WAILEA — Things are heating up on the island of Maui during Four Seasons Maui’s Couples Season, set to run until Dec. 15, 2018.The resort’s fifth annual Couples Season offers guests access to fine artists, cultural ambassadors, sommeliers, culinary masters and more to create deeper connections to the island and each other. From on-property activities on once-in-a-lifetime ‘Unforgettable Experiences’, Maui’s only five-star, five-diamond resort has something for every couple.Activities and events include the following:Night Market: Island craftsmen fill an open-air poolside market in this under-the-stars weekly pop-up event. Guests can shop for take-home treasures, enjoy cocktails by the resort’s master mixologist, Ben Yabrow, and enjoy the sounds of local musicians.Lei Day: The resort dedicates a whole day to the art of lei making, with the island’s master weavers teaching guests how to craft stunning lei po’o (head lei). Guests can also order customized lei.The Mobile Feast: For guests craving more than the predictable sit-down dinner, the resort’s culinary team and expert mixologists and sommeliers will lead an interactive culinary journey across its award-winning restaurants, including Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante, and DUO Steak and Seafood.Hawaiian Star Stories: Guests are invited to talk story under the stars with one of Hawaii’s most promising navigators, Kala Baybayan Tanaka. She’ll recount the brave history of her Polynesian wayfinding ancestors who used only the stars, wind and currents to find their way to the Hawaiian islands.Poke Pop-Up: Believed to have been prepared by native Polynesians, Hawaii’s most popular food trend, poke, will be the star of a chef-led weekly Poke Pop-Up party during which guests will learn how to make different variations, sample the delicious dish, and drink Maui Brewing Co.’s handcrafted local beer.Makena Mornings and Fotog Fridays: Professional adventure photographer Daniel Sullivan will share the secrets behind his artistry in twice-weekly, two-hour interactive sunset photography tours on the island’s southern shore.Champagne & Oysters: Dramatic Maui sunsets are accompanied by a champagne ceremony at the resort’s beachfront pop-up champagne and oyster bar. Guests can indulge in oysters hand-shucked-to-order as the meet the resort’s up-and-coming sommeliers.Sushi 101: Chef Kela Lau Hee shares authentic Japanese techniques with guests during her weekly hands-on sushi and sake class After working with the island’s freshest produce, guests will dine on a delicious lunch. Four Seasons Maui unveils activity offerings for Couples Season To make reservations for Couples Season, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted by Tags: Four Seasons, Hawaii Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Monday, September 24, 2018 Travelweek Group
ShareTweetShareEmail0 SharesJanuary 2, 2014; Des Moines Register The press coverage about the shortcomings of healthcare insurance for AmeriCorps VISTA workers has been a little sparse beyond the New York Times and the Nonprofit Quarterly. An editorial that has been reprinted in a couple of press outlets criticizes the Obama administration for offering an insurance program that clearly fell short of the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act. Defenders of the administration’s late announcement of the health plan’s noncompliance, three years after the enactment of the ACA, suggested that it might have been difficult for the implementers of health insurance reform to have been on top of everything that the ACA might affect, such as the AmeriCorps health plan. The administration’s broader defense is that the health insurance plan isn’t technically considered health insurance and, moreover, that VISTA workers aren’t technically paid government employees, but rather stipended volunteers. The latter means that the U.S. government views itself under no obligation to provide VISTA workers with ACA-compliant coverage. However, the Corporation for National and Community Service purportedly had been assuring VISTA workers during this three-year period that their coverage worked for ACA purposes. Now, in the wake of the announcement that VISTA workers might be hit with individual coverage penalties due to their lack of adequate coverage, VISTA workers are being encouraged to get coverage on their parents’ health insurance policies or, because of their extraordinarily low incomes, apply for Medicaid coverage. However, an exploration of blogs and listservs frequented by VISTA workers and other AmeriCorps stipended volunteers reveals that the shortcomings of health coverage for VISTAs was a well known source of problems in the program for some years, even before the advent of the ACA:Describing the “mediocre” aspects of AmeriCorps service, one volunteer wrote, “You can receive health insurance, which works well for simple visits to Target Clinic and is great for prescriptions but anything serious or that requires hospital stays requires that you call them to discuss it.”Another was a bit more blunt: “The big drawbacks, no sugar-coating…the ‘health insurance’ is bullshit.” A second-year AmeriCorps participant was equally blunt: “Your medical/dental benefits will suck. They are very basic—very. And you are encouraged to get supplemental insurance during your service. I have many examples, both personal and co-worker based, on the level of suckage of the benefits.” In most cases, the negative comments about AmeriCorps healthcare came from AmeriCorps participants who were otherwise supportive of the work they were doing in the field and recommending that others join them. For example: “I’d say that if you are still under your parents health insurance and know that the organization is reputable and that there will be other VISTAs there, go for it. It really can be rewarding if you find the right place… The real complaint I have is the health coverage. I now have some debt from a medical visit that I was told was covered but because the doctor did NOT do a certain test, it was not covered. As someone pointed out, the prescription coverage is fantastic.”In many cases, health coverage is the only complaint: “If there’s anything to complain about regarding the program, it would be the lack of a decent health insurance policy. What [the plan administrator] Seven Corners offers is just terrible.”While AmeriCorps volunteers, including VISTAs, will sometimes complain about the incredibly low compensation, the lack of unemployment insurance coverage after they leave (because they aren’t government employees), and other factors, most didn’t join the program blind. The VISTA program was always one which closely fit the description President Lyndon Johnson gave the nation’s first group of 20 VISTA volunteers: “Your pay will be low; the conditions of your labor often will be difficult,” he said, “But you will have the satisfaction of leading a great national effort and you will have the ultimate reward which comes to those who serve their fellow man.”But healthcare is different. Like Medicaid and Medicare, both products of the War on Poverty that gave birth to the VISTA program itself, the ACA is a program that reflects a national commitment that every American, no matter what his or her circumstances, should have health insurance coverage. Low, poverty-level wages are not an excuse for the nation to put these social action volunteers into lifelong debt due to medical costs, whether preexisting conditions, not covered by their AmeriCorps insurance, or specialty treatments. This healthcare coverage snafu is particularly ironic, as many AmeriCorps volunteers are working in programs aiming to extend access to healthcare for people in need. According to the editorial, “AmeriCorps needs to update its current health benefit to ensure it meets minimum coverage requirements in the reform law…Obama has been a staunch supporter of national service, and he should shelter volunteers from any penalties until this is sorted out.” It adds, “Americans who have dedicated themselves to serving their country in a federal volunteer program should not be caught in the cross hairs of the federal health reform law.”—Rick CohenKEYWORDS: ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares read more
ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares January 13, 2014; Concord MonitorA bill that would eliminate business tax exemptions for some New Hampshire nonprofits is only targeted at hospitals, colleges, and large nonprofit organizations, reports the Concord Monitor.That distinction draws attention to the generally accepted view that large institutional organizations are very different from small, community-based charities, even though both are classified as nonprofits by the IRS. It’s akin to saying that General Motors and your corner bakery are both for-profit enterprises, although very different in size, profitability and operations.New Hampshire Rep. David Hess (R) acknowledged that his bill caused “a considerable amount of angst” from nonprofit groups. The Monitor reported that the proposed change would tax nonprofits that receive more than $2 million in revenue for their programs and services, which would include colleges, hospitals and large agencies, but would not affect the “ma and pa” charities.The bill is before a N.H. House committee now. It would not increase state revenue, as Hess proposes broadening the tax base to allow the state to lower the overall tax rate. Nonprofits’ requirement to pay the tax would be based on the revenues in their IRS 990 forms. Organizations with less than $2 million in revenue would not be taxed; religious organizations are exempt from filing 990s and would not be subject to the change.As in many states and localities, hospitals and universities are some of the largest organizations in N.H. and receive millions of dollars in revenue while being tax exempt. Critics say this is unfair to taxpayers, and that these institutions do not pay for their fair share of public services. Defenders say that such large and prestigious institutions contribute to the civic and cultural vitality of their hometowns and employ many people who pay taxes and spend their salaries locally.The New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits opposes Hess’s bill, calling tax exemptions for nonprofits a “long-held” agreement between government and the nonprofit sector that acknowledges nonprofits’ important role in society, said the article. The number of nonprofits affected by the bill remains unclear.Hess said the bill would tax fewer than 200 of the 10,000 nonprofits in NH. But the Monitor reported that the Center estimates the number of groups with more than $2 million in revenue is greater than that. The New Hampshire Hospital Association also opposes the bill, which faces strong opposition.—Larry KaplanShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares read more
ShareTweetShareEmail0 SharesSeptember 16, 2014; Miami Herald BlogAnother example of the importance of nonprofits developing and maintaining good relationships with local elected officials, this time from the Miami area. Failure to do so often hits community-based charities directly in the pocketbook.The Miami Herald’s blog reports that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez has backed off a string of proposed budget cuts, but subsidies for cultural institutions remain a battleground.The Miami Children’s Museum told county commissioners this week that it objected to a proposed cut in its public funding from $750,000 to $635,000: “I am not suggesting that any other organization’s…funding…be touched on behalf of the Miami Children’s Museum,” the chairman of the museum’s board said in a letter.Meanwhile, the Pérez Art Museum Miami continues to push for restoration of a $1.4 million funding increase that Giménez initially proposed for the new facility, but which he dropped to bridge a budget gap in the police department.Cultural grants are also facing cuts, and representatives from a number of nonprofit art organizations packed commission chambers at a September 4th budget hearing. This week, there will be a final hearing before a budget vote.—Larry KaplanShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares read more
The BBC is to air the final to Strictly Come Dancing in 3D. The UK public broadcaster, which last year aired a studio-based special of the dance competition show in 3D for the annual Children in Need day, will use outside broadcast facilities to air the final from Blackpool in the format in the run-up to Christmas.The show will be aired on Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media and also be shown in 3D in selected cinemas. In a first, the BBC also plans to make the show available in 3D on its iPlayer catch-up platform.“This time we want to add the fourth platform – BBC iPlayer. We hope to make the 3D version of Strictly available to the version of iPlayer that appears on some of the internet connected 3D TVs and on some connected set top boxes,” said Andy Quested, head of technology, BBC HD and 3D, BBC Technology, on his blog. “It will be a technical trial and we cannot yet guarantee the results across all the different makes, models and types of receiver so we will need [viewers’] help to identify some of the issues and give us feedback for any future iPlayer trials.”For the broadcast, the left and right pictures will be converted from 1080i25 to the 720p50 format, both images will be sub-sampled into a single top/bottom image and the data rate will be encoded for iPlayer distribution. Quested said that the current bandwidth requirement was “a bit on the high side” at 5Mbps. read more
SeaChange International has appointed Andrei Noppe as senior vice-president and general manager for the EMEA/APAC region. Noppe most recently served as executive vice-president of the M7 Group in Luxemburg, which offers satellite and direct-to-home DTH TV services in the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria under the brands Canal Digitaal, TV Vlaanderen, TeleSAT and AustriaSAT. He has also been managing director of Canal Digitaal, chief technology officer at Dutch cable operator Casema and managing director at Germany’s Primacom. “We are fortunate to add Andrei to our team. His vast technical knowledge is matched only by his outstanding business acumen for improving quality and customer satisfaction, reducing costs and increasing employee productivity in video service providers throughout Europe,” said Erwin van Dommelen, president, SeaChange Software. read more
British pay TV broadcaster Sky has inked a deal with NBC Universal that gives it the rights to movies including Snow White & the Huntsman and Ted in the first pay TV window. The multi-year licensing agreement with NBC Universal International Television Distribution also gives Sky Movies subscribers in the UK and Ireland access to movies including Battleship, The Bourne Legacy, ParaNorman and Savages as well as forthcoming feature films including Anna Karenina, Les Miserables, The Man With The Iron Fists, Despicable Me 2 and About Time. The deal extension also includes library titles including Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, American Pie, Mamma Mia, Gladiator and Scarface. The movies will be available via the 11 Sky Movies channels as well as the company’s video-on-demand service and its multiplatform service Sky Go and its over the top platform Now TV. Ian Lewis, director of Sky Movies said: “We are delighted to be able to announce an extension of our long-standing relationship with NBC Universal. The combination of NBCU’s hit movies with Sky’s innovation will give customers an unrivalled in-home movies experience. Whether it’s The Bourne Legacy on demand, Despicable Me in 3D, or Ted on the go, Sky Movies customers will enjoy the biggest and best selection of movies on their terms – and at least a year ahead of any other subscription service.”Separately, Sky has extended its channel deal with NBC Universal’s channels arm Universal Networks International (UNI). The agreement will keep channels including Universal Channel, E! Entertainment, Syfy, The Style Network and Movies 24 on the pay TV platform. read more
Belgian telco Belgacom reported an uptick in TV subscriber numbers, despite challenges in the mobile space.Belgacom reported a “solidly growing” customer base for its TV and fixed internet products, adding 46,000 Belgacom TV subscriptions in the fourth quarter. This resulted in a 14% year-on-year increased its TV customer base to 1.39 million, of which 230 million had multiple set-top boxes.Belgacom said both TV and internet gains helped its Q4 revenue to climb 1.7% year-on-year to €1.64 billion, despite weaker mobile revenues.Fourth-quarter TV revenue grew by 18.1% to EUR 62 million as a result of continued subscriber growth. However, overall net income for the quarter was €168million, down from €169m in the same quarter last year.“Our fixed-line products performed well, counterbalancing the more difficult Belgian mobile market, which saw an unprecedented customer rotation following the change in contract rules under Belgium’s new telecom law,” said Belgacom CEO Didier Bellens, commenting on the results. read more
France-based technology group Sagemcom has joined the Mulitimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) as an associate member.Sagemcom, which provides a range of digital set-top boxes, DVRs and gateway devices, will incorporate MoCA into its products.“Integrating MoCA into our products will enable service providers to deliver a highly reliable in-home backbone for extending and enhancing existing WiFi networks and providing the Quality of Experience that consumers have come to expect. With a MoCA-based network, consumers can move an ever-expanding range of media content around the home quickly and easily,” said Ahmed Selmani, deputy CEO of Sagemcom Broadband.
LG Smart TVSome 90% of US smart-TV owners said that they connect their set to the internet, while 80% have used them to access OTT services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video, according to IHS.The research firm’s TV Systems Intelligence Service said that 86% of Roku owners and 79% of Apple TV owners claim to use these devices to watch video from the internet.“This shows that alternative video services are becoming more popular and relevant among US consumers,” said IHS consumer electronics and technology analyst Veronica Thayer.Some 75% of smart TV owners were also found to own a smartphone, and 65% a tablet, creating an opportunity for secondary-screen applications, including content discovery, content sharing, mirroring and remote control functionality, said IHS.The study also revealed that some 73% of US consumers said that they are not interested in buying a smart TV in the next 12 months.IHS found that just 7% of consumers that were not aware of smart TVs said they intended to buy this kind of set in the next year, while more than 30% of consumers that were aware of the technology said they intended to buy a smart TV over the same time period. read more
Qplay, the internet video firm set up by TiVo founders Michael Ramsay and James Barton, is due to close this week – just five months after launching.Announcing the move on the company’s official blog, Qplay said that it is “with heavy hearts” that the company will close, effective July 25.“We truly enjoyed bringing you the best videos from around the Internet. We had fun building and using Qplay and hope that you did too. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to keep developing and running the service,” said Qplay.The company said that any customers that have bought a Qplay adapter can request a refund. “All TV Adapters will stop functioning when the service shuts down, so please responsibly recycle your TV adapter,” it added.Qplay launched its cloud TV initiative in the US at the end of February this year, in an apparent effort to compete with existing internet streaming devices such as ChromeCast and Apple TV.QPlay consisted of a mobile application that ran on an iPad, a TV adapter that allowed users to stream video direct from the web, and a cloud service that managed the experience.The QPlay TV adapter, which connected to the TV via an HDMI cable and to the internet via an 802.11b/g/n WiFi adapter, initially retailed in the US for US$49 (€36) as part of a promotional offer. read more
Ukrainian cable operator Volia has begun migrating its broadband network in the country’s capital Kyiv to the EuroDOCSIS standard, which the operator says will enable it to offer speeds of up to 100Mbps. The move follows a pilot of EuroDOCSIS in four cities, including the capital, in June.Broadband customers with DOCSIS modems will be able to exhange these for new equipment for the nominal price of UAH1 (€0.05).Volia plans to migrate its network in the city of Zaporozhye to EuroDOCSIS by the end of this year.
BT’s Gavin PattersonBT has outlined its vision for ‘Britain’s Digital Future’, including a commitment to provide “ultrafast” broadband speeds of 300-500Mbps to 10 million premises by the end of 2020.Speaking at BT’s Delivering Britain’s Digital Future conference in London, BT CEO Gavin Patterson reiterated the company’s earlier pledge to provide Ultrafast broadband to “the majority of premises within a decade” and said that BT would provide a 1Gbps service to homes and small businesses that want even faster speeds.The rollout of Ultrafast broadband is due to start next year, while BT also announced plans to tackle slow internet speeds in hard-to-reach parts of the country.Patterson said that BT will support the government in delivering a new universal minimum broadband speed of 5-10Mbps in the UK, and claimed the company has a desire to go “further and faster” on fibre broadband by surpassing the government’s current 95% target for fibre availability by one percentage point.“We want to forge an ultrafast future for Britain and stand ready to help government deliver the broadband speeds necessary for every property to enjoy modern day internet services, such as high definition TV streaming and cloud computing. To achieve this, we need a collaborative effort across industry and government,” said Patterson.Discussing BT’s Openreach division, which is responsible for maintaining the national broadband network, Openreach CEO, Joe Garner, said there was more to do on the service.Garner said he aimed to exceed by 6% Ofcom’s 2017 minimum standards for delivering new connections on-time, and said that a new service called ‘View My Engineer’ will give customers text progress updates plus their engineer’s name and mobile number should they need to make contact.He claimed Openreach exceeded all 60 Ofcom service standards in 2014/15, hired 3,000 extra engineers, reduced installation waiting times and fixing faults faster while halving complaints.The comments come against the backdrop of an Ofcom review into the UK communications market, with one of the topics under consideration being whether BT’s Openreach division should be split from BT’s other businesses.In an open letter published by the Financial Times yesterday, the chief executives of Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone UK argued that there is an “urgent need for increased competition” in the UK broadband market and called for broadcast regulator Ofcom to ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to “undertake a full market investigation.”“Only the CMA, with the support of Ofcom, can address the structural barriers to competition that will unlock the next wave of investment in communications infrastructure that the country urgently needs. We cannot afford to wait,” according to the executives.Paolo Pescatore, director, multiplay and video at CCS Insight said BT’s commitments today mark “the latest tussle between BT and its rivals” in light BT’s planned acquisition of mobile operator EE.“BT is putting up a strong defence. Its latest pledges will address some of the shortcomings raised by its rivals, notably investment and service quality. However, this is unlikely to satisfy its rivals as they will still call for full separation, lower prices and greater access to BT’s network,” said Pescatore.The news comes as a KPMG report valued the impact of BT’s future commitments as worth £20 – £30 billion to the UK economy over the next decade.A separate BT-commissioned report by Analysys Mason claimed yesterday that the UK will “outperform other major European countries on a range of fixed telecoms measures for the next five years, and become one of the best performing countries worldwide by 2020.” read more
Patrycja GołosLiberty Global has given two UPC Poland executives additional responsibilities as part of its pan-regional team under Severina Pascu.Patrycja Gołos has been given the role of vice-president, corporate communications, in charge of internal and external communication, public policies and regulation, corporate social responsibility and coordination of activities in CEE with key external stakeholders.Katarzyna JabłońskaKatarzyna Jabłońska meanwhile has been give the role of vice-president, legal, overseeing legal and compliance issues.Both will maintain their existing responsibilities at UPC Poland, where Gołos is in charge of corporate and public policy.
TV software provider iWedia has extended the availability of its Android TV platform to two widely used set-top box chipsets.iWedia has extended the coverage of its Teatro-3.5 Android TV product to the Amlogic S905D STB system-on-a-chip and to the HiSilicon Hi3798MV200 chipset.The Amlogic S905D SoC is deployed by pay TV operators worldwide and and is capable of decoding 4Kp60 10-bit HEVC and VP9 formats with HDR. The SoC has a quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and a penta-core ARM Mali-450 MP3 GPU to handle UI and premium content. It also supports operator-level security technologies like Trusted Video Path (TVP) and video watermarking.“Our S905D SoC is ideally suited for Android TV STB and has passed CTS, GTS, and other Google certifications for a better Time-To-Market. Integrating Teatro-3.5 enables us to accelerate the Time-To-Market further and to leverage iWedia’s software integration services,” said James Xie, vice-president, corporate business strategy at Amlogic.The HiSilicon Hi3798MV200 chipset provides a solution for HEVC boxes running Android or giving support to HTML5 under Linux. Hi3798MV200 is a full-4K SoC that supports H.265 video decoding up to 4Kx2K at 60fps. It integrates the quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 processor and a multi-core 2D/3D acceleration engine. It supports H.265 HD video encoding, HDR video decoding and display, HDR-to-SDR conversion, and Dolby and DTS audio processing. It also features a security engine integrating a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), a Secure Video-Path (SVP), and forensic watermarking technologies.“HiSilicon has been concentrating on Android-based solutions for several years. In working closely with a middleware company like iWedia we can jointly support the wishes of TV operators to grow their business in using Android TV to provide more value-added services,” said John Liu, General Manager of STB Product Line at HiSilicon.Teatro-3.5 is based on iWedia’s Android4TV framework which extends Android TV with broadcast and multicast pay TV functionalities implemented as input modules of the Android TV Input Framework (TIF), according to the company.The product is available for Android TV 7.0 Nougat, integrated with various conditional access systems, and connected to various service delivery platforms and content delivery networks.Part of Teatro-3.5, C-More Live is a custom launcher and TV app meant to be tailored for the operator. The app is compliant with both Android TV Operator Tier program requirements and Google design principles, according to iWedia. It allows navigating and accessing the whole features provided by the operator such as live TV, VoD, catchup TV, DVR, and time-shift.iWedia is exhibiting at TV Connect on stand B54. read more
21st Century Fox has confirmed reports that it is to launch a standalone Fox News opinion-focused US streaming service. The plan was first reported by the New York Times.Fox Nation is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of the year. The service will include exclusive content and access to over 20 years of archive Fox News programming.Fox said that interaction with Fox News’ opinion hosts and personalities would be a key part of the new service.The company said that hiring for the new venture would begin in the second quarter.“With our traditional cable viewership at an all-time high, we are proud to announce a new digital offering geared entirely toward the Fox News super-fans, who represent the most loyal audience in cable, if not all of television. This initiative will capitalise on providing that viewer, who is among the most affluent and well educated in cable, with a highly specialised content experience on a platform they can watch anytime, anywhere,” said John Finley, SVP of development and production at the network.Fox Nation will not include the linear Fox News channel, which will remain available via cable and satellite pay TV packages as well as via a number of internet TV service. Fox is pitching the new service specifically as an “opinion platform” that will appeal to the channel’s large base of conservative-inclined viewers. read more
Singapore-based Mediacorp has agreed a new deal with Grabyo, which will power the media company’s live and near-live social video content.Mediacorp’s digital teams for news, sports and entertainment will use the Grabyo platform to deliver video content, news and highlights to audiences across Singapore quickly and efficiently.The agreement comes after Mediacorp used Grabyo to create and share more than 150 clips and live broadcasts to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube during Singapore’s 2018 Star Awards.“Mediacorp has engaged Grabyo to help us expand our social and digital video content offering. This is an important part of our strategy to bring real-time video highlights and live social streams to our audience, as well as creating new experiences for our consumers across digital,” said Guillaume Sachet, head of social at Mediacorp.Grabyo CEO, Gareth Capon, said: “We’re excited to be working with Mediacorp to engage millions of viewers across Singapore. The changing needs of audiences means that content is consumed in the moment and we look forward to working with the Mediacorp team to enhance the social hub and publishing capabilities. Asia is an important market for Grabyo and we see great potential for growth in the region.” read more
As demand for narrowcast video services grows, cable operators both in the US and Europe face a number of critical technology choices. Stuart Thomson looks at some of the key developments.US cable giant Comcast is currently pulling the industry towards its vision of the next-generation cable architecture. The focus of its current activity is the CMAP, or Converged Multiservice Access Platform, which grew out of Comcast’s need for a dense headend platform in order to allocate ever-greater amounts of bandwidth for video applications – a need driven in the US by the deployment of switched digital video (SDV) services, HD and online video. The wider project, of which CMAP is a part, is know as the Next-Generation Access Architecture (NGAA).CMAP is actually a product specification. It is not an attempt to create a new standard for the delivery of IP over cable – the CMAP platform is designed to be fully DOCSIS-compliant. The product specification therefore is for a much denser and more flexible combination of Edge QAM device and cable modem termination system (CMTS) that will work with existing DOCSIS interfaces but will deliver vastly more QAMs per port than existing gear.Comcast has decided to specify a device with a certain number of ports per rack-unit, leaving it open to vendors to decide on the precise RU configuration.Because it is not a ‘standard’ as such, CableLabs (and EuroCableLabs) do not really need to get involved (although they are following the project closely). They just need to qualify the products as they would with any CMTS device.Impact for operatorsOne of the key objectives for cable operators including Comcast is to reduce the amount of space required for CMTS racks (as well as the amount of cabling required) and to reduce energy consumption.The key cost savings are expected to come from saving space and energy – the cost of the equipment itself is likely to remain relatively high, and it is questionable whether it will prove to be cheaper than the (in any case progressively declining) cost of conventional CMTS and Edge QAM gear. But energy and space are emerging as key concerns for service providers as they address the need to build facilities to serve ever-increasing bandwidth demand.As Ramin Farassat, vice-president of product marketing at RGB Networks, says CMAP is in a sense an attempt to define what the next-generation CMTS will look like. As such, it comes in variant forms that carry echoes of recent attempts to push a more modular data-over-cable infrastructure.Charles Cheevers, chief technology officer, Europe at broadband cable specialist Arris, says that CMAP is a “natural evolution of the headend architecture of cable networks” as a growing proportion of traffic becomes unicast. “The first thing about CMAP is that it’s a technology that converges and puts out more capacity on less hardware with greater density,” says Cheevers.“Each company can focus on their core capabilities. We are opening things up to any strong router vendor on the market.”Ramin Farassat, RGB NetworksThe modular variant of CMAP can be seen in some ways as an alternative to the modular CMTS (M-CMTS) standard, a technology that failed to gain the traction many predicted for it. “M-CMTS was not really good enough,” says Gil Katz, senior director of cable solutions at Harmonic. The essential flaw in the standard, he says, is that it did not go far enough by separating RF technology elements entirely from the IP platform – the CMTS – thus permitting new entrants with purely IP expertise including the likes of Juniper and Alcatel Lucent to enter the market. “What we pushed was a modular approach where the CMTS is really just an IP router in-and-out with no RF,” says Katz. He distinguishes this ‘packet shelf’ from the RF ‘access shelf’ – a platform akin to the existing Edge QAM device – that delivers RF both up and downstream. This separation enables the service provider to keep core CMTS functions, including HTTP servers, Quality of Service monitoring and subscriber management, in a single location and put an Edge QAM-like device out in the network. This is in contrast to M-CMTS deployments, where an RF return path all the way to the headend has been necessary.For Katz, the combination of an all-IP headend and IP infrastructure between headend and hub, with distributed access shelf devices positioned in each hub, is a “great architecture for Europe” that would allow more vendors to enter the market. “Those companies do not want to deal with RF but DOCSIS is just another protocol that they can run on their routers so there are more vendors that can compete in the CMTS space,” he says. Taking IP all the way to the node would offer further benefits to operators, he says, by making it much simpler for them to segment each node – a key future requirement for many European operators that still operate nodes serving 1,200-1,500 homes.Next-generation CMTSBrad Ferris, head of portfolio management, TV solutions area at Ericsson, another Edge QAM supplier and supporter of modular solutions, says that CMAP is squarely addressed at addressing the challenge of an increasing number of narrowcast channels. He says that the packet shelf and the access shelf are derivatives of the CMTS and the Edge QAM. At present, integrated CMTS have the lion’s share of the market by far, with M-CMTS having relatively limited take-up to date. “The integrated approach has advantages and disadvantages. From the access shelf perspective we think we can cooperate with people on the packet shelf side,” says Ferris.RGB’s Farassat says that CMAP is in a sense an attempt to define what the next-generation CMTS will look like. He agrees with Katz that the modular variant is a “bigger idea” than M-CMTS. Farassat says that RGB is building an access shelf that does all upstream and downstream RF transmission both for data and IP-based video as well as traditional QAM-based video delivery. The CMAP access shelf will be able to deliver “hundreds of QAMs”, while a packet or IP shelf, separated from the RF elements, will take care of IP Quality of Service, subscriber management and all the things that routers do well, according to Farassat. “Each company can focus on their core capabilities,” he says. “We are opening things up to any strong router vendor on the market.”Cisco Systems, a major infrastructure supplier to Comcast, has expertise both in RF and IP of course. Daniel Etman, product manager at Cisco’s cable business unit, says that Cisco is already “85% compliant” with CMAP. He believes that some aspects of the product specification will feed into CableLabs standards, though not things like form factor. “It’s up to CableLabs and the MSOs to make that decision,” he says. “I think if you look at the spec, the key point is that it’s bringing more density and versatility in a smaller form factor.” The more advanced version of the spec, which requires the splitting of the RF elements from IP completely, will likely require CableLabs involvement. “That’s not necessarily the direction Cisco is going,” he says. “We base our products on industry requirements.”One obstacle to a radical departure in terms of the cable architecture is that operators are organisationally still divided into video and data groups with different procurement responsibilities, says Etman. “Operators need to change their internal approach to procurement,” he says.Etman also points out that CMAP does not specify the size of the device – only the maximum size (16RU). “If you look at Europe, 16RU is often quite large, especially looking at the densities you can offer with next-generation capabilities,” he says.According to Harmonic’s Katz, other operators in the US and Europe have been following CMAP discussions closely.Platforms with limited capabilities should be available next year, with fully functional systems up and running by 2012, according to Katz. Key to the platform’s wider success, he says, will be its ability to “scale down”. Katz (like other Edge QAM vendors) does not believe that the ‘integrated CMAP’ model will win many adherents other than existing CMTS vendors that have little choice in the matter because they do not supply Edge QAMs.CableLabs has not so far been formally involved in CMAP, but RGB’s Farassat says it is likely to become so at the later stages to cover questions such as how the platform will handle encryption and testing.Whether variations in the platform will be necessary to handle the requirements of international operators remains a moot point. It is possible, at least in the view of some of the vendors, that an integrated model might be suitable for operators with smaller headends.Integrated v modularNorth American concerns are clearly driving the initiative, and key to the thinking behind it is the need to support a large installed base of legacy set-tops. “The numbers are big enough to make sure that any initiatives going forward have to support those devices,” says Cheevers. “That’s not the same for Europe or Asia.” European implementations of CMAP would need to accommodate a number of variations in requirements. For example, in the US, each CMAP device is likely to have the capability to support multiple local ad insertion zones, a requirement that doesn’t really exist in Europe where, as well as high interest in switched digital-video to recapture bandwidth. In Europe, on the other hand, there may be high-demand for more narrowcast channels as operators migrate to IP services.Cheevers believes that European requirements may converge to some extent with North American ones as operators seek to compete with DTH players by offering bandwidth-hungry expanded HD tiers.As was the case in the debate over modular versus integrated CMTS to accompany the move to DOCSIS 3.0, suppliers of CMTS gear without Edge QAM products, including US cable industry stalwart Motorola, believe that integrated models will be adopted first, for a variety of reasons.Motorola has for some time been working on its own next-generation product, the Video Edge Services Platform (VESP), which it has more recently said is relatively closely aligned with Comcast’s requirements. “We are in the process of defining our implementation of a CMAP-compliant platform [based on] VESP but one that will also meet the requirements of European operators,” says Mike Gannon, EMEA business development, Motorola. Gannon says Motorola believes in an integrated platform combining IP switching and routing with headend functionality including subscriber management. However, he says that the company’s roadmap is “not finalised” and argues that the density (i.e. number of QAMs delivered per port) being called for by Comcast might not be applicable to all operators’ headends.Regarding ‘integrated’ versus ‘modular’ implementations, Gannon says Motorola believes that the requirement for RF redundancy will grow as platforms deliver ever greater numbers of QAM channels, meaning that ‘integrated’ is the way to go. “There is a lot more to delivering video over DOCSIS than just pure IP routing,” he says. “It’s an area where experience is invaluable.”However, he says that such a platform may not necessarily be applicable for smaller headends, and points out that European requirements are different because operators are under different pressures. Switched-digital video, for example, by and large remains a technology that appeals specifically to US operators, which have seen bandwidth-hungry MPEG-2-based HD tiers expand rapidly.[icitspot id=”9346″ template=”box-story”]Arris will also initially produce an integrated product and Cheevers argues that the modular version could be problematic for operators with smaller hub sites. Arris will migrate its C4 CMTS to become an integrated CMAP platform. “We have been successful in the CMTS space with integrated devices and we still see that the integrated version is the right way to launch,” says Cheevers. He argues that the advantages of having devices from multiple vendors in the same facility, which has been made possible by the development of fully standardised interfaces, can cause problems for an operator, which then has a number of different vendors to call for support.Cheevers makes the salient point that service providers are unlikely to switch off legacy equipment and migrate to an entirely new architecture overnight. “There is a challenge of getting CMAPs into smaller headends,” he says. Moreover, the transition to ‘all-IP’ is fraught with practical problems. “Serving groups for video and DOCSIS do not necessarily have a one-to-one correlation,” says Cheevers. One possible solution could be for operators to subdivide video service groups into separate groups for data.Because CMAP will have to be deployed alongside existing legacy equipment, at least in the first phase of deployment, it is unlikely that service providers will be able to harvest the full benefit that should be possible in terms of reduced operating expenses.DVB-C2While cable technologists in the US have focused on the Comcast project, less has been heard recently about a European initiative to solve some of the challenges faced by operators by dramatically increasing the bandwidth available over their networks – the DVB-C2 project. DVB-C2, the next generation of the European DVB for cable standard deploys a range of techniques – notably the use of COFDM rather than single-carrier QAM modulation and 16 up to 4096 QAM modulation schemes rather than the DVB-C range of 16 to 256 QAM – to deliver 30% higher spectrum efficiency and possibly 60% improvements in bandwidth over the existing DVB-C standard.Unlike CMAP, a product definition created to meet a need by a specific operator, the DVB-C2 standard is an initiative driven primarily by technologists that is in search of operator support. As such the standard may have a diminished chance of success – something that would, in the view of Harmonic’s Katz at least, be a pity. DVB-C2 addresses the legacy of analogue video that forced operators to carve up their available spectrum into 6MHz or 8MHz slices in order to deliver analogue video channels – an entirely wasteful procedure in the digital world. “It’s all about narrowcast services moving forwards,” says Katz. “Cutting the spectrum up makes it less efficient and makes resource management much more complicated – you need multiple tuners [in equipment] to get different frequencies at the same time, which makes management of the boxes more complicated.”Ericsson’s head of system management, solutions area TV, Paul Stallard, argues that all vendors are currently in much the same position – waiting to find out what the silicon suppliers will do. “We were involved at an early stage in C2 and it was something we supported,” says Stallard. “I think we are in the same position as a lot of other vendors on our side. It will really depend on the availability of chipsets and the pricing of those chipsets in terms of when C2 becomes a market reality.”While DVB-C2 would overcome this legacy problem, it would require operators to deploy new customer premises equipment – something that those operators with large legacy digital TV subscriber bases would obviously be loath to do. This problem, together with the fact that operator interest has so far largely been confined to Germany (led by Kabel Deutschland) means that silicon suppliers will continue to be cautious about investing in chipsets. This is the crucial problem facing the standard. Introducing DVB-C2 alongside existing DVB-C systems means simulcasting, removing the advantage in bandwidth savings that DVB-C2 was supposed to confer in the first place. This will lead to delays as silicon suppliers hold out to see if the market will take off. But even in Germany, where interest is currently greatest, another couple of years will see existing digital rollouts expand, creating exactly the kind of legacy base that operators in more mature markets already have to content with. “Migration is the great challenge to C2,” says Motorola’s Gannon. “Existing set-tops will not have access to [services]. You either need a C2 overlay network or to replace existing set-tops.”Wider marketThere is also a question of whether the wider market, even within Europe, requires investment in such a technology to be a priority. Ericsson’s Stallard points out that the related DVB-S2 standard arrived at a time when satellite pay-TV operators were looking to deploy HD. “It was perfect timing,” he says. There were no legacy boxes in the market to speak of. “Cable is in a different situation because [C2] came along after many of them had already made the HD transition.”Nevertheless, Arris’s Cheevers believes that interest is growing, even if it is from a small base. Cheevers believes that physical layer technologies for cable will have to advance. Addressing one of the key hurdles – the lack of consumer equipment – he points out that set-top providers have an opportunity to leverage the work already done on the closely related DVB-T2 standard, now being deployed for the launch of digital-terrestrial HDTV channels in the UK and Italy. “There is a huge cross-over,” says Cheevers, who adds that companies active in the T2 space will have the ability to make C2 set-tops very quickly. “The question mark is over the commercial viability of carrying that extra overhead in the silicon.” Set-top boxes would have to be rigorously tested and whether vendors could develop a single-chip C2 solution that could be sold across the World is open to question. However, one solution, says Cheevers, is to develop equipment based on a limited subset of the “full” DVB-C2 standard. The technology works by dividing each 8MHz carrier into multiple OFDM sub-carriers, with multiple possible modulation rates of up to 4096QAM. On top of that multiple DVB-C2 tuners can combine carriers to increase the available bandwidth. “The number of permutations is huge,” says Cheevers. Supporting all the elements of the standard could involve a significant investment, but working within a smaller sub-set of parameters could help operators and vendors to manage the cost of deployment, according to Cheevers. For example, initial deployments could be based on a more limited number of modulation schemes, starting say with 256QAM. However, the development of integrated silicon for the set-top box remains key.The developments in parallel of these technology initiatives point to some of the key challenges cable network operators face as they look to accommodate the shift from broadcast to narrowcast and converged services. There are many technology areas that operators could focus their investment priorities on (not least driving fibre deeper into their access networks). However, the headend and consumer premises equipment choices they make will be crucial in determining their ability to support the kind of new services that their customers will increasingly demand. read more
ShareTweet City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival 2015.Jamie Callum performing in the Millennium ForumPhoto Lorcan Doherty PhotographyJamie Cullum wowed the crowds at his recent concert in the Millennium Forum Derry.The UK jazz sensation, who headlined this year’s City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival, had the crowds on their feet during a high octane performance featuring the St Mary’s School choir. The event brought to a close five days of fantastic music and entertainment with over 250 events taking place at over 60 venues across the city over the May Bank Holiday.UK JAZZ SENSATION JAMIE CULLUM DAZZLES THE MILLENNUIM FORUM was last modified: May 5th, 2015 by stephenstephen Tags: EntertainmentFeaturesJamie CullumNewsUK Jazz
Shane Todd shot to fame on social media and now has a huge fan following, thanks to his hilarious sketches and character videos. As well as his online videos and podcasts ‘The Shane Toddcast’, he has made several TV and radio appearances, and hosts the award-winning BBC Radio Ulster show, ‘The Shane Todd Show’, supported by the legendary Bill Blur. Besides wowing local audiences, Shane has performed his hit stand-up shows all over the world including the Netherlands, France, the USA and Canada.Emma Devine Marketing Officer at the Alley Theatre says the Alley is delighted to be hosting Shane. Comedian Shane Todd coming to The Alley TheatreSHANE Todd, the stand-up comedian named after a Wild West film great, is riding into town with his new show, Shane Todd: Hero—Stand up of Ireland.Presented by Shine, in association with the Galton Agency, the comedian will be making audiences laugh at the Alley Theatre, Strabane on Friday 19th October as part of his 2018 tour. She said: “We can’t wait to welcome Shane Todd to the Alley Theatre as part of his tour.“Shane has a huge following on his social media and Youtube channel but it’s on stage where he is truly in his natural environment, on stage at a comedy show and we are confident he will go down a storm with audiences in Strabane.”Shane Todd is just one of many comedians coming to the Alley Theatre over the next couple of months. Audiences can look forward to Neil Delamere in November, Micky Bartlett in December and Colin Murphy in February. Full listings and tickets available via the Alley Theatre website on www.alley-theatre.com or call the box office on 028 71 384444Shane Todd brings his new stand-up show to Alley Theatre was last modified: September 28th, 2018 by John2John2 Tags: ShareTweet CO DOWNGalton AgencyShane ToddShane Todd brings his new stand-up show to Alley TheatreshinestrabaneTHE ALLEY THEATRE read more