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Ericsson enters IPTV battle

Company unveils a product suite that will enable phone companies to deploy IP-based television services. Photos: Tuning in to GlobalComm

CHICAGO--Ericsson is the latest telecommunications equipment maker to enter the IPTV market.

On Monday at the GlobalComm trade show here, the company unveiled a product suite that will enable phone companies to deploy Internet Protocol-based TV services. Ericsson will supply networking products, and it will partner with a company called Kasenna to provide the IPTV, or Internet Protocol television, software and middleware.

Ericsson is already late to the IPTV market. Other large telecom equipment makers such as Alcatel and Siemens have already forged partnerships and have scored deals with large phone companies. Alcatel is working with Microsoft, and together they are powering large deployments such as AT&T's new IPTV service and Deutsche Telekom's IPTV efforts.

More than 500 software and equipment makers converge in Chicago for the trade show.

Siemens, which bought a small company called Myrio last year, has a complete soup-to-nuts IPTV offering. The company counts more than 75 U.S. regional operators, as well as some overseas carriers, including KPN Royal Dutch Telecom and Belgacom in Europe and Advanced Datanetwork Communications in Thailand, as customers.

So far, Ericsson has not announced customer trials of its IPTV products. But Anders Bergtoft, director of multimedia solutions for Ericsson, said the IPTV market is just getting started. He believes Ericsson has plenty of opportunities to get a slice of the action.

"Many carriers around the world are still trialing and testing IPTV solutions," he said. "Scaling these deployments is going to be challenging. We are the largest service integrator, and we know about scalability."

He said that the company's expertise in wireless will be an added benefit in competing against its telecom rivals. Not only is Ericsson a leading mobile handset maker, but the company also sells infrastructure gear to cellular carriers around the world.

"TV is converging," Bergtoft said. "Right now we are seeing mobile operators offer TV on handsets and phone companies delivering TV over IP. Eventually it will all just be TV."

A telecommunications summit
From GlobalComm 2006: The pace of innovation in the telecommunications industry continues to accelerate.

Ericsson is also a strong proponent of IMS, or IP Multimedia Subsystem, technology, a set of standards developed to make deploying new services on carrier networks easier, faster and more cost effective.

The company is working with Sony, a leading developer of consumer electronics standards group Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), which is working to ensure consumer electronics interoperate with each other in the home. Ericsson wants to make sure all DLNA-enabled devices can easily connect to the Ericsson IPTV system.

In its booth at the GlobalComm trade show, Ericsson, along with Sony, is demonstrating its vision of the future of IPTV. The joint demonstration shows how a combination of IMS and DNLA technologies allow consumers to use their mobile phones to wirelessly view digital photos stored in their handsets on a living room TV; use a home gateway for instant messaging between cell phones outside the home and a living room TV; and be able to access the content stored on their home PC via mobile phones.