Despite Tough Times, Cable Growth Continues


If you read the business section of just about any publication these days you will be convinced that the economy — in particular the telecommunications industry — is in a tailspin.

But this is one of those cases where painting everyone with the same brush is an erroneous generalization. While traditional telecom carriers and vendors faced serious challenges throughout 2001, the cable industry has continued to weather the storm.

Rogers Cable Inc. and many other cable companies even experienced double-digit growth in 2001. During that time, we continued the aggressive growth of our high-speed Internet and digital products and launched more new products than ever before in our history. From a network deployment perspective, 2001 was possibly our busiest year ever, completing rebuilds, deploying digital capacity and growing IP networks to meet that demand. Looking at 2002, this trend does not seem to be abating.

As the cable industry matures into a multimedia service provider, the rate of product development and deployment continues to increase and the complexity of the technologies, systems and processes being installed into our networks continues to grow. All of this adds up to a ongoing and growing challenge for the engineers and operators in our industry to keep up-to-date with technology and systems. In fact, at times, the rate of change seems so great that it looks like an impossible task.

Clearly we need to exploit every resource to keep our technical professionals in touch with the systems and technologies already in the market, and just as important, aware of emerging technologies that may drastically change the economics or functionality of our networks tomorrow.

One of the best ways to tackle this challenge is offered by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineer's Cable-Tec Expo and annual engineering conference, which is being held this week in San Antonio.

The Expo has always been the premier event for technical professionals to meet face-to-face with engineering, hardware and software manufacturers and service providers. 2002 will be no exception. This week, over 11,000 engineers and vendors from every part of our business will come together to meet in an environment designed and organized for this purpose alone.

There are no rock groups, movie stars or extreme sport aficionados at Expo. There are industry leaders, technology experts and vendors providing discussion groups, seminars, workshops and technology demonstrations covering every aspect of our business. This is a forum designed by engineers for engineers about engineering solutions. This is where you get to mix with your fellow engineers, talk to them about their challenges and experiences and kick the tires on every current and emerging technology.

As chair of the Expo 2002 program subcommittee, I am proud of the full and comprehensive program that we've lined up for this year's event.

To start, attendees will hear from exciting and progressive leaders — such as Zaki Rakib, co-founder and CEO of Terayon; Mike Senken, president and CEO of Philips Broadband; and Dave Barford, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Charter Communications Inc. — as they articulate their visions for our industry.

Between them, their companies cover the issues ranging from transport to cable-modem systems, from digital video processing to set-top boxes. These are the leaders who are pushing technology to the next level. When companies cover this range of products — the core of the future of our industry — it should be worth hearing their story. They will be there to share their views with you.

You also will have the unique opportunity to hear outstanding technical leaders such as Tony Werner of Liberty Media, Brad Dusto of Comcast Corp., Steve Silvan of Charter and Yvette Gordon-Kanouff of SeaChange International Inc. respond to the ever interesting and sometimes provocative probing of industry analyst, Leslie Ellis. The breadth and depth of this chief technology official panel promises an insightful event not to be missed.

Not to be outdone by the quality of the CEO and CTO panels, the Expo program subcommittee surveyed the technical community for their take on what are the hottest topics and greatest challenges facing the industry. As a result, we were able to produce a workshop program of both variety and depth.

Expo's educational program addresses the practical problems of today and the possibilities of the future. For the operational-oriented among us, the current problems of improving network reliability, coping with traffic issues, managing the proliferation of headend technologies and other topical issues are dealt with in detail. For the architects and futurists, technology and architecture directions for home networking, deep-fiber architecture, digital modulation evolution and new approaches to VOD are among the topics addressed.

All in all, Expo 2002 promises to be a comprehensive combination of panel discussions, focused seminars and in-depth technical workshops customized for cable engineers to keep them in tune with today's most important issues and possibilities.