A Consortium of major European telecommunications companies and universities is launching a project with the scope to undertake extensive trials of digital interactive multimedia services at a number of sites across Europe. The project, named AMUSE (Advanced MUltimedia Services for Residential Users) is being funded under the auspices of the ACTS Programme, which is part of the multi-million ECU Fourth Framework Research and Technological Development Initiative of the European Commission.
The consortium, led by Italtel , involves twenty two members:
Network operators - Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom, Post and Telecom Iceland, Swiss Telecom PTT and CET/Portugal Telecom ;
CATV operator - IDEA of Belgium;
Manufacturers and integrators - Siemens AG and Siemens Nixdorf of Germany, Online Media (Acorn) and GPT of the UK, Italtel and Sirti of Italy, Siemens-Albis of Switzerland;
Content providers and applications developers - Videotime of Italy, Autor of Portugal anf Nyherji of Iceland;
Research centers - CSELT of Italy,and INESC of Portugal;
Universities - of Paderborn, of Stuttgart, of Iceland and the National Technical University of Athens.
Each organisation will contribute its own expertise to the project which will embrace all aspects of digital interactive multimedia delivery including set-top boxes, videoservers, ATM switches, core and access networks as well as the creation of content and the provision of services.
The project will investigate the problems associated with using advanced technology, such as ATM end-to-end transmission protocols and MPEG videocompression techniques, to provide multimedia services to residential users. These investigations will be carried out at several trial islands in various locations across Europe. The trial sites have been selected to give both a variety of network technologies (Hybrid Fibre-Coax, Passive Optical Network and twisted pair cable using ADSL) as well as diverse social, cultural and regulatory backgrounds, as this will help to ensure that the solutions have the broadest applicability. The possibility of providing these services via B-ISDN will also be investigated and demonstrated in the appropriate trial islands. The trial sites are located in Italy (Milan), Germany (Munich), Belgium (Mons), England (Cambridge), Portugal (Aveiro), Switzerland (Basel) and Iceland.
The project will study the requirements and future trends in two areas, that of service provision and the delivery platform. With respect to service provision, the emphasis will be placed on developing intuitive and easy-to-use services with attractively styled user interfaces. These services will cover such areas as entertainment, information, business, education. As far as the delivery platform is concerned, the major topics which will be addressed are the interoperability of the equipment and systems supplied by different manufacturers in the framework of emerging international standards, e.g. DAVIC and the ATM Forum, and the suitability of the design choices in terms of end-user acceptance of the services.
The demonstration of the technology and the services will take place in two phases. During both phases, in addition to assessing the performance of the equipment, the reaction of users to the services and the general performance of the systems will be assessed. The first of these demonstration phases is planned to start in 1996 and is expected to provide such services as Movie and News-on-Demand, Tele-Travel Agency and Internet Access. In the second phase additional services, such as Home Shopping, Tele-games etc, will be introduced. Prior to the start of the second demonstration phase, the performance of the delivery platform will be upgraded to enable it to increase the picture quality of the material displayed on the users' television screens.