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BT North America Broadcast Services Joins Forces with iBlast Networks

IBlast (www.iblast.com), a company that seeks to provision unused digital television spectrum for the wireless delivery of streaming media, announced that it has signed an agreement with BT North America Broadcast Services ( www.broadcast.bt.com), a supplier of global broadcast solutions.

Under the agreement, BT Broadcast Services will take programming from the iBlast network operations center and uplink out of the new state of the art teleport in Los Angeles to the PanAmSat Galaxy 10R mux. The material will then be downlinked by 225 local television-broadcasting stations as part of the iBlast network. As previously announced by iBlast, much of the process will be managed using NDS's Media Storm datacasting solution.

According to the General Manager of BT Broadcast Services, Jon Romm, "iBlast is our cornerstone customer and the first IP DVB platform out of our new West Coast facility. Our East Coast teleport has been highly successful and we are currently upgrading it to enable us to meet increased business in New Media areas while continuing to support our current news and sports communities.''

IBlast is BT's first customer in Los Angeles for full time IP services. IBlast is currently conducting trials with this system in California, Arizona and Florida. The participants are receiving the signal using a standard form factor DTV receiver card and an off-the-shelf antenna, according to Pete Lude, VP of broadcast engineering at iBlast. Lude believes that in the future we will see multimedia PCs produced with the DTV card already installed and small box receivers that incorporate the antennae and DTV card connectable to the PC using the USB port.

While Lude states that no deals to that effect have been finalized yet, "it shouldn't be too hard to convince manufactures of such appliances as MP3 jukeboxes — which are currently connected via 56k modems or 300kps DSL connections — to invest in approximately $50 worth of hardware to enable the device to receive 3 to 6 Mbps."

The creation of the iBlast system has been fueled in part by an FCC ruling mandating that all stations broadcast digital signals by May 1, 2002. The iBlast system should help broadcasters recoup some of their investment by making full use of the available spectrum.

"Iblast is owned by broadcasters. This is not an us vs. them type situation," states Lude.

The iBlast system includes software that will allow users to state their preferences and learn their viewing habits. IBlast states that it will progressively deploy its datacasting service to an estimated 50 percent of U.S. households in 2001 and anticipates achieving full national coverage by 2002. To date no specific content agreements have been announced.

Dotcast (www.dotcast.com), a Silicon Valley-based company, has also announced its plans to launch a similar streaming broadcast system using the unused HDTV spectrum.

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