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November 16, 2010

‘IPTV over your existing network’: Q&A with Colin Farquhar, CEO of Exterity

It’s not just about having a TV on in the corner. CBR catches up with IPTV supplier Exterity to talk about its customers, technology and place on the CIO agenda

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So you’re an IPTV company. What’s that all about, here in 2010?
What are we as a company all about? Exterity is a company that whenever somebody needs to have television or video within their building, we can deliver that over the network infrastructure they already have in place in the facility. So to slightly correct you, we’re a building IPTV company, not IPTV supplier, because what we offer companies isn’t TV over the Internet like BT Vision. Instead, we apply that technology in the context of a high-capacity switched building infrastructure so organisations can create their own bespoke television service.

Colin Farquhar, Exterity CEO

Sounds interesting. Why do firms want to do that?
Lots of organisations depend on visual communications e.g. if you’re a bank you might monitor news to make trading decisions, or a media company might monitor news feeds; you want information delivered effectively. It’s not as if we’re creating a new economy. Being able to use that network infrastructure is a very cost-effective way to extend the reach of those services.

Now it’s on the network it can go to the boardroom, 10 TVs, every screen in the building – it provides a lot of value in an age of austerity. So we are working with organisations that require TV and video within their facilities, like banks, finance houses, large pharma companies. If you’re a manufacturing company and have people working on the shop floor, you’re not going to use it in the same way as some of these types of applications, of course, and we also get a lot of applications in hospitals, education, hospitality, stadiums etc.

Can you please name specific users?
Sure. Other customers include Wimbledon (where Exterity receivers are deployed on all cameras around the venue enabling journalists in the media centre to view on-demand or live whatever games they wish to view), Llanelli Scarlets, MK Dons, The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Liverpool Women’s NHS Trust, The Royal Shakespeare Company and University College London.

How is this different – if it is – from video over intranets, as some companies are already doing?
The application changes, but the scale and value will change depending on the kind of organisation you are. Some need media all the time, others it’s about being able to communicate at specific times, e.g. delivery of on-demand training. You can make a judgement call on the value but a very good solution.

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What we’re finding, to be honest, is that the real heartland is big media, finance, banking organisations – our biggest customer is Reuters in the UK, it uses our technology to deliver between 75 and 100 channels around its facility to 2,500 end users. Every journalist in Reuters has an Exterity device that sits beside the PC and gives them access to this range of television services. At the same time, we deliver across a range of markets like corporate education and hospitality – the kinds of things we get involved in there are interesting – maybe even temporary installation, you can use a single cable.

Earlier this year, for example, at the British Open in St Andrews, you could use IP on a single cabling system to deliver a very high-quality service, integrates with broadcast services if needed. It’s quite different from the corporate use of the technology.

Sounds great but is this entertainment or real corporate stuff?

We’re addressing a business problem of communicating information, it’s trying to work out what’s the requirement, what are you doing with this technology – is it just for reception for people to watch, or is there a CIO requirement to use content differently? Many CIOs will be seeing huge increase in demand for video-based content, lots of organisations like Cisco are really promoting systems to deliver video on the infrastructure. So we’d argue that there are possibilities in this technology for all sorts of applications and it is definitely a CIO agenda item, yes.

So why your company if I come to the same conclusion? Why Exterity?
We’re an organisation with history, a blue chip client base and we understand what it means to deliver this content. People used to really struggle with the concept of high quality high bandwidth data, would worry about 20mbps throughput, will it impact other apps. But we can demonstrate you can deliver it very effectively alongside the other services you provide.

Yes, tell us more about the technology underpinning all this, please.
We don’t use PC technology, as many do for this sort of tech, but with us it’s a carrier class device we’re providing. If you’ve got some simple low-quality video you need to deliver, at the same time, we have a solution for that without encoders, but we can do also very high-end HD content and have HD encoding products. If you’re doing broadcast, too, we can handle that, as we have this whole range of devices that provide you with a solution.

Beyond that, we have a TV gateway product that captures live TV, takes very large numbers of channels and deliver them across your network infrastructure and deliver them – so for instance you can literally take all UK Freeview service and put it on your network for under £10,000.

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