It is a truism to say that the cable industry is undergoing change. (Which industry isn’t?) More useful is talk about specific shifts, such as those highlighted in two Cable-Tec Expo workshops and underscored in a new course offering from NCTI. One of these workshops was titled "The Big Transition: RF to IP Engineer." It featured two presentations: "From HFC to IP in Three Easy Steps," by Scientific-Atlanta Senior Application Engineer Wes Berkey and "IP Basics for the RF Engineer," by C-COR Chief Technologist Robert Castellano. Like all Expo papers, these are available in the Proceedings Manual, yet the popular presentations themselves were also among those included in a special Expo DVD recording produced by the SCTE (see announcements below). "I believe the workshops went well," said Castellano is a recent follow-up. "The main thing to share regarding RF engineers needing to acquire basic IP knowledge would the be the following: "Cable networks continue to evolve towards more flexible network architectures in order to deliver new services. IP and Ethernet are two networking technologies being embraced by cable operators… What was once a world where network engineers worked in terms of RF gain, noise, crosstalk and distortion is rapidly becoming a world of bits, bytes, packets, protocols and traffic management. The network engineer needs to respond to these changes by learning and applying these new concepts and tools." The T word Another Expo workshop that used the "T" word ("Transitioning from Analog Delivery to Digital Delivery in HFC Networks") featured papers by Scientific Atlanta Transmission Network Systems VP and GM Greg Hardy and NCTI Chief Learning Officer Alan Babcock. The Babcock paper (cinematically titled "The Cable Guy Meets R2D2") also available at the NCTI Web site (http://www.ncti.com) performs a gap analysis between the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) of the current cable technician and those that would be required by an all-digital network. As it happens, the NCTI now has a course, "Introduction to TCP/IP" aimed at filling that gap. "Our intent is to provide at least an introduction, but to give people understanding enough to know what questions to ask themselves," Babcock says. Of course, there is plenty of material available to anyone who wants to learn IP technology. "The problem with the type of training that’s generally available in the market," says Babcock, "is that it is usually written for and targeted at the person who’s going to be a data technician or engineer." NCTI is aiming at another segment. "The vast majority of technicians in the cable industry need to know what (TCP/IP) is, they need to know what these protocols do, and how they are deployed but they don’t have to go in and understand every bit in an IPv6 address," Babcock says. – Jonathan Tombes

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