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SCTE Cable-Tec Expo: 10 Hot Trends

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable Top 10
Jeff Baumgartner

NEW ORLEANS -- SCTE Cable-Tec Expo -- Cable engineers from all reaches of the globe are descending on The Big Easy this week to walk the halls, talk some tech, down some oysters, stumble around Bourbon Street, and, if the mood strikes, play some hands at Harrah's.

Yep, that's what you call a lengthy to-do list.

The show's expected to have something for everyone -- from the cable techs up to the "C" suite -- (so be sure to check our SCTE Show Site frequently), but here's our list of what we expect to be hot topics at this week's confab and why:

IP video
It's baaaack! The story of cable's pending IPTV migration will take up from where we left off at this event last fall, and perhaps we'll take some steps forward. This time around, we expect to hear much more about what challenges the industry faces as it looks to bridge its old video platform to a new, more agile one based on IP. Who will be the first to talk about a full IP simulcast of linear services? And hearing about a real cable IPTV deployment or trial by a major operator would be wonderful, just in case anyone at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) happens to be reading this and cares to oblige. (See TWC Taps Microsoft Mediaroom for IPTV Test .)

TV Everywhere
Getting its IP on will help cable move video services more rapidly to PCs, iPads, Android-powered phones, and other portable displays. This year we expect to hear much more about the plumbing, hardware, and back-office software that vendors have in store to make this happen without having to reinvent the wheel for myriad device "profiles."

Rise of the gateway
Cable's already expected to deploy data and voice home gateways in mass quantities, but fancier, video-enabled hybrid gateways will also be showing their heads at this year's show. Or maybe they won't -- some gateways will be "headed" (meaning they can render video signals), while others will be "headless" (meaning they serve as routing conduits of the video streams to set-tops and other devices that can do that rendering). We'll see both versions at this year's event, and may even get a hint on when US operators will actually start deploying the darn things. (See There's a Cable Set-Top Revolution Goin' On.)

The 411 on CDNs
In case you haven't noticed, the video-optimized content distribution network (CDN) has rapidly become an emerging cable trend, with MSOs starting to ramp up their own, or looking to tap into third-party CDNs that help them hit similar aims -- kick video-on-demand (VoD) title tonnage to new levels and take the over-the-top threat head on. (See Time Warner Cable Hints at Video CDN Plan , Avail-TVN Bankrolls $30M TV Everywhere Play, and Comcast's 'Project Infinity' Takes Flight .)

Glimpses of the CMAP
This show will reveal how far vendors have come in creating products tailored for the Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)-specified Converged Multiservice Access Platform, a super-dense and super-green platform that combines cable modem termination system (CMTS) and QAM functions.

In addition to saving rack space and power consumption, these CMAPs should play a big role in helping Comcast (and other MSOs) migrate video to IP and more multicast and unicast delivery mechanisms. We will be keeping score on who has CMAP-esque products ready to roll. (See Time Warner Cable Hints at Video CDN Plan , Comcast Proposes Its God Box , Vendors Plan for Comcast's 'God' Box , More MSOs Back Comcast's Big Box Project , and Comcast God Box Also a Green Box.)

D3 ready to swim upstream?
According to the session schedule, we'll be hearing of some "real world" examples of upstream channel bonding, so far one of the trickier aspects of Docsis 3.0. Deployments for upstream channel bonding have been spotty, but already there's news of new tech and taps that will help cable free up fresh (and less noisy) spectrum for just this purpose. (See Javelin Partners Up and Javelin Jabs at Gigabit Cable Upstream .)

Fiber frenzy
HFC still has plenty of legs, but that doesn't mean cable won't push fiber all the way to the premises under the right circumstances, namely to score new residential deals where builders require it, or for commercial applications.

CableLabs just announced it was releasing a spec that will tie Docsis provisioning to EPON, so perhaps this week is a perfect opportunity for the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) to announce that it's completed its standard for Radio Frequency Over Glass (RFoG), a platform that has some relatively limited commercial and residential aspirations, but does give cable some FTTH cache. (See Docsis Gets Its EPON On.)

Goin' green
SCTE has already dipped its toes onto greener technical grasses with its Smart Energy Management Initiative (SEMI) and its first Green Pavilion at last year's confab in snowy Denver. The Green Pavilion's in play again this year, with almost a dozen vendors ready to show off how they're helping cable keep its energy consumption in check. (See SCTE Drives Green 'SEMI'.)

Goin' global
SCTE is again going to place some global emphasis at this year's conference, offering a glimpse of how operators outside of the US are using technology to deal with competitive threats. SCTE CEO Mark Dzuban tells us that about 1,200 of the Society's 13,000 members come from outside the US, and that people from 56 countries attended last year's show.

And for yet another shameless plug, I'll be moderating a breakfast panel on Friday that will offer some international flavor and insight from technical leaders from all corners of the globe. There will be eggs, bacon, biscuits, coffee, and TV Everywhere.

What's Huawei doing?
For our only vendor-specific item on this list, we must again turn to Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , the China-based giant that has US rivals (and the government) a bit concerned, if not a bit frightened, too. Last year, we got a glimpse into Huawei's set-top plans, which actually ended up getting it some US cable business. We'll drop by to see what shells they have in the chamber at this year's show. (See US Gets Worried About Huawei and Huawei DTAs Break In at Suddenlink .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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12/5/2012 | 4:20:52 PM
re: SCTE Cable-Tec Expo: 10 Hot Trends
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ip-centric technology will continue to monopolize the topics for cable over the next 5-10 years. moving to an all ip platform is the only logical way to go if we intend to compete going forward.

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