Report from the International Telecommunications Union Conference

I’ve been in Hong Kong the last week visiting the ITU Telecom World 2006. The theme of this show, as articulated by a keynote speech from Vivian Reding,
the European Union commissioner for Information Society and Media, is
“Living in the Digital World”.  The fact that someone from the EU was
giving the keynote at a Telecom show in Asia shows just how
international this trade-show is. There are pavilions from nearly every
major country, with Telecom providers from each country showing how
they are bringing to their markets new Fixed Mobile Convergence
services such as VoIP to cell phones.

As with any large trade-show – and this show is one of the largest –
it’s a little overwhelming. There are so many vendors all trying to get
their message heard above the others. There are ten halls of vendors
with everything that has anything to do with telecommunications – from
coaxial cable vendors with cable as big as my arm (for FTTP –
Fiber-to-the-Premise) to consumer electronics. It is the latter of
course that drew my attention. It was hard to escape the hype around
triple play. Not just to the home or office, but to the phone itself.

One of the big messages from the major consumer vendors – Panasonic,
Toshiba, OKI, NEC – was the adoption and deployment of DLNA (or Digital Living Network
Alliance), a fairly new special interest group (SIG) driving the
adoption of home networks. The home network is a huge market in Asia
and Japan, and it is just a matter of time until it becomes hot in the
U.S. as well. 

I spend a lot time tracking and participating in standards bodies and
SIGs, and it appears that DLNA really got it right. DLNA consists of
over 330 member companies today ranging from consumer electronics
companies, PC vendors and software vendors. Consistent with the way a
lot of “.orgs” are working today, the DLNA doesn’t actually create any
new standards. The members are just defining use-cases around existing
standards and protocols and then publishing design guidelines and test
methodology around these use cases. Some example use cases are:

  1. Uploading video clips from your phone onto a home media server
    using wireless access so they can be viewed on the television – and
    from any room in the house
  2. Uploading music from your phone wirelessly at your friend’s house to his media server.

These are two very real scenarios for the “digital home” and achievable now.

DNLA defines three ‘components’ to its guidelines that help achieve the goals:

  • DMS or Digital Media Server using http as a transfer protocol
  • DMP or Digital Media Player that includes audio and video encoding
  • DMC or Digital Media Controller for control functions.

One of the more interesting implementations of DLNA was demonstrated by
Toshiba. Toshiba has branded something called the “High Definition
Network” or HDN. I have to say this technology was pretty impressive.
Beautiful crisp high definition video on screens 20 feet wide. Not the
grainy display you get on most large screens. Just think what that
would look like in your living room. HDN is Toshiba’s DLNA technology
to deliver smooth access of Hi Def images to any room, at any time, via
a wireless home network. DLNA is a real world implementation of
Fixed-Mobile Convergence that will visibly affect all of us in the near
future. It will enrich our every-day lives by making it easier to do
the things we value most; listening to music, sharing our experiences
and of course – watching television.