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What’s Next for Cable Tech?

Jeff Finkelstein

When Alan Breznick asked me to blog for Light Reading, I was unsure what to pontificate about.

I could talk about how we can continue to utilize DOCSIS 3.0 for many years simply by bonding more downstream channels and getting up to 1 Gbit/s downstream, and maybe even move the split to 85 MHz so we could have up to 300 Mbit/s upstream. Our current analog lasers have a lot of useful life left in them as well. Every time we think we are ready to send our current technology to the retirement home, we figure out another way to keep it productive for us in serving new technologies to our customers.

Yet another article on CCAP? Nah. As an industry, we have been CCAPed out for a while. We all understand how important CCAP is to the cable operator world to help with the reduction of space and power in the headend as we merge edge QAM modulators and CMTSs into a single chassis. We realize that reducing the complexity and intersection of the combiner network cuts linear impairments and helps with gaining back the much needed headroom for higher-order modulations. We understand that having a single chassis to manage will simplify our operation engineers’ efforts and maybe help get them some much needed sleep as we look for new technologies and services to further stress out their lives.

Maybe I should talk about DOCSIS 3.1? Hmmm. DOCSIS 3.1, affectionately called D3.1 by its friends, is another game-changer technology. DOCSIS <= 3.0 has served us well for almost 15 years. Many of us have sweated for years helping to draft the DOCSIS specifications under the watchful eye of CableLabs, without whom we would not have the ability to achieve the level of interoperability we have today.

However, those of us who spend our days looking dreamily out of the window at the way things need to be for us to remain relevant as an industry, we recognize that things do have to change. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.

DOCSIS 3.1 provides us the ability to migrate from today’s technology, currently limited to approximately 1 Gbit/s downstream and 100 Mbit/s upstream, to a world where we can dramatically increase our throughput and goodput to the point where we can compete with fiber, without the significant investment of installing much more fiber in existing deployments. It allows us to take our time and make smart investments in fiber builds. Design for N+0, but only build it when needed, or even build to N+1 and pull shadow fiber so it is ready when we need it. If we are smart, we can extend the life of coax for many years, long enough to give the good Dr. Moore a chance to work his magic.

Or I could…

Then again, let’s leave something for future blogs.

— Jeff Finkelstein, Executive Director of Strategic Architecture, Cox Communications

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User Rank: Blogger
9/3/2013 | 3:03:01 PM
Re: Gazing out the window
Good points, Jeff. Sounds like you have a column idea right there. How would cable respond to either of those developments? How should cable respond? 

BTW, welcome back from your holiday. Hope you had a great time. Looking forward to seeing your next slices of wisdom. :)

User Rank: Light Beer
9/3/2013 | 1:08:14 PM
Re: Gazing out the window
Two things really would drive cable to fiber early deployments and we have no diret control over either... 

1. Competition

2. Regulatory

The question is how we react to those?
User Rank: Light Beer
9/3/2013 | 12:55:55 PM
Re: Well Done ...
Thanks Peter...
User Rank: Light Beer
9/3/2013 | 12:54:47 PM
Re: Back office transformations?
Sorry, been on holiday so I am a bit delayed in responding...

Completely agree with your statement on OSS/BSS needing revamping. Many of us are going through a similar experience. The work at TM Forum around their architecture models is most helpful in this regard. It is worth a discussion on its own.

The issues around that level of transformation cut to the core of our business and are extremely complex. In a network we can cut over a small segment of oour customers and not impact others, but how do we do that with the back-end that deals with the operational issues e.g. billing, monitoring, mediation, etc?

Thanks for your comments!
User Rank: Blogger
8/29/2013 | 12:41:29 PM
Re: Gazing out the window
Good points, dwx. I think everyrthing video could end up going over the HSI network as well. So will the MSOs and OTT providers end up woirking out partnerships, like the MSOs have done with the cable programmers? Or do you think they'll chiefly remain competitors?
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2013 | 8:15:30 PM
Re: Gazing out the window
Going all fiber for a footprint as large as a top-5 MSO just isn't feasible in a short-term plan.  D3.1 does add a lot of capacity and while it's not cheap to expand the upstream, it's much cheaper than trenching fiber, and provides enough capacity for all-IP delivery.   Look how far Verizon got with their FIOS deployments before basically running out of money and Wall Street's patience.   Google isn't making any money off their Google Fiber deployments, not even close. 

I do not see a traditional video offering being phased out anytime soon, but I do see it all being delivered over a HSI pipe, where a MSO video service is delivered along side other OTT providers to an open standards device.  Look at the Fanhattan project Cox is trialing now, it's basically just that.  
User Rank: Lightning
8/28/2013 | 3:42:36 PM
Back office transformations?
We have quite a few MSO members here at TM Forum going through legacy back office transformations to meet current customer engagement models (Cablevision Argentina is one of them). That is definitely something that is next for cable tech and would be great to get Jeff's perspective on.
User Rank: Blogger
8/28/2013 | 3:31:11 PM
Re: Gazing out the window
Lots of questions for Jeff already. I don't think he'll lack for things to address. I doubt he'll talk about "trashing" coax. He has far too much reverence for the technology. But it will be interesting to hear his views of coax's future.

We await other top technologists' views as well. (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, Peter)    
User Rank: Light Beer
8/28/2013 | 3:20:44 PM
Re: Gazing out the window
I'd like for you to take on the challenge of considering under what conditions it would make sense to convert to an all FIBER network and trash coax all together.

Or perhaps you would prefer to take on something tamer like Cablevision's Dolan comment on Future of Cable Might Not Include TV (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323420604578647961424594702.html) .

User Rank: Light Beer
8/28/2013 | 1:18:12 PM
Well Done ...
Jeff -

I am glad to see someone (with talent by the way) is supporting Alan's quest!


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