The Broadband Generalist

Cooperation is a common theme of any SCTE event. Started as a grassroots continuing education effort some 44 years ago, SCTE has always been about individuals working together to improve the cable telecom industry. That spirit was as strong ever at this year’s cable tech expo.

Mark Dzuban, president and CEO of SCTE, characterized the importance of industry cooperation in his comments about the disaster recovery approach that was literally center stage, “Our need to sustain ourselves during critical times is becoming more and more important.”

As further evidence of the cooperative nature of his organization, Dzuban cited their relationship with CableLabs and how, together, they are driving standards forward to practical implementation.

Of course, the announcement of the October release of the DOSCIS 3.1 specifications was big news , as it provides a path to remain bandwidth competitive in the years ahead (e.g as much as 10 Gb/s downstream, 1 Gb/s upstream). In the above interview, Tom Lookabaugh, EVP of Research and Development of CableLabs, talks about the importance of DOCSIS 3.1, particularly how well it integrates into the existing infrastructure.

Still, a couple of engineers expressed concerns about time to market and infrastructure challenges. One engineer I spoke to suggested that DOCSIS 3.1 won’t be ready until sometime in 2015 and that now might be the time to more aggressively deploy fiber to the home.

This could be one of the motivations behind Pace’s acquisition of Aurora Networks; the announcement which coincided with this show. Regardless of the specific architecture, high bit rate broadband networks will be particularly valuable for operators’ wireless plans, as well as being able to support the data offload demands of traditional wireless carriers.

Lookabaugh summed up the importance of the wired broadband network.

“When you do those architectures where you have relatively small cells, you are implying a dense wired, high-capacity network. This is where we feel pretty good, as we have one of those and the ability to expand it gracefully.”

Evidence that the market is ready for the deployment of small cell technology by broadband operators was literally on display at many of the show floor booths. This not only means new revenue streams for the operator, but lower costs for the wireless carrier as partnering with a broadband terrestrial operator And it means a faster roll out of small cells faster with lower upfront and an ongoing operational costs than if they were to build it themselves.

Of course, video was a major topic of discussion.  Elemental displayed what they believe is the first demonstration of a live 4k encodes. Among others, start-up aiotv demonstrated an android-based, operator branded, video aggregation service that works on multiple screens and allows for the integration of both managed and over the top services.

Along the theme of cloud based tv, ActiveVideo’s VP, Strategy & Product Marketing,Sachin Sathaye,  explains a unique marketing approach that one of ActiveVideo’s European customer is pursuing, which promises a much lower customer acquisition cost than traditional methods, “Their strategy is that they want to deliver a HDMI dongle, which has our thin client and they want to give out these HDMI dongles at every gas station for free.”

Regardless of the particular service, broadband as the fundamental offering that drives all other services was an underlying theme of the conference. Additionally, the SCTE membership transcends industries.  A long time ago, the SCTE changed the meaning of the “t” in its name from TV to telecommunications.

Perhaps it is time to change the “t” to “b” to reflect the focus of today’s telecom engineer, who, as SCTE’s Mark Dzuban said, more than ever needs to be a generalist and I would submit a broadband generalist.

[See the full length interviews with Mark Dzuban, Tom Lookabaugh and Sachin Sathaye at the ScreenPlays Magazine web site.]