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The January 24, 2005 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Cable's Look at Emerging Technologies: SCTE-ET

Each January the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) holds a conference for cable telecom professionals that aims to provide a three-to-five year view into the industry’s technology future. Topics covered at this year's event included bandwidth management, whether new wireless technologies are disruptive or constructive for cable, and the future role of the cable operator in a world that accommodates consumer electronics, broadband, content suppliers and others.

We were able to attend only the first day's sessions, since we wanted to fly back to San Jose in time to catch the second and third days of WCA (see the following article). Sandy had the opportunity to speak in a session on technologies competitive to cable and Dave had his turn in the session on emerging wireless technologies.

We've posted both presentations on the Broadband Home Central Website--see our Presentations page.

The session on competition, moderated by Tony Werner, Sr. VP & CTO, Liberty Media, covered a wide range of broadband technologies, including developments in DSL and IPTV, fiber to the home, wireless and satellite.

Sandy's talk "Wi-Fi, WiMAX, Why Care?" had several messages. The first was that wireless technologies represent both a threat and an opportunity to cable. The second was that just as telephony has shifted from fixed locations to personal communications with the growth of mobile telephony, so will fixed broadband/data connectivity move to a new dimension of personal broadband--associated with a person, not a place. Sandy touched on how this direction is already underway today and can be seen in municipal Wi-Fi and deployments from providers like Clearwire and Nextel. The latter two not only are priced lower than cable, but offer the added advantages of "nomadicity" or portability. The growing movement behind WiMAX is an indication of the recognition that broadband wireless to the person will be of key importance in tomorrow's world.

One of the other "take-aways" from the talk is that, while it is easy to dismiss metro Wi-Fi deployments because they are not "carrier grade", they merit being taken seriously. Sandy reminded the audience that, as with many disruptive technologies at their inception, it is easy to point out all their deficiencies. For Wi-Fi these have included lack of security and QoS, interference, roaming performance, throughput, range and connection persistence. However, there is a huge industry that has grown up around Wi-Fi and it has engendered rapid market innovation--which is increasingly finding ways to overcome these limitations. The talk concluded by showing maps of just a few of the cities where wireless technologies are taking a share of the broadband market, asking the audience "Is your city next?"

Dave's talk, "Wireless Technologies in the Home - The Invisible Cable Plant" was part of a panel chaired by Nick Hamilton-Piercy, Senior Technology Advisor, Rogers Cable. The session also included talks on WiMAX in cable networks and wireless/wireline convergence. Dave's talk focused on two wireless technologies--the role and progress of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) and the emergence of Ultra-Wideband (IEEE 802.15.3a) with Wireless USB as UWB's most likely initial application. In addition to updating the audience on the current status of these technologies, the talk had three major conclusions:

  • 100 Mbps home networking technologies are coming soon in the form of 802.11n, UWB, HomePlug AV, etc.
  • Wireless is not a complete “whole home” solution, but will most likely be part of a heterogeneous network
  • End-to-end QoS remains a major challenge and will hopefully be addressed by the Digital Network Living Alliance (DLNA).

Our thanks to SCTE for the opportunity to address their members. Our only regret is that we didn't get more time to soak in all the good information and contacts that were part of this event.

( www.scte.org )