Al Johnson is senior vice president and general manager of UltraBand Products for Vyyo.
What products or services are you developing over the next few years, and why are they important to cable?
There has been a lot written recently about optimizing bandwidth capabilities in current cable plant and leveraging existing HFC networks for business services. There are real opportunities for our bandwidth enhancing 3 GHz spectrum overlay and T-1 over coax solutions. We’re continually working to improve the ability of those products to meet cable’s needs, as we did when we introduced our UltraBand 3 GHz passives that enhance the spectrum capabilities of the feeder network.
Do the smaller, independent operators have different agendas or technical requirements from the large MSOs?
Subscriber demand, above all, determines system agendas. From my experience, the difference is far less pronounced than it was before satellite. Since then, cable has learned to better serve the rural markets—not necessarily with a full suite of services, but with offerings that mirror those of the larger operators. The keys for vendors and operators are to deploy service offering solutions that scale upwards or downwards and adhere to the standards created by organizations like SCTE.
Do you have an international presence? If so, what’s your strategy?
To date, we have been almost single-minded in our focus on providing the best possible solutions for domestic customers. We’re quickly developing an international strategy, precisely because operators abroad have come to us to learn more about how our technologies can help them increase their competitive positions. Like their U.S. counterparts, operators worldwide are seeking to deliver more advanced services, better manage capital and operational costs, and expand service portfolios in the face of increasing competition. We’re currently working with operators on two continents; our experiences with them will help us to better shape our future international activities.
If you had to pick one area for the cable industry to become more focused on, what is it and why?
That’s easy: getting the most horsepower out of their HFC networks. At Vyyo, we want to help MSOs realize that existing HFC plant can be competitive with fiber-based PONs and that they can offer very high data rates on a homes-passed basis. We’ve spent a lot of time and resources creating comparative analyses (which we’re more than happy to share with our MSO colleagues) on how cable plant stacks up head-to-head with fiber, including a report on Vyyo-enhanced coax vs. BPON. We’re bullish on it because we believe it’s the best long-term solution and is cost-competitive against other lower-bandwidth enhancing solutions for coax.
What service or product will have the biggest impact on cable subscribers over the next five years?
In my opinion, it would be HD content that can be delivered without overly compressing video due to bandwidth constraints or visual artifacts for a truly spectacular big-screen experience. Cable has been better than anybody at delivering video for decades. If they support their spectrum needs sufficiently, operators can be miles ahead in a service area that will continue to differentiate them from their competitors.
What is the defining moment for your company over the past five years?
There are multiple moments, but most importantly our customer base recognizes the revenue generating opportunities that our bandwidth enhancing solution in combination with our T-1 over HFC solution brings to the industry. We have customers who have leveraged both with the same capital dollars, enhancing revenues in both residential and business services.
Any horror stories and/or shining examples from the field you’d care to relate?
This industry has excelled at developing technologies that enhance quality of service and customer experiences. Network reliability has never been better. And there are many instances when other industries might not have moved forward, had it not been for technology invented for and by cable. The real “shining example” has been the cable technologists who have driven vendors to create solutions that have made a difference in—and out of—our industry.