Execs Eye Broadband Future at Cable-Tec Expo

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Orlando, Fla. -- The cable industry is in the best position to exploit the broadband future, panelists said at the opening session of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec Expo here.

“You’re in the best position for multimedia broadband-interactive services,” Nortel Networks president of optical networks Brian McFadden said. “It’s a challenge for satellite and the ILECs [independent local-exchange carriers]. The key is interactivity. VoIP [voice over Internet protocol] should be called multimedia over IP.”

Cable can meet the competition, said Bob Miron, president and chairman of Advance/Newhouse Communications, but, “We have to play our own game. We have to decide what it is we want to market and target our customers.”

Panelists also saw opportunities in new areas, including wireless-broadband extensions. “We’re looking at integrating mobility into our VoIP model, mostly in the SOHO [small office/home office] market,” Miron said.

“Everybody is taking a hard look at it,” Charter Communications Inc. CEO Carl Vogel said. “It’s more glue in the bundle, and it’s not factored into Wall Street business models. It takes years to do that, but the opportunity is there.”

OpenTV chairman and CEO Jim Chiddix said the cable industry needs a software infrastructure “to launch new applications, knowing it’s going to run on a ubiquitous, tested software platform.”

That platform, Miron said, is the OpenCable Applications Platform. “There is a tremendous effort to make OCAP real,” he said. “OCAP is the right dream,” Chiddix added. “The question is how quickly that can happen.”

Vogel said Charter’s analog-to-digital conversion in Long Beach, Calif., is going well. “We’ve had excellent response from the programming community because their picture looks a lot better,” he added. “The real issue is the consumer issue and how you transition that consumer in a cost-effective way.”

All-digital will happen over a few years, he said, adding, “We need a lower-cost set-top, and you have to explain the difference to customers.”

Cable’s challenge will be to move quickly enough. “Cable has to move fast,” Chiddix said. “This two- to three-year development cycle isn’t going to work.”

Vogel agreed: “We need to get products to market quicker. And we have to make sure we can market them and that they are simple and easy to use.”

Added Miron: “It’s people and execution all the way down the line.”

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