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The Cable Show: A Five Item Preview

NEW ORLEANS -- Scores of cablers are here for The Cable Show's triumphant return to The Big Easy. The show, like those that have preceded it, is an incredibly huge event, covering all that glitters in cable industry infrastructure and content businesses. There's a lot to see and do here, but here are five things we'll be focused on as the week unfolds:

1. tru2way
As we just pointed out, tru2way will be the early focal point of this year's show. Things get underway Saturday morning (hey, who doesn’t like getting some work done on the weekend?) with the tru2way Developers' Conference.

Although it's too early to make a final judgment, tru2way, just based on the sheer volume of announcements so far from vendors of all shapes and colors, at least makes it appear that there's truly something afoot this time around. But we'll know more by Sunday. After all, tru2way, formerly known as the OpenCable Application Platform, has been on cable's agenda for about a decade, so forgive us if we're a tad skeptical that it's finally going to live up to its billing.

But, if anything, the support shown this week might finally put a dagger in the heart of DCR+, that competing interactive platform that could throw a monkey wrench the size of Texas into cable's tru2way ambitions. (See Two-Way Battle Reaches FCC.)

2. Docsis 3.0
The super-speedy CableLabs spec had its formal coming out party at last year's show, thanks in part to the onstage demo from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) chief Brian Roberts. Still, it was almost a year later before the MSO launched its first Docsis 3.0 market. (See Comcast Enters the Wideband Era .)

Heading into this year's show, vendors have plenty to shout about after CableLabs awarded first-ever Docsis 3.0 certifications to some cable modems and embedded multimedia terminal adapters (EMTAs). (See Modems, CMTSs Break Docsis 3.0 Barrier .)

But it might please analysts and other industry-watchers if other MSOs stepped up and offered some solid deployment projections for Docsis 3.0, other than the usual, "Yeah, we're thinking about doing some tests later this year." Guess what? I'm thinking about trialing it, too. As it stands, my plans involving Docsis 3.0 will hold about the same weight as yours does if you don't give us a bit more to go on here.

At the show, why not express (in real numbers and terms, not wishy-washy plans about plans) that you're committed to this thing? Are you afraid to show Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) some of those high-speed Internet cards you're holding? Don't be. Verizon isn't dumb. They know you'll eventually wield Docsis 3.0 in the telco's FiOS markets.

3. Wireless
I suspect we won't learn much more about cable's wireless and mobile plans than we already know, as many of these efforts are still in the larval stage, but it will give every moderator at least one or two probing questions to ask their MSO panelists this week. (See MSOs Pivoting Away From Sprint JV, Cable Plays Clearwire Card, Cablevision High on WiFi, Cox Waxes Wireless , and The Great Cable Spectrum Speculation.)

4. Bandwidth management
One of the more interesting debates will involve switched digital video (SDV) and analog reclamation (i.e. going all-digital). Are they an either/or decision, or should operators consider doing both? SDV does offer some longer-term addressable advertising opportunities in addition to some bandwidth efficiencies. While Time Warner Cable continues to champion SDV, Comcast, meanwhile, appears to be pretty gung-ho about this digital terminal adapter (DTA) strategy, even more so than its limited (so far) involvement with SDV. (See Comcast Confirms Digital Dongle Project.)

I'd also throw bandwidth capacity management in this mix, and you can thank that stink bomb that dropped earlier in the week alleging that Comcast and Cox Communications Inc. are "blocking" peer-to-peer (P2P) apps around the clock. You know, just to make sure no one "forgets" about this high-profile issue as we head into cable's biggest showcase. (See Study Alleges a Cox Block on P2P Traffic.) Expect some vendor announcements that go into more detail about what all this "protocol-agnostic" talk is about. (See Comcast Caves In to P2P Pressure.)

5. Advanced advertising
This show will offer as good a time as any for "Project Canoe" to drop the veil and at least acknowledge a few more things, since plenty of details about the effort have leaked out already. (See Cable's 'Canoe' RFI Paddles Toward Deadline and Who's Rowing 'Project Canoe'? and Verklin to Helm Cable Ad Initiative?)

Short of that, we'll probably get pummeled with more (yawn) vendor "integration" announcements. Important? Yes. Truly exciting? Not so much.

See you on Bourbon Street

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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