Like most trade shows, the Society of Telecommunications and Cable Engineers' annual Cable-Tec Expo is all about numbers. For SCTE, the digital diversity includes:
- • 40th anniversary of the group's creation
- • 26th annual expo
- • First time that expo is part of the fall Cable Week cluster of industry events.
- • 19 people with continuous SCTE membership for all 40 years.
- • First event with Mark Dzuban as SCTE's president/CEO.
- • 10,000 people expected, about
- • the same as the last few years.
- • 21 first-time exhibitors out of about 400 total vendors.
- • 8 to 10 percent international attendees, about the same as last year.
The theme at this year's Cable-Tec Expo, Oct. 28-30, is "The Extensible Competitive Fiber Network." In an increasingly competitive environment, broadband capabilities underpin many of the Tec-Expo programs. Alluding to the aggressive efforts of Verizon and AT&T to deploy fiber optic systems, John Schanz, this year's Expo program chair, cites cable's long march toward optical networks.
"With all of the marketing noise regarding fiber networks," Schanz says, "it's easy to forget that it was nearly two decades ago that the cable industry invented how to move video over fiber. Since then, we've deployed more fiber optic cable in our access networks than any other industry segment."
Schanz, executive vice president, National Engineering & Technical Operations at Comcast, points out that cable operators have leveraged fiber in the last-mile plant, regional networks, and backbones for years.
"That's why we opted to focus this year's expo on 'The Extensible Competitive Fiber Network,' because that's exactly what it is," he said.
SCTE's show is the largest component of a new push from the cable industry to consolidate a half-dozen events into week-long autumn and spring clusters. The first "Cable Connection — Fall" roster of meetings features an alphabet soup of cable-centric organizations including CTAM (Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing), NAMIC (National Association of Multi-ethnicity in Communications), WICT (Women in Cable Telecommunica-tions), ACC (the recently rebranded Association of Cable Communicators, a public relations group) plus events run by CableLabs, the Cable Center (museum and research facility) and philanthropic organizations.
'TOUCH THE TECHNOLOGY'
Marv Nelson, SCTE's veteran vice president for professional development, says the timing is ideal for technology vendors, "who run on a six month cycle." He expects many of them will bring new equipment to the show, not seen at the April National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention in Washington. In previous years, the SCTE Tec-Expo and the NCTA convention were held often barely a month apart in spring.
Mark Dzuban, who became SCTE's chief executive earlier this year after a lengthy cable career, points out that Tec-Expo's tagline "Touch the Technology" reflects SCTE's objective of "trying to differentiate" from other events. "We are the practitioners. The spotlight is on innovation, in applied science, which is where we are."
The SCTE program will explore issues such as hybrid fiber-coaxial's (HFC) capability to handle HD video, MPEG-4 compression and 3DTV. Dzuban has opened new doors with CableLabs, which is also working with vendors on technical issues from an engineering perspective.
"We offer options, different ways to build networks with solutions about how these apply to particular problems," Dzuban said, referring often to the goal of "smart engineering."
"My mantra is 'the business of engineering,' bringing in the skills that improve the bottom line," he said. "Our mission is education development and the enhancement of technology in the working force."
Dzuban characterizes cable operators as having "subject matter experts," but he says everyone can use assistance "to build smarter and better engineering."
To underscore SCTE's mission to improve what Dzuban calls "the applied science of engineering and the workforce needed to deliver it," SCTE's formal agenda is preceded by a one-day Broadband Learning & Development conference. System managers and trainers can get updated on the use of traditional and new training tools (including Web 2.0 technologies) and field experiences to instruct personnel on operating procedures.
We're focusing on using technology to teach technology," Dzuban said.
The Tec-Expo program features 26 workshops—the most training sessions in the group's history—arranged in five topical tracks, compared to two tracks last year: Business Services, Cable Services and Fulfillment, Engineering, Network Operations and Technical Operations.
"We needed to group [the workshops] so that attendees are not overwhelmed," Dzuban says. "We're trying to highlight engineering issues" based on specific competitive situations.
For example, Engineering track workshops include sessions on "Enabling 4As: Any Content, Any Device, Any Place, Any Time" and "Video over IP: Engineering IP Video." The Technical Operations Track features sessions on emerging topics such as "Advanced Advertising," "The Changing Nature of RF Signals" and DOCSIS 3.0 operations.
Similarly, focusing on the increasingly competitive Business Services category, workshops in that track cover "Expanding Residential OSS Systems to Support Business Services" and "Servicing the Mobile Backhaul Explosion," among other topics.
This year's program includes revamped general sessions, reflecting what Nelson calls the "reinvention of SCTE." He defines the emphasis of the first day's program on "What we are going to do with this network, how are we making that technology real."
"We're not going to get into nuts and bolts in the opening session. We'll talk about the things that you can do with the networks," Nelson said.
SCTE expects around 10,000 attendees at Cable Tec Expo, approximately the same number as in recent years.
The conference opens with a Technology Leadership Roundtable, subtitled "Enough Already" and promoted as a way for cable managers to fight back if they are "weary of all that FiOS in your face," a reference to Verizon's aggressive fiber optic marketing. The session features Marwan Fawaz, CTO and executive vice president of Charter Communications, Paul Liao, the new president and CEO of CableLabs, Dermont O'Carroll, senior vice president, network engineering and operations at Rogers Cable Systems, and Pragash Pillai, vice president, engineering and technology of Bresnan Communications.
That session is immediately followed by "Engineering the Extensible Network," moderated by program chair Schanz and focusing on how to integrate the new range of video, data and voice services so that back-end provisioning and processing are functional, affordable and transparent. The group will also explore how to adapt video streams to the growing array of display device formats, including wireless systems. Presenters include Mark Tubinis, CTO of Cedar Point Communications; Michael Adams, vice president, application software strategy of Tandberg Television and Mike Hayashi, executive vice president for Time Warner Cable.
STBs TO SOFTWARE AND SHOECOVERS
Among Tec-Expo's 400 exhibitors are familiar vendors of headend and set-top box equipment plus network access devices and a new roster of environmental services purveyors. There is even a supplier of shoe-covering disposable "booties" that installers can wear to assure home owners that no mud or dirt will be tracked into the house.
Dzuban says SCTE went "out of our way to find solutions from unconventional vendors." In the process, SCTE was "enlightened" about how many companies have products, software and other solutions that can be used by cable TV operators.
"We're finding ways to do problem solving" by using tools 'from other markets,'" Dzuban said.
Acknowledging the role of environmental planning in cable engineering, SCTE recruited vendors with products offering solar-voltaic wind management services and vehicle fleet management alternatives. The "bottom line benefits" of green operations will become more important to cable operators as energy costs increase over time, according to Dzuban. That is what pushed SCTE to start bringing green solutions into the technology mix.
SCTE is also using its Denver venue to capitalize on the industry's historic presence in the mile-high city. The Cable Center will display vintage equipment form CATV's early days (a half-century ago) to display and SCTE will honor the group's original members, about a half dozen of whom are expected to attend the Denver event.
"We're recognizing 40 years of making progress and planting seeds for the future," Nelson said.
As for the challenge of fitting Tec-Expo into the array of overlapping cable events in Denver at the end of this month, Dzuban believes that such consolidation benefits the industry.
"You'll have more technical presence within the CTAM Summit, and I expect some CTAM marketing people will come over to see Tec-Expo," where they can "hear about and touch technology," he said.
SCTE is also offering discounts to attendees who register for more than one of the Denver events. That's another tangible number that SCTE can tally in cable's new competitive arena.