Here are some letters we received at our sister publication, "CT’s Pipeline" about the cable engineering community’s readiness to embrace Internet protocol (IP) technology. We welcome letters to the editor at lhamilton@accessintel.com. All letters may be published and edited for style or length. Asking RF engineers to become IP engineers is probably not the best way to proceed within the cable industry. They are not common technologies where knowing one will assist you in learning the other. Knowing RF and frequency stacking will help you to understand dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM), but that is not IP. IP engineers are more readily available today because of the dot-com bust, but are still a valuable resource. Hiring IP engineers to handle IP is the best return on your dollar you will get. You should have no reason to believe that training RF engineers to become IP engineers will give you quality IP engineers. The same may be said for trying to teach IP engineers to be RF engineers. Not so long ago, I would have said that cable companies are not ready for IP. But in the relatively recent past, cable companies have switched from being "cable companies" to being communications companies. This was not due entirely to new technologies, but was more a matter of survival in a highly competitive market. Today, IP rules the network. Now we are just trying to figure out how to transport all of the IP that our networks are carrying. Moving forward, most of the traffic on our networks will be IP (high-speed data, VoIP, video over IP or insert new technology X here). The field techs (RF) will still not have a requirement to learn IP. They are more concerned with the transport layer and less with what it is actually transported. IP engineers will provide the know-how to move cable companies into the IP future. My entire group is comprised of IP engineers that came from large national ISPs, and I’m thankful for their skills on a daily basis. But I wouldn’t expect them to design an RF plant any more than I’d expect RF guys to design an IP network. Perhaps one day when we are doing fiber-to-the-home, the roles of RF engineers and IP engineers will converge. But currently, they are two separate disciplines that for the time being should remain separate. Harold Willison Director of High Speed Internet, Transport, Design and Engineering, Adelphia When you are deploying an IP technology (whether it’s voice over IP, high-speed data, video over IP, or other deployments using IP network technology for transport or as a communications path), you need people who know RF and networking! They’ll need to know not only basic IP (set the address, netmask and gateway), but also how to test if the network is connected. They need the ability to read a network diagram and determine if things are working correctly. (Similar to reading a node diagram, but different, just like RF and data.) While one answer is to hire two people (get a data person to supplement the RF folks) you may not get the headcount in your region. So you’ll do without, or one of the RF folks must go in order to make way for the data person. There is a third alternative. RF folks should learn about networking basics! Add this knowledge to your toolkit. Become the subject matter expert in your region. It may mean more work. Hopefully it will mean some more in your paycheck, but it also will help these new IP technology deployments go in much easier and much better. When someone needs to configure a cable modem termination system (CMTS), the network person can help with the data settings, but they still need to work on settings that affect the RF plant—quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) modes, frequencies, power settings and more. It goes a lot smoother when someone in the group working on the deployment knows something about RF and data, not just one or the other. Consider this a challenge, to step up, and learn something about networking. It may help you improve your role at work, and it could just save your job. After all, it looks like IP technology is going to be in your plants for a while to come. David K. Z. (Zonker) Harris
BigBand Networks

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