What's Coming Up in Cable Technology


Last week’s email included a message from a friend who lives on the periphery of cable technology: “I was asked recently if I’d seen cable MSOs developing any new businesses, aside from home security, Skype and business services. I couldn’t think of any others - do you know of new technical products that are in early development stage?”

Where to start? Wireless seems a good place. Ever since mobile became mobile, the world has wondered about cable’s wireless play. Wall Street wants it, but only if it doesn’t cost a fortune to build. Consumers want it if it means taking your broadband with you, sans the $50-per-month fee charged by mobile carriers for a dongle that works half the time. Operators want it as a way to keep customers “sticky” to them in a hypercompetitive marketplace.

Step one was the Clearwire consortium, which continues to trundle along. The bigger action, though, is in mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. East Coasters already know about this, given the cable Wi-Fi happenings along the mid-Atlantic corridor. Cox Communications is now on board, so it’s a footprint that will widen.

Also of interest: Secondary SSIDs (service-set identifiers) inside wireless routers, inside homes. I’m in Comcast territory in Denver. I visit you, in another part of the country that’s also served by Comcast. On firing up the laptop, I’m automatically connected to your Wi-Fi feed, drawing bandwidth from a secondary SSID provisioned inside your router - but my usage counts against my account, not yours. That’s ultimately very handy for when high-bandwidth relatives are in town.

This hasn’t happened yet, but it’s an example of “early-development- stage” launches.

Then there’s the whole consumer-device scene and the APIs (application program interfaces) operators can and will use to extend their “service icons” into connected screens. Different devices contain different native abilities - witness the Cox demonstration of video navigation on a Sony PS3, which lets viewers control video playback with the joystick, frame by frame.

It’s hard to predict where and how this will go, but, it’s going. We’ve already seen our phones and tablets become the remote control for the TV. Those apps will evolve, such that you’re using the touch pad to swipe-navigate the TV screen - this is already happening in the U.K., with Sky’s iPad app. Or using hand gestures, a la Microsoft Xbox Kinect. Or with your voice.

So, Ms. J, there’s your answer. Happy to report that we’re just warming up here. Three years ago, I’d still be staring at your mail.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translationplease.com or multichannel.com/blog.