What’s Coming Up In Cable Technology


Last week’s email included a
message from a friend who
lives on the periphery of cable
technology: “I was asked
recently if I’d seen cable MSOs
developing any new businesses,
aside from home security,
Skype and business services.
I couldn’t think of any others
— do you know of new
technical products that are in
early development stage?”

Where to start? Wireless seems a good place. Ever since
mobile became mobile, the world has wondered about cable’s
wireless play. Wall Street wants it, but only if it doesn’t cost a
fortune to build. Consumers want it if it means taking your
broadband with you, sans the $50-per-month fee charged by
mobile carriers for a dongle that works half the time. Operators
want it as a way to keep customers “sticky” to them in a
hypercompetitive marketplace.

Step one was the Clearwire consortium, which continues
to trundle along. The bigger action, though, is
in mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. East Coasters already know
about this, given the cable Wi-Fi happenings along the
mid-Atlantic corridor. Cox Communications is now on
board, so it’s a footprint that will widen.

Also of interest: Secondary SSIDs (service-set identifiers)
inside wireless routers, inside homes. I’m in Comcast territory
in Denver. I visit you, in another part of the country that’s
also served by Comcast. On firing up the laptop, I’m automatically
connected to your Wi-Fi feed, drawing bandwidth from
a secondary SSID provisioned inside your router — but my
usage counts against my account, not yours. That’s ultimately
very handy for when high-bandwidth relatives are in town.

This hasn’t happened yet, but it’s an example of “early-development-
stage” launches.

Then there’s the whole consumer-device scene and the
APIs (application program interfaces) operators can and
will use to extend their “service icons” into connected
screens. Different devices contain different native
abilities — witness the Cox demonstration of video navigation
on a Sony PS3, which lets viewers control video
playback with the joystick, frame by frame.

It’s hard to predict where and how this will go, but, it’s
going. We’ve already seen our phones and tablets become
the remote control for the TV. Those apps will evolve,
such that you’re using the touch pad to swipe-navigate
the TV screen — this is already happening in the
U.K., with Sky’s iPad app. Or using hand gestures, a la
Microsoft Xbox Kinect. Or with your voice.

So, Ms. J, there’s your answer. Happy to report that we’re
just warming up here. Three years ago, I’d still be staring at
your mail.

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