MANILA, JULY 11, 2006
 (STAR) By Ayvi Nicolas - IT’S ABOUT TIME WE STOPPED MONITORING the evolution of the cellular phone and started imagining the possibilities of the lowly device we know as the TV remote. After all it seems that with 3G, mobile phone technology advancements in the coming decades will be based on cameraphone megapixels, memory capacity and multimedia utility. The mobile phone has been Frankensteined into a digital stills and video camera, a music player, a tiny computer, a video game console… and it can still go faster and get cleverer – but it probably has stopped evolving, for now.

Enter the long-forgotten, often overlooked TV remote control which is back with a vengeance. It will be the key to astounding lifestyle changes for the modern man – the last great phenomena of which were most likely the invention of the telephone and the beginnings of the Internet Age.

The future of communications forebodes of a shift from the mobile phone and personal computer to high-definition television and the TV remote control. Imagine voice, data and multimedia features converging in your television with the control easily right at your fingertips, all of it made possible through broadband technology.

At the last Broadband World Forum Asia held in Hong Kong, it really seemed that the technology of the future will be controlled by the humble television remote. From the obscurity of the living room sofa, it will once again take its place at the center of the household and place of business. The keyboard and the mouse even stand to be threatened.

At the forefront of this breakthrough is Alcatel, a leader in providing communication solutions to telecommunications carriers, Internet service providers and enterprises for delivery of voice, data and video applications. Alcatel maintains a leading position in fixed and mobile broadband networks, applications and services to bring value to its customers in the framework of a broadband world.

Alcatel presented its IPTV platform at the BBWF through live demonstrations as part of its industry-leading solutions portfolio. Alcatel provided an example of the hardware and software elements needed to meet the scalability, reliability and quality of service requirements of the IPTV solution.

It included the demonstration of the MicrosoftTV IPTV Edition Software platform, which is a key component of the global collaboration agreement between the two companies that is designed to rapidly accelerate the availability of IPTV services for broadband operators worldwide.

The IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)-enabled triple play applications are Alcatel 5900 CommunicationsTV, Alcatel 5900 AmigoTV, and Alcatel 5900 MyOwnTV. These are all designed to enhance the end-user experience, bridging the social and communications aspects of triple play more tightly with the entertainment aspects represented by IPTV.

Apart from that, these applications are also designed to address consumer demands for more personal content, the ability to share community content and a desire to communicate with friends or family in remote locations.

As for service providers, while leveraging the power of IMS, these Alcatel solutions will allow them to quickly develop, test, and launch innovative new user-centric applications over a range of access methods. They not only help generate new revenues from new services, but keep costs in check with a staged migration from today’s circuit-based PSTN to a full packet-based network.

The Alcatel 5900 CommunicationsTV application leverages IMS technology and extends communications to the television set. Calling line ID (CLID) information is displayed on the TV, notifying users of an incoming call. Communication profile management lets consumers use the TV (in addition to the PC and the phone) to manage their communications profile like choosing to subscribe to a new service, say, call forwarding. On the other hand, click-to-connect lets a user initiate a call from the TV by consulting the on-screen address book or call history. The television now becomes like a gigantic mobile phone screen and the remote control lets a user operate the menus much like a mobile phone keypad.

And just as the mobile phone and PC have kept family and friends in touch with each other, the Alcatel 5900 AmigoTV application allows viewers to watch TV with remote friends and family as if they were in the same room. Personalized on-screen avatars or emoticons are used to represent all connected viewers in an "overlay" which is displayed on top of the active channel. Users can chat (using a group voice chat or via text chat) while watching the same program at the same time though separately. Multimedia animations are also available, allowing connected viewers to express their emotions or reactions about what they are watching by sending winks or moving cartoons to the others’ screens.

Current dissatisfaction with television content or scheduling is addressed by Alcatel 5900 MyOwnTV which provides a user-friendly way to upload multimedia content like movies and photos to a network location via the PC. In short, a user creates his own TV channel. A dedicated group of people like friends, family, a particular community or affinity group is then asked to subscribe to this personal channel where the content is integrated via the electronic programming guide (EPG) on the television, just like any other channel.

Michel Rahier, president of Alcatel’s fixed communications group, says, "The trend toward personal content creation is driven by the widespread adoption of digital photography and video cameras. Using MyOwnTV, it is easy for consumers to share their personal multimedia content with friends and family. In other words, users can create their own TV channel and invite people to tune in. In addition, AmigoTV will forever change the TV experience, making it more user-centric by giving viewers the opportunity to become involved, thus transforming TV viewing into a social experience."

At the center of these advancements is the television, of course, which in the past decades, in the pre-Internet era, has made the world smaller by making information accessible to many. But all these improvements on the television will be in the command of the lowly remote control, which in essence shall be the means of access to these technologies and the modern man’s future necessary appendage – maybe even more than the mobile phone.

Of course, it will take a while for IPTV deployment in the Philippines and in most developing countries. At best, IPTV is just in the infant stages although its possibilities are growing exponentially as the technology advances and the imagination of its Alcatel pioneers expands.

For now in the country, Alcatel is focused on achieving its vision of "Broadband for All" and part of its universal broadband access strategy is its WiMAX solution which natively supports fixed, nomadic and mobile usage. The solution will help operators meet the growing need for affordable VoIP-based telephony, high-speed Internet access and community services, especially in areas where no fixed broadband network exists, or to complement fixed and mobile networks, enabling operators to extend their service reach for broadband applications such as mobile Internet, video, gaming and mobile office.

Broadband Internet access is highly driven by three factors: the demand for multimedia data-hungry applications, the reality of fixed triple play, and the latter’s multiple types of usage for professional, entertainment, radio and TV. Then there are the users who prefer to go wireless as it gives them access to services everywhere with every terminal. These are the end-users who are ready to pay the "mobile" premium for such a service.

For service providers, going wireless is the solution to copper-less areas. The bottomline is WiMAX as the natural complement to mobile and Wi-Fi networks. While public WLANs merely settle for spots (with "hotspots" having limited coverage and mobility capabilities), WiMAX is in the zone – that’s "hotzones" which offer broadband connectivity in larger areas.

Alcatel’s vision of "Broadband for All," of course, means "Broadband for All" Filipinos. And as access to broadband improves, the reality of IPTV will not be far behind.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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