in 1998, along with iMagicTV's DTV Manager software, which is used to manage services deployed by telecommunications companies.

Motorola Streamaster Motorola is optimistic that telecom companies will rapidly take to its Streamaster set-top technology, which uses ordinary copper telephone lines to shuttle data and voice transmissions simultaneously.

Many U.S. telecom firms are looking to broadcast TV programming over high-speed digital subscriber lines (DSL), according to Motorola executives. In doing so, they could incorporate phone, interactive TV, video and Internet services into one service package and garner a bigger chunk of consumers' dollars.

"They have all come to the conclusion that it's do or die when it comes to multiple services into the home," said Marcel LeBrun, chief executive of iMagicTV. Voice, TV and Internet services are the anchors of that strategy, but in the future companies will be able to add games-on-demand services and digital VCR-like services without needing to buy separate hardware.

All of that makes for attractive math to telecom firms, LeBrun said. One Canadian telecom company that has deployed iMagic's services boosted revenues from $45 (US $31) per month to around $120 (US $82) per month.

Jacqueline Beauchamp, general manager of Motorola's multimedia systems division, said she expects more telecom companies to announce TV service offerings this year, and Motorola will be a part of the action. "We are indeed rolling out production platforms that aren't just prototypes, and these are not just (announcements of) trial deployments" that are in the wings, she said.

Although many firms here in the United States and abroad have attempted various versions of interactive TV, few have been deployed successfully in the mass market. The so-called Baby Bells are still playing catch up to companies such as AT&T that are trying to add telephony services over cable networks.

Motorola, in a move to address the convergence of broadband communications, cable and entertainment industries, earlier this year closed its $11 billion merger with General Instrument, the largest cable equipment provider in the United States.

Through the merger, Motorola also has a stake in Next Level Communications, a firm that is developing infrastructure technology for deploying voice, video and telephony services over DSL. Liberate recently announced a partnership with Next Level to integrate Liberate's software with Next Level's new Residential Gateway 2000, a single TV set-top box attached to a DSL line that connects to multiple appliances in the home, including telephones, PCs and TVs.

Like Motorola's Streamaster, Next Level's set-top could eventually be used by telecommunications firms to provide telephony, video and interactive services on a single line. So far, Motorola's Beauchamp said that Next Level and Motorola haven't collaborated or coordinated set-top development strategies, but didn't rule the possibility out, either.