Next Level is a world leader in integrated broadband access platforms for delivering any combination of voice, high-speed data and multi-stream digital video services into the home or office using existing copper telephone pair drops. The company’s highly scalable networking products, management tools and support assistance have allowed communications service providers to deliver a range of subscriber services and realize significant new revenue streams.
Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Sonoma County’s Rohnert Park, Next Level has deployed its state-of-the-art systems for more than 100 communications service providers worldwide. In 1999, the company was acquired by General Instruments and also went public. Motorola later acquired General Instruments and in the process became the majority shareholder of Next Level. The company, which employees 250, is primarily design oriented and contracts out to other manufacturers.
Winds of Change
Next Level ‘s fully-integrated, ATM-based system provides Digital Loop Carrier (DLC), Fiber-to-the-Curb (FTTC), Fiber-To-The-Node (FTTN), Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexed (DSLAM) and full-service broadband access capabilities for the delivery of voice, data and video services over fiber optic and copper twisted pair networks. Next Level also provides broadband management systems and customer premise equipment (CPE) for both high-speed data and video services. “The advanced features and unique integrated design of the Next Level system gives service providers an economic, future-proof strategy for deploying traditional telephone services as well as advanced data and video services,” says Geoff Burke, director of marketing for the group.
One of Next Level’s major customers is Qwest which provides 250 television channels and Internet access to its customers using Next Level’s platform. Next Level also is working with Bell Canada which is currently putting Next Level’s equipment through trials and is expected to rollout its equipment soon. Next Level also supplies 90 other independent operating companies such as Century Tel and Citizens.
According to Burke, there are a lot of new developments in the phone company business that are making Next Level products very attractive to phone companies. “Cable companies are starting to provide customers with Internet access and telephone services. This used to be the sole domain of telephone companies,” explained Burke. “Now about two million people in the United States get voice services through cable companies. And telephone companies are now getting involved in providing video services, so that’s another potential market for our equipment.”
Another important market development is that consumers are beginning to replace their landlines with cell phones completely. Some are only using their cell phones for voice services. Also, with a DSL connection, customers only need one telephone line to get voice and Internet services. Prior to DSL, customers had to get another line for their Internet services – today they’ve been able to cut it down to just one for both services. Both of these important developments are eroding the revenues telephone companies collect because the overall number of telephone lines is dropping. With Next Level equipment, telephone companies can get into the cable business. They can also bundle services and provide voice, video and data services.
All Bundled Up
Next Level recently unveiled a new product for telephone companies called ADSL+. This advancement to its product line is designed to bring highly profitable and cable-competitive bundled services – voice, data and video – to a much larger group of telephone subscribers than was previously possible. By more than doubling the reach of its platform, Next Level has significantly advanced the ability of telephone companies to deploy bundled services on a broad commercial scale. Based on the ANSI and ITU asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) industry standards, Next Level is the first to deliver a full service bundle using ADSL+ technology, carrying up to 10 megabits per second (Mbps) of bandwidth to subscribers at distances of more than 10,000 feet. Using its widely deployed and commercially proven platform, customers can now use ADSL+ to deliver robust voice services, 1.5 Mbps of high-speed data, two streams of DVD quality digital video, and a full suite of interactive applications such as video on demand (VOD), web access environments (“walled gardens”), chat, e-mail and interactive gaming.
Next Level’s new solution is a valuable breakthrough for phone companies that want to offer subscribers bundled services in small towns and rural communities. One such company, South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative, one of the largest independent telephone cooperatives in the U.S., is using Next Level’s solution to offer two streams of digital television, high-speed Internet and a full complement of voice services to subscribers. “With Next Level we deliver a full range of communications and entertainment services over our existing network, with a single customer installation and a single bill,” said Daryl Wyatt, general manager for South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative. “Other telephone companies can’t give DSL services away, but Next Level’s bundled services platform has created a wonderful business opportunity for us. Bundled services that include digital video are the ‘killer app’ for broadband.”
It has been possible to deliver telephone and data services with traditional ADSL technology, but not high quality, multiple-stream video due to multi-vendor integration, bandwidth limitations, and quality-of-service shortcomings. Next Level’s proven video-ready platform takes advantage of recent breakthroughs in processor technology, extending ADSL’s throughput. The combination of improved spectral utilization and the Next Level platform makes bundled services over ADSL economically attractive for the first time.
“In the real world people are focused on the services they want – voice, data, and video – packaged in the bundles that they value,” said J. Michael Norris, chief executive officer of Next Level. “We are now at the point where we can provide these services to nearly anyone who has a telephone line, and we’ve done it in a way that makes compelling economic sense for the telephone companies.”
On the Bus
Next Level will be touring the United States over the next few years displaying its NLevel3 Unified Access Platform. This is a live Broadband Universal Systems (B.U.S.) demo in a 45-foot executive coach and will be targeting the country’s independent telephone companies. Why? “We want to demonstrate our next-generation, revenue-enhancing system with the capacity for premium-quality, bundled broadband entertainment and communications services (voice, digital video and high-speed data),” said Julie Carlson, director of marketing communications for Next Level, “We are targeting the rural communities who have been historically precluded from broadband service due to geographic locations and I believe this outreach will help raise awareness of our unique broadband solution.” The coach is fully equipped with a completely functional digital head-end, central office, network access and home entertainment system. With that kind of exposure, looks like this company is dedicated to taking the every community to the “next level” and beyond.