CTAM Live: 'Geeks' Can Make Consumers Happy

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BOSTON – New technologies and applications such as DOCSIS 3.0, switched digital video and WiMax all boil down to consumer value in the form of more Internet speed, more high-definition channels and faster mobile broadband access – and that’s the way they should be translated to consumers, panelists at the CTAM Summit said.

Cable tech experts at a workshop session Sunday at CTAM Summit ’08 here pointed out that industry jargon should remain within the industry and consumers should only hear about the benefits. Much of it was framed as in competition with Verizon FiOS’s message that fiber to the home means more and more good stuff for consumers.

Well, as Adam Mayer, senior director of corporate strategy at Time Warner Cable pointed out, DOCSIS 3.0 – which will enhance Internet speeds, Internet security and enable services to multiple Internet Protocol-based devices – is much easier to deploy widely than fiber to the home. DOCSIS 3.0 requires a new device at the home and equipment adjustments the headend but doesn’t require tearing up streets to lay fiber.

Yvette Kanouff, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at SeaChange International, said switched digital video, which some cable operators are now deploying, translates to “lots and lots more content” to consumers by only transmitting to their home at any given time the programming they are watching. “Customers love more bandwidth, so that is a good marketing thing,” she said.

Also, SDV has the prospect of making ad messages more relevant to individual consumers through targeting, another benefit. On the downside, she conceded to an audience questioner that getting a switched stream can be like ordering an on-demand video in that there is a delay versus channel surfing on a non-switched system. But she said different vendors have different solutions to minimize the delay, including some that involve buffering.

Leo Cloutier, senior vice president of strategy and business development at Bright House Networks, talked about next-generation wireless platforms including WiMax (like the Sprint Nextel-led Clearwire venture that the Federal Communications Commission approved last week) and “4G” rollouts such as LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution and is the technique favored by traditional cellular providers AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Basically, mobile broadband networks will be advancing from a few hundred kilobits per second to a few megabits, the way the new iPhone has a more potent 3G backbone as opposed to the initial 2G.

“From a consumer standpoint, it’s an ever increasing speed,” Cloutier said during the panel session hosted by Multichannel News columnist Leslie Ellis. Bright House is an investor in Clearwire, along with Comcast and Time Warner Cable and Intel and Google.