Cable’s Accelerating Rate of Change

By Chris Bastian, Senior Vice President/CTO, SCTE/ISBE

Coming up on my first anniversary of working at SCTE/ISBE, and having witnessed firsthand the outstanding presentations and exhibits at SCTE/ISBE Cable-Tec Expo 2016, I am struck by the enormous amount of technological change occurring simultaneously in our industry. Whether it’s in the access network, in enhanced video services, or in entirely new services under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT), the rate of change makes for an exciting time to be working in cable.

Access network—DOCSIS 3.0 is today’s “baseline” for access networks. DOCSIS 3.1, with its support for greater speeds and capacities—through the use of “new to cable” OFDM, enhanced error correction capabilities, and wider upstream and downstream frequency utilization—is poised to “go big” in 2017 and roll out in many cities. CableLabs and industry partners are working diligently to keep the evolution going with full-duplex DOCSIS, which will simultaneously transmit and receive over the same frequency spectrum, to create a symmetric multi-Gig experience.

Video services—High Dynamic Range (HDR) focuses upon two factors that are important to TV viewing: contrast between brightness and darkness, and color accuracy. Technically, color accuracy is being supported by Wide Color Gamut (WCG) and has been bundled into the drive to support HDR. Three upgrades are necessary to witness this enhanced viewing experience: HDR content must be created; it must be passed along intact across the network; and an HDR TV must receive and display it. Forecasts for all three segments are showing healthy HDR adoption over the next couple years.

Internet of Things—IoT is generally defined as the interconnection of many and more varied devices in a short period of time (by some estimates more than 20 billion devices by the year 2020), supporting enhanced services in the fields of telehealth, e-learning, public safety, and energy management, just to name a few. The challenge will be to provide reliable and secure interfaces to these new Internet-connected devices, which could be as diverse as a pencil, a lightbulb, or a piece of clothing.

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)—The objective of NFV is to simplify the software stack in the field and draw the more complex software functions up into the data centers, which could run on commodity hardware. Innovative new services will be released expeditiously while ensuring energy-efficient day-to-day operations across the workforce by focusing software development in the data centers rather than upgrading thousands if not millions of distributed devices in the field.

Energy management—The industry’s focus on energy consumption has been ramping up the past several years. SCTE/ISBE’s Energy 2020 program is working to achieve four goals: 1) improve energy consumption by 20% on a unit basis; 2) improve energy cost by 25% on a unit basis; 3) optimize critical facilities and data centers by 20%; and 4) provide 10% of total energy from off-grid sources. The program’s success will be measured by how much service providers and technical partners embed these objectives from the very beginning into the architecture and design process as well as daily operations across the workforce. Consider the vital role you and your enterprise can play among a number of new opportunities.

Cable-Tec Expo 2016’s 70 workshop presentations and more than 370 exhibitors accentuated the aforementioned trends in great detail.

So much change in rapid succession and in so many areas of the network may sometimes be unnerving. Successful deployment of these technologies will come down to having a workforce that is thoroughly trained and has access to the latest upgrade information and supporting test tools. SCTE/ISBE exists to make that happen.

As my sophomore year with the Society begins, I see the industry continuing to enable the delivery of best-in-class services to millions of customers and emerging technologies becoming “the next big thing” at a rapidly increasing pace.

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