The past 18 months have been trying ones for the high tech world. Financial markets have wavered, business plans have been retooled, staffing resources have been reshuffled and the inevitability of broadband convergence has been questioned. But through all this swirling uncertainty one activity has remained constant — the continued deployment of new telecommunications services to the consumer. It is with this backdrop that over 11,000 cable engineers will come together this week for the Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineer's Cable-Tec Expo in Orlando.
STAYING TRUE TO ITS ROOTS
This year's event will be the nineteenth Expo held. Fueled by a steadily increasing interest in technology, Expo 2001 will be larger in size and broader in attendance than prior years. The show's reach continues to expand, with attendees from over 30 countries adding an important international flavor. Advances in trade show technology continue to shape the Expo's logistics. But even with all these changing influences certain key show characteristics remain unchanged by design.
One is a clear positioning of the show. At its core, the Expo has always been a pure engineering and hardware show, and that will continue this week. For three days, it will be "all engineering, all the time." This focus comes through loud and clear the first time one steps on to the exhibit floor. It is jam-packed with what George Carlin might describe as "stuff." Stuff to grab, stuff to hold, stuff to examine, stuff to test and stuff to challenge. Stuff that cable engineers can and will use in their important everyday jobs. The Expo floor will never win a beauty contest, but it was never designed for that.
Another characteristic is attendee and exhibitor targeting. The mission is simple — bring engineering and hardware vendors face to face with their customers. It's similar to the advertising concept of "no wasted circulation." Over 450 manufacturers and service providers from around the globe will come to visit with their cable customers.
The final element is providing a strictly business environment. Entertainment on the Expo floor is prohibited (one unsuspecting magician had to be escorted off the floor by security last year in Las Vegas). Alcohol on the floor is also prohibited. Those of you who work with engineers know this "no-nonsense" approach is common, and it carries over to the cable engineers' trade show.
Industry leaders will share their perspectives with the engineers. Robert Sachs, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, will deliver the keynote speech. Michael Willner of Insight Communications, Allen Ecker of Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and Lee Masters of Liberty Digital Inc. will discuss the economy, its effect on cable technology, and the state of the broadband market overall. And engineering leaders Greg Braden of AT&T Broadband, Chris Bowick of Cox Communications, Bob Zitter of Home Box Office and Coleman Sisson of Liberate will zero in on delivery issues present in today's marketplace.
Expo Program Chair Brad Dusto, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Comcast Cable and the Expo Program Committee surveyed the engineering community for topics of the greatest interest. What are the hot topics in today's changing engineering world? Provisioning new services, return path management, IP networks, home networks, DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) 1.1 and video-on-demand all will be covered in depth.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
All three of the above pieces — "hands on" learning on the Expo convention floor, broad input from industry leaders, and engineering specific workshops — are aimed at answering one question: How can we best deliver current and new services to the consumer? For it is the engineering branch that does the primary design and creation of these services, and ultimately the field deployment. Field deployment creates the primary, in-the-home-contact point with the consumer. Optimizing this overall customer experience is the ultimate goal of Cable-Tec Expo. The thousands of visitors to Orlando this week will share in the preparation for its next wave.
John Clark is president and CEO of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers.