Hongkong Telecom Selects Motorola’s Set-Top Box

Motorola has signed a US$100 million deal with Hongkong Telecom’s Interactive Multimedia Services (IMS) to supply its InteractiveTV (iTV) business with Streamaster multimedia architecture over the next few years.

IMS, which operates Netvigator, Hong Kong’s largest ISP, has offered commercial iTV services since March of last year and allegedly has 60,000 customers.

According to IMS representatives, iTV is the first and the largest service of its kind in the world.

Subscribers have access to an online library of movies and music, home banking, home shopping, online karaoke and horse racing and to the general World Wide Web.

“The Streamaster system’s capability to be upgraded via the phone line provides us with a product that will not become obsolete in a year or two, as a hardware-based system would,” said Mark Evensen, general manager, Technology Development, Hongkong Telecom IMS.

“We have developed what we think is the first practical, configurable “soft” set-top,” said Brad Hale, Motorola’s marketing director of Media Processing and Platforms. “We wanted to create something that would unify video entertainment, video communications and intelligent Web access which was easily upgradeable.”

According to Hale, Motorola’s Streamaster architecture, formerly known as the Blackbird project, is an extensible multimedia platform that combines the functions of a broadband router, a network computer and a digital home theater platform.

“We view the Asian market as the most strategic,” added Hale. “Asian markets are earlier adopters of technology and the infrastructure isn’t as locked up as the U.S.”

Hong Kong-based manufacturer VTech Holdings Limited, brought into the agreement by Hongkong Telecom, will receive motherboards and chip sets from Motorola to make the set-tops locally.

Motorola will likely be heavily involved in the systems integration of the set-tops and scale back later when VTech has fully developed the manufacturing process.

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