Mixed Signals

SCTE Engineers the Future of Cable and Internet

Denver chapter's session draws big crowd 5/10/2017 10:30 AM

Sometimes a view to the future of TV, video and data delivery comes in odd ways, and from unusual sources. One key to keeping abreast of those changes is to keep a wide-open and broadly curious mind so that when -- often most subtly -- they do arise, they are capable of capture and use.

Earlier last month, just such a “under the radar” event did take place, as representatives from Arris, Ruckus Wireless, and Corning joined the author for a final plenary session at the annual conference of the Denver chapter of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE). The final session event was titled “The Future of the Industry: 5G, IoT…and Don’t Forget…Cyber-Security”.

On stage for the final late afternoon session on Thursday, April 6, 2017, were panelists Dan Torbet, Director of Systems Engineering In The CTO’s Office, from Arris in Denver; Steve Martin, CTO of Ruckus Wireless in Silicon Valley; and Corning’s Catherine McNaught, its Global Market Development Manager, Emerging Applications, also from Silicon Valley.

Session Set-Up
Following an introduction to the broad “cable and telecom future” topics by my company, The Carmel Group, each of the panelists combined for 75 minutes’ worth of core focus on the session’s specific sub-topics, i.e., 5G in the wireless world, cyber-security in most worlds, and the Internet of Things (IoT) in the billions of devices that will be connected in the next half decade.

The Carmel Group’s introductory studies presented the audience with the following key discussion points:

1) 5G: As a new mobile network standard, it will offer (a) 28 GHz of what is called “millimeter wave” spectrum, (b) 800 MHz of bandwidth support, (c) with peak download speeds of 35.5 GBps, (d) and an expectation of higher density broadband use, (e) device-to-device capability, (f) reliability, (g) and other improvements, (g) despite a continuing lack of standards;

2) Cybersecurity: It will protect (a) computer systems, (b) against theft and/or damage, (c) or against services misdirection or disruption, and (d) due to the software, hardware, or data on them, (e) and recognizing the advantages hackers possess, f) so that the proper systems can be adequately protected; and

3) IoT: This part of the session set-up focused on questions such as What is IoT, How big IoT will get, Who will use IoT, Why they will use it, When they will use it, Who will lead the charge to use it, and Is cable positioned to best take advantage of IoT?

Torbet’s Take
Arris believes that 5G and wireless is an important technology for a uniquely positioned industry -- including operators and indeed the cable industry as a whole -- to take advantage of.

Specifically, Torbet predicted cable operators will leverage their strengths by providing robust DOCSIS 3.1 and Passive Optical Network (PON) backhaul networking services to neighboring cell operators and deploying their own 5G networks both for subscriber premise services and in the home for LAN services.

In addition, Arris believes that in-home Wi-Fi services are key to delivering on the multi-gigabit access network services that can bring data to the home. This is a critical message for the cable industry today, because like its digital upgrades of a couple of decades ago, the move to wireless portends some big time and arguably “out-of-the box” thinking for folks usually steeped in core wired services.

That said, Torbet recognized that there are wireless things Arris and the cable industry still need to solve or improve upon, such as:

1) Detecting, identifying and troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues in the home (in part because customer calls about Wi-Fi are near the top of all the trouble calls an operator gets today),

2) The need for better tools and ways to find coverage issues and to resolve them with the equipment in the home, and because…

3) Increasingly new Wi-Fi technologies are being introduced into the home to support multiple services, the key is to future proof and get to be great at detecting, identifying, and troubleshooting those pesky Wi-Fi issues.

Finally, on the IoT side, Arris is a big believer in this next great technology. Yet, because devices in the home, for example, are increasingly loading with often ultra-critical sensitive and personal information such as medical and financial records, security of the services and the devices is even more important. Thus, Arris has staked a strong claim in the cyber-security arena. Security is also a continuing concern with home security feeds and sensors, and other home automation devices that can retrieve and then display personal information (e.g., refrigerators that can display your daily schedule in the morning).

Martin’s Message
For Ruckus Wireless and CTO Martin, both also believe that even though the cable industry is steeped in wires, “The future of the cable industry is wireless.”

Noting that the networking and communications industry is undergoing massive structural and technological change on a global scale, Martin states that and the cable industry is incredibly well positioned to take advantage of and reap benefits from these changes.

“We need solutions from our vendor community that enable us to stay at the forefront of the changes that are occurring, or we risk losing the hugely advantageous position that we have through our intimate relationship to our subscribers,” he concluded.

“Where there is change, there is both opportunity and risk. But if you fail to act, you will almost certainly be displaced.”

McNaught’s Mission
Corning’s McNaught brought a unique point of view to the session, which has become even more prescient in light of the announcement late last month of a huge Corning deal to supply huge sums of fiber for Verizon (See, https://www.corning.com/worldwide/en/about-us/news-events/news-releases/2017/04/verizon-agrees-to-1-point-05-billion-dollar-three-year-minimum-purchase-agreement-with-corning-for-next-generation-optical-solutions.html).

McNaught highlighted Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” video series, representing it as the paradigm for Corning’s “…passion for innovation that drives and our vision for a connected future."

Behind that view is what Corning calls a ubiquitous, always-on network that is capable of delivering reliable, low latency connections at a great range of speed to the edge of the network and back.

Asked to characterize her and Corning’s key takeaway from the session, McNaught summarized, “We’re all working toward a connected tomorrow. Partnerships that prioritize both innovation and execution will lead the way, and this is what Corning is all about – partnering with customers to solve tough problems that transform industries and improve people’s lives.”

Crowd Concerns
Concluding the session, cable audience questions focused on a handful of particular concerns and messages:

1) IoT has a bright future. Activities like the “Open Connect Forum” and “Thread” are making cable interoperability more and more possible. Cable is clearly going to be an important distributor of many forms of IoT.

2) On the wireless side, 5G is important to understand. This includes how it impacts cable services. It is clearly something that cable operators are looking at to better understand and take advantage of.

3) Cable is well positioned to support and deploy 5G services and networks…today!

4) In-home Wi-Fi troubleshooting needs better tools for technicians and home users to locate and troubleshoot inadequate service.

5) The security of all these services and how each device has implemented those security enhancements is critical to a solid, long-term deployment of these items.

Jimmy Schaeffler is chairman and CSO of The Carmel Group, a streaming/broadband, broadcast and pay TV/video consultancy based in Carmel by the Sea, Calif.; he writes about telecommunications, entertainment and media.