Top corporate and technology players share their visions of
cable's future at this week's Cable-Tec Expo, highlighting the biggest annual
broadband event with an agenda focused on new, advanced services.
While this edition of the technical conference and
exposition comes during the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers' 30th
anniversary, participants will focus on broadband's emerging technology issues and
equipment as much as on the sponsor organization's storied past.
Attendance is expected to reach 9,000 or more at the
gathering, which begins with preconference sessions today (May 24) at the Orange County
Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., wrapping up Friday (May 28) with the final day of
three days of SCTE certification testing, plus the event's annual golf tournament.
In between, the technical cable staffers who are the
show's focus will also have the chance to view and learn about cutting-edge
technology as more than 400 exhibiting vendors display or introduce new gear and services.
"When we cut the exhibition-floor ribbon at 2 p.m.
Tuesday, it may look like the Oklahoma land rush," said SCTE president John Clark,
who is overseeing his first Cable-Tec Expo since succeeding William Riker last June as
head of the industry's training, certification and standards-setting organization.
"Interest in technology is at an all-time high in our
business," Clark said. "There's a lot of membership anticipation about
being able to see, touch and feel the new hardware."
Anticipating that interest, exhibiting vendors have
increased the size of the sold-out exhibition floor by 15 percent from last year, showing
the gear that attending engineers and technicians -- who will actually deploy it -- want a
first-hand glimpse of: hybrid fiber-coaxial network components; headends;
Internet-protocol telephony infrastructure; set-top boxes and related applications; and
standards-based cable modems.
Also reflecting the demand to learn about and see new
technology and advanced service platforms are the week's preconference briefings and
the technical workshops held during the show.
This year's topics include some of the hottest issues
facing cable's tech population: the migration to Data Over Cable Service Interface
Specification-based cable modems and what it will mean to field engineers and consumers;
network upgrades for advanced services; the status and profile of the industry's
OpenCable equipment-compatibility initiative; cable telephony;
dense-wave-division-multiplexing deployment; and digital-video deployment.
"These workshops were not in existence three to five
years ago," Clark said.
A highlight of the week could be Tuesday's official
opening of the Expo, which will include a ceremony honoring SCTE charter members of 30
That will precede the keynote discussions kicking off
Tuesday's Engineering Conference by major MSO executives and chief engineers who are
all with companies that have been either predator or prey in major mergers and
acquisitions in recent weeks.
Discussing their vision of broadband's business future
will be: James Robbins, CEO of Cox Communications Inc.; Jan Peters, CEO of MediaOne Group
Inc.; Stephen Burke, president of Comcast Corp.; Barry Babcock, vice chairman of Charter
Communications; and Bill Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of AT&T Broadband &
Internet Services (formerly Tele-Communications Inc.).
After them, chief technology officers will explain how they
plan to implement the strategic visions described by their executive suites. The panelists
are Tom Jokerst, senior vice president of engineering for Charter; Bud Wonsiewicz,
MediaOne's CTO; Alex Best, Cox's senior vice president of engineering; and Tony
Werner, CTO for AT&T Broadband.
"I assume they'll look at Cox and ask me from a
technical perspective, having launched them all, about video, high-speed data and
telephony in terms of maintenance issues, which were hardest to launch and so on,"
He added that Cox will be looking at advancements in areas
where it has already begun or plans rapid deployments, such as DOCSIS modems. Best also
wants to see what is being offered in conjunction with the advanced digital platforms his
MSO will deploy from Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and General Instrument Corp.
Some of the best stuff may come from off the floor, as
engineers trade gossip or pass along information about technical advances, such as
AT&T Corp.'s rumored plans to push fiber much deeper into its newly acquired
cable networks than other MSOs have done so far, Best said.
"If there's any knowledge to be gleaned there
from hallway conversations, that's of interest," he added.
A number of vendors plan to introduce new products at the
Expo, which occurs only three weeks before the industry's main gathering, the
Philips Broadband Networks, for example, will use the venue
for the official coming out of its DOCSIS-based modem, OpenCable set-top box and
"SpectraHub" DWDM solution.
In addition to offering a daily DOCSIS workshop for
technicians, 3Com Corp. plans to display its DOCSIS-based cable-modem-termination system;
its home-networking and end-to-end IP-telephony solutions; and its network-management and
Technicians will also be able to view a myriad of new
component gear. Ortel Corp. will introduce its "Medallion Series" of
1550-nanometer transmitter engines, configured either for stand-alone operation or as a
plug-in module for integration into custom designs.
ADC Telecommunications Inc.'s show introductions
include the "HWX STX" 1550-nm transmitter, an addition to the HWX
broadband-analog-transmission system; two new optical amplifiers for the existing
erbium-doped fiber-amplifier product line; and the "HWX QUAD Return Path
Receiver," providing four 5- to 300-megahertz return-path optical receivers in a
Off the exhibition floor, the SCTE will conduct
organization business including meetings by seven SCTE standards-setting subcommittees:
Interface Practices; Data Standards; Emergency Alert Systems; IPS Test Procedures;
Materials Management; Construction and Maintenance; and Hybrid Management Sublayer.
On Tuesday, the SCTE will hold its awards presentation,
which includes naming this year's new chairman of the board.