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Saturday, 15 January 2011 16:10

Cisco is preaching a new gospel of video, and Telstra is its first convert

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Cisco says we should be able to access video-based contenet and services anywhere at anytime transferring these seamlessly from device to device. Telstra agrees.

At CES in Las Vegas earlier this month Cisco president and CEO, John Chambers, fronted the press to announce the next grand vision in Cisco's ever expanding portfolio of grand visions. http://socialviewing.cisco.com/index.html?room=603 In the accompanying press release service provider endorsement for the grand vision came from none other than Telstra's David Thodey. Telstra's competitors should heed this as an early warning.

Specifically what Cisco announced at CES was Videoscape, billed as "a comprehensive TV platform for service providers that brings together digital TV and online content with social media and communications applications to create a new, truly immersive home and mobile video entertainment experience."

Videoscape, Cisco said, was "part of Cisco's overall video strategy to provide the next generation of TV that is simpler for consumers, and transforms the market opportunity for service providers." Cisco said it was "working with several major global service provider customers, including Telstra, to enable next-generation video experiences through the Videoscape platform."

In the dull-as-ditchwater language that characterises Cisco's - and most large corporates' - press releases Videoscape does not sound overly exciting. Thodey's comments were somewhat more illuminating. "We see tremendous opportunity with IP video services that offer consumers interactive, Internet-like experiences using both the TV and the PC."

Thodey explained: "We worked with Cisco to deploy a content delivery network that quickly proved to be a key differentiator for Telstra, and means we can provide products and services with a more consistent and reliable video experience to multiple devices.

"Our CDN supports the breadth and depth of content that gives our customers choice and reliability to download and access their favourite movies and programs to the TV using our T-Box media player, through direct download to the TV, or via the PC."

Last week's announcements that BigPond TV is, or will soon be, available direct to Samsung and LG TVs http://www.itwire.com/your-it-news/entertainment/44309-bigpond-tv-comes-to-samsung-and-lg-tvs that are Internet-capable is just one small component of this strategy. But the vision of which Videoscape is merely the first manifestation is much, much bigger than that.

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In a Cisco video http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/ns341/ns1043/videoscape_future_of_video.html Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior, takes viewers on a short trip into "a future filled with video'¦where the Internet TV and mobile networks are unified to become different windows onto a world of infinite content choices'¦[and where] video will become as deeply ingrained in our lives as the written word is today."

She says: "The entire video ecosystem: consumers, service providers, content creators and advertisers will change'¦Today's video experience is diverse and engaging but disjointed."

She adds that Cisco aims to work with service providers to enable people to "capture, view and share any kind of video content on any screen anywhere in the world."

There's nothing particularly original in this vision. It was spelt out in very similar terms by Motorola way back in 2004 under the moniker of "Seamless Mobility" and around the same time was very much the goal of Alcatel's mantra of "User-Centric Broadband".

But what was then distinctly future-ware is now much closer to reality thanks to widely available fixed and mobile broadband, Internet capable smartphones and networks that are all converging on Internet Protocol.

Similar visions have been espoused in recent months by those other communications behemoths, Skype and Google. In the middle of 2010 at a press conference in Sydney Skype's Asia Pacific VP Dan Neary extolled his company's strategic vision.

"Increasingly we see communications evolving to become agnostic to networks and agnostic to devices. More and more you will want to communicate in different modes: you will want to have a meeting in your boardroom with people patched in from around the world, doing it with video. You need to be able to take that [interaction] back to your desktop, and on to your mobile and ultimately back to your home TV."

Of course a very significant role for Skype was part of this vision. Neary went on to say: "Communication needs to flow across devices and across networks, and the key glue that brings all that together is software and that is where we see Skype playing. You want to be able to take your presence, your buddy list and your identity with you into different communication environments and to communicate in different modes: video, SMS, sending files. That is the concept that is shaping our strategy."

CONTINUED

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Google is singing from the same hymn sheet but with a vision that goes well beyond video. Google speaks of a "Continuity of Experience" enabled by all apps running in the cloud and being executed on computers with 'super browsers' - all conforming to the same open standards.

Google Australia's head of engineering, Alan Noble, explained it thus: "We believe the web is going to accelerate seamless and ubiquitous communications and as browsers become more capable things that would have only been possible in a desktop app become possible in a web application."

These visions are variations on a theme, but more important is the fact that the Googles and Skypes of this world need the likes of Cisco to delivery the technology and the likes of Telstra to build and operate the networks that make their visions possible.

Cisco and Telstra don't per se need Google and Skype. Cisco needs customers to build networks that are evolving in capacity and functionality to keep driving its revenues. Telstra needs technology from the likes of Cisco and a vast range of content and services from Google, Skype and others that its customers will want to access seamlessly from multiple devices.

It should come as not surprise that Thodey was chosen to support Cisco's video vision. There would be few telcos better placed to realise it than Telstra.

In addition to the Cisco content delivery network Thodey mentioned, Telstra's core network is built on Cisco routers. Telstra is one of the world's must integrated telcos, a lead player in fixed and mobile telephony, pay TV, Internet services and data networks.

It already has access to a vast range of content, including video that it is delivering over fixed and mobile broadband networks, to computers, cellphones, tablets, home gateway devices like the T-Hub and to third party TV sets. It operates a world-class IP backhaul network that will carry the traffic of future IP based mobile networks as well as fixed networks.
If the NBN goes ahead it will soon have access to a ubiquitous fixed network providing very high-speed access to most Australian homes.

And last but not least it will have a $9 billion war chest for its contribution to realising the NBN; $9b that it can use to create "a future filled with video'¦where the Internet TV and mobile networks are unified to become different windows onto a world of infinite content choices."

Smaller competitors without the complete set of pre-requisites needed to achieve this vision are likely to be at a considerable disadvantage.

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