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'Foreign' Tech Key to Cable Next-Gen Strategies

Carol Wilson
3/26/2014
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DENVER -- Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies -- As it moves into the all-IP world, the cable industry is seeing a shift in both its technology and its services strategies, as well as an acceleration in the pace of change, notes Alan Breznick, Heavy Reading 's cable/video practice leader, and chairman of the Light Reading Live event, Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies (March 27).

In a preview of his opening remarks for the event, Breznick noted the importance of cable's increasing acceptance of broadband as its core service, instead of video entertainment, and its increasing adoption of IP technology that has grown up outside the cable networking world.

"There is a greater openness to new, and what was once considered 'foreign,' technologies," Breznick notes. "Over-the-top video, virtualization trends such as SDN and NFV -- these are things that are being brought into the cable world from outside."

One reason for that change is that cable is acknowledging its all-IP future, and adopting the best of what has already been developed in the IP realm. DOCSIS 3.1, the latest incarnation of the CableLabs core data standard, draws heavily on technologies brought in from elsewhere and is less cable-centric, Breznick says.

The event's morning keynote speaker, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) Architect & Senior Director, Network Strategy, Shamim Akhtar, will be offering a preview of just how fast the cable industry is working to keep up with the competition in the broadband IP world.

"Shamim is a good example of a speaker who is going to be talking about doing things cable hasn't done before, such as switching from a centralized network to a distributed network, and moving traditional headend functions out of the headend," Breznick says. "He and others will even be talking about virtualizing some of the functions and getting them off hardware and into software, an effort that CableLabs is now leading."

Cable's own special flavor
That doesn't mean cable networks are becoming homogenized into the broader telecom infrastructure, however, as Thursday's discussion in Denver will make clear. Cable operators continue to view the world through a hybrid fiber-cable (HFC) lens, and stay focused on extending the life of their existing infrastructures to maximize their investment.

"We are still talking about technology specifically developed for cable HFC networks, or tailored to them," Breznick says. "And cable companies are still working to extend the life of the HFC network further to avoid the inevitable need to go all-fiber. They know sooner or later they will have to do that, but they keep pushing back that date," adds Breznick.

In addition to Akhtar's keynote, the morning program in Denver will feature Jorge Salinger, VP-Access Architecture for Comcast, discussing the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), a next-gen technology that is being rolled out by MSOs on both sides of the Atlantic.

And for the all-important Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) focus, Steven Shalita, VP, Marketing, at NetScout Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: NTCT), will highlight the growing importance of service assurance in the IP and OTT worlds.

Video developments
Shalita's comments will provide a preview of what the afternoon holds, when video takes the stage -- but not in its traditional sense. Today's cable players are excited about the chance to finally monetize video-on-demand, as well as OTT and multiscreen video services.

"They are looking to advertising as a new source of revenue for on-demand and multiscreen video, using dynamic ad insertion techniques," Breznick says. "For those services, quality of service and quality of experience become more important than ever before."

The afternoon program will also feature Colin Dixon, founder & principal analyst at nScreenMedia , who will discuss the rise of digital delivery of video entertainment, in the place of DVDs.

In addition, three cable executives -- Tom Gonder, chief architect at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), John Dickinson, senior director of network strategy & architecture at Bright House Networks , and Allen Broome, VP, IP video engineering at Comcast Cable -- will discuss the future of IP video with leading technologists from Cisco Systems, NetScout and Interactive Broadband Consulting Group LLC (IBB) .

If you're in the Denver area and would like to join the discussion, you can still register here or register on-site.

Look out for coverage of the event's proceedings on the Light Reading Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies show site.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/26/2014 | 3:53:45 PM
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