Philadelphia -- With ample technology fuel to work with, Comcast Corp. plans
to hit the innovation accelerator as it pushes forward with new services
including high-definition TV, video-on-demand and high-speed data.
That's the message Comcast president and CEO Brian Roberts drove home in his
keynote address to the Society of Cable and Telecommunications Engineers'
Cable-Tec Expo here Monday.
In particular, Roberts told the crowd his company needs to change direction
when it comes to its technology philosophy.
"Comcast needs to genetically rewire for innovation," he said. "We have been
a fast follower, and we now need to rewire ourselves and take some risks."
That might include expanding beyond a single 6-megahertz channel for
high-speed data. "I think we should be pushing ourselves, even if it means we
have to devote more bandwidth, because this product is a platform," Roberts
said. "We are going up the hockey stick. We should not be satisfied with [1.5
megabits per second] of speed."
The MSO is also focusing on the technology surrounding HDTV. Led by senior
vice president of strategic planning Mark Coblitz, Comcast has been assuming a
point position to create a plug-and-play agreement between the cable and
consumer-electronics industries, paving the way for one-way cable-ready devices,
including HDTV sets available at retail.
Given the accelerating market for HDTV -- and the possibility of sub-$1,000
HDTV sets by Christmas -- the technology planks established in the agreements
were vital, Roberts said.
"But the real work is to get a two-way deal for two-way devices, which, as we
know, is our future, so you can literally have it work with all of the devices
in the house," he added. "This is good for cable, good for the CE manufacturers,
good for retail and great for the consumer."
Comcast is also "putting down the pedal" with capital expenditures to upgrade
its cable network, particularly in the newly acquired AT&T Broadband
Roberts pointed to Comcast's plan to spend $4 billion this year on plant
upgrades, rebuilding 46,000 miles of cable plant by the end of 2003.
"So when the economic recovery comes, while others have pulled back on
capital and slowed down, this industry will come out of the recession further
ahead of our competitors and further ready and able to take advantage of the new
products I think we are developing," he said.