Cable-Tec Expo: Bell Labs Guru: Future Is Fast and Cable Can Catch It

Future networks will be defined by big speeds, low latency, Nokia's Marcus Weldon says at show keynote
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Philadelphia -- The future is very fast.

Future network speeds will be measured in gigabits per second with milliseconds of latency, according to Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs and chief technology officer of Nokia, and it will have the capacity to transform society.

This new age will be nothing sort of a technology revolution, said Weldon. In a wide-ranging discussion on the bandwidth-hungry future, the technologist and futurist gave a summation of a book he penned for Bell Labs called The Future X Network – building the digital fabric for the automation of everything and the creation of time.

“The Internet is just the beginning,” Weldon said during a Tuesday morning keynote at Cable-Tec Expo.

A decade or so from now, most of life will be digitized and connected by powerfully integrated networks, wired and wireless. Moreover, as the Internet of Things becomes reality, a vast array of networked machines will help automate daily existence, “effectively creating time by maximizing the efficiency of everything.” 

But the advances will require the interconnection of networks and the interdependence of new systems and technologies. This newly converged, cloud-integrated network will also serve a wide range of bandwidth-eating applications:  4K video streaming, virtual reality and augmented reality, home sensors and driverless vehicles will be the fruit of this new age of communication, requiring an immensely robust network.

All this bodes well for cable operators, which are on a constant mission to improve speeds and reduce latency. Due to the limitations in the speed of light, the best architecture, said Weldon, is a local “cloud” that is less than 100 kilometers from an access node. 

“It has to do with the physics of propagation and the speed of light,” said Weldon. 

In a later discussion during the Expo’s opening general session, CTOs seemed a bit more cautious about the future. Some cautioned operators about rushing to upgrade to the maximum bandwidth speeds without considering the business case.

“It’s a balancing act – we shouldn’t be rushing into it, but we shouldn’t be too late,” said Zoran Stakic, CTO and EVP of Shaw Communications.

Demand will eventually drive bandwidth consumption.  Said Jim Blackley, executive vice president of engineering and IT for Charter Communications:  “It’s like your garage -- you build it and it’ll get filled.”