Cable-Tec Expo Explores 3D, IP

For an event that historically focused on field engineering, this month's annual SCTE Cable-Tec Expo is broadening its vision to encompass 3DTV, home networking, IPTV, energy management and an array of business factors that affect the cable TV industry.

"Cable is uniquely positioned to deliver 3D television, home networking and a variety of other emerging services that can enhance the customer experience," said Jay Rolls, chairman of the program committee for this year's Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers' annual conference and exhibit, which runs Oct. 20-22 at New Orleans' Morial Convention Center.

SCTE expects about 9,000 attendees, comparable to last year’s show in Denver, and about 400 exhibits. "The IP technologies that are on the agenda are at the forefront of enabling the industry to cost-effectively capitalize on those opportunities as ways to build subscribership and revenue," adds Rolls, who is senior vice president of technology at Cox Communications. "The availability of and demand for new services are accelerating the ability of cable operators to differentiate product bundles, attract and retain subscribers and generate new revenue."


His comments intertwine the technology and business sides of the cable industry, a high priority for the new management of SCTE and the new structure of the annual Cable-Tec Expo.

"We're starting to see some of the solutions [from] ideas we planted last year," says Mark Dzuban, who became SCTE President/CEO shortly before last year's Cable-Tec Expo. "We look at business from an engineering perspective, because engineering and operations [represent] two-thirds of the capital and operating expenses" at a cable system.

"We're advocates of smart thinking of 'how do you help the bottom line,' especially in these times of economic duress," Dzuban continues, emphasizing that technology's goal is "overall support of the business side."

Marv Nelson, SCTE's veteran senior vice president, strategic initiatives, suggests that the industry should "think of 'Expo' as an annual event that shows how we're optimizing technology."

SCTE expects about 9,000 attendees, comparable to last year's show in Denver, and about 400 exhibits, also in line with recent years. The Expo is part of "Cable Connection Fall," a cluster of industry events in New Orleans, including the CTAM Summit, run by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, and a Women in Cable and Telecommunications (WICT) "Tech It Out" event.


Cable-Tec Expo's opening session, a Technology Roundtable, features four cable industry thought-leaders: Comcast Senior Vice President Steve Reynolds, Cox's Rolls, Time Warner Cable Executive Vice President Mike Hayashi and Cisco Fellow John Chapman. They will explore how cable's evolution can keep pace with "digital consumers." At a follow-up Engineering Roundtable, experts from Accenture, Motorola, NDS and other companies will look at the tools and tactics cable operators need to deliver content to a wide range of devices in the networked home. They will examine the potential of standards and solutions such as DLNA, MoCA, CableHome and others.

Cable-Tec Expo offers 15 workshops (some of which are offered multiple times), focusing on the "next 12 months of operational concerns," says Nelson. He notes that topics "we barely touched on last year have become urgent and we have to engineer quickly," citing 3D as one of them. Workshop topics include Holistic Content Delivery Networks; DOCSIS 3.0; Home Networking; IP Video; 3D Video; Upstream Channel Bonding; Service Quality Measurement, Monitoring and Management; Adaptive Streaming; Extension of Ethernet Services; Energy Management; and BSS and OSS (Business Support Systems and Operations Support Systems) for Business Services.

This year's program begins with a one-day pre-conference workshop on Broadband Learning & Development, a program aimed at teaching technology managers and trainers on the ways to train field personnel about the new technologies they install and maintain. During the following days, sessions dig into cable issues in five tracks: Engineering, Network Operations, Technical Operations, Business Services and Cable Services and Fulfillment.

An opening day session on "Delivering the 3D Video Experience" looks at the "challenge" to cable operators for "participating in the coming 3DTV revolution in subscribers' homes." Topics will include navigating "the choices of the multiple standards and underlying technologies currently under development to produce, process, assess, and present a quality 3DTV experience to cable subscribers. Stefan Winkler, chief scientist at Cheetah Technologies, will examine "3DTV Quality Issues & Measurement Guidelines," and Daniel E. Holden, Comcast Fellow at the Comcast Media Center, will lay out "A Roadmap for Implementing 3DTV Over Current HFC Architecture."

Among this year's new exhibit hall features is a "connected home," although Dzuban hastens to differentiate it from similar showcase pavilions at the spring National Cable and Telecommunications (NCTA) Cable Show.

"We're the technology that makes it possible," Dzuban says. "These are all the pieces to a successful business venture. We're here to get the platform done."

Rhetorically, he asks, "How do we meet goals?" His intention is to show that cable engineers understand that there a "lots of parts to that equation."


SCTE has accelerated its Expo agenda on IPTV. "Look at the evolution of our networks," says Dzuban. "The migration from analog networks to IP [means] that a lot of content is moving much quicker to IP networks. We need to build IP-centric skills in our workforce." Each session is more focused on IP, while at the same time identifying the various approaches to IP delivery.

Nelson points out that after several years of offering sessions on DOCSIS 3.0, the Cable-Tec Expo program has had to delve into additional areas.

"DOCSIS 3 is IP, but it's not IP video," he acknowledges. "There are a lot of things we need to explain."

New to the show floor are several pavilions that bring displays with a common theme together. SCTE is expanding its "Green Pavilion," which debuted last year as an energy management showcase. Nelson explains that SCTE has been working with vendors to see "what we can offer that will be instrumental in improving performance and reducing costs.

"We know the industry spends $1 billion or energy every year," Nelson adds. "There are significant things we can do to drive that [sum] down." He explains that many of the ideas for this year's Green Pavilion came from SCTE's Sustainable Management Subcommittee (SMS), which has also overseen the association's Smart Energy Management Initiative (SEMI).

Nelson cites the ways in which the SMS program captures ideas for standards and incorporates best practices into operations. As a result, he says, vendors and cable operators have shifted their thinking when they became focused on environmental issues.

"We changed the focus from energy management," Nelson says. "This year we're doing a workshop on how [to deal with] the impact of EnergyStar and what to do with e-waste batteries," topics that have greater impact throughout the cable and other communications/media industries. He said SCTE coordinates its work with NCTA and Cable TV Laboratories.

Gary Arlen

Gary Arlen, a contributor to Broadcasting & Cable, NextTV and TV Tech, is known for his visionary insights into the convergence of media + telecom + content + technology. His perspectives on public/tech policy, marketing and audience measurement have added to the value of his research and analyses of emerging interactive and broadband services. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the long-time “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports; Gary writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs.