Can You Hear Them Now? Small Cable Ops Raising Their Voices Vidia Communications is a small – 700 subs – but growing cable operator with big goals, the funding to pursue them and the technology on which to spend that funding. The four-year-old system in Oklahoma City has received a loan from the broadband-focused Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and built out a fiber-to-the-curb system for about 4,000 premises. Now it’s pursuing a voice effort via MetaSwitch‘s recently introduced softswitching technology for cable operators. It’s generally conceded that many small rural telephone companies (RLECs) are more advanced technologically than their bigger RBOC brethren. These carriers get funding from RUS and support from the Universal Service Fund (USF). Vidia is evidence that some cable operators are also marching into the 21st Century by using the system to get money to build out an advanced dual-path CMTS DOCSIS 2.0 solution that uses the Arris CMTS. Bundled VoIP "MetaSwitch has enabled us to provide bundled voice-over-IP – we call it digital voice – along with our cable TV service and high-speed data service," said Sam Curtis, a professional engineer at Vidia. "We built out our network with fiber-to-the-curb, (and since) we are a RUS follower, that enabled us to buy the MetaSwitch." If that doesn’t spell advanced, what does? "We’re a small company. I don’t know how glamorous we sound," Curtis said. From this vantage point, it sounds pretty glamorous when a small operator has the courage to rip out its coaxial trunking, replace it with fiber, and then sell advanced services to both residential and commercial customers. Prior to the network buildout, which was completed about six months ago, Vidia, which does not compete with any other cable operator in the area, was a "very basic cable TV system that had a very limited customer base," Curtis said. Now the company has a growing base and is hoping to reach 2,000 subscribers with a triple-play service. Borrowed the money "We borrowed the money (from RUS) and started building, and now we’re enlarging the base and trying to roll out bundled services," he said. The Vidia model can work elsewhere, said Matt Byrd, director of product marketing at MetaSwitch, basing his opinion on the vendor’s experience with small telephone operators. "This opportunity in a lot of ways is not a lot different than the UNE-P CLECs that in the last 12 to 18 months have had to move away from reselling incumbent lines to actually owning and operating their own IP networks," Byrd said. MetaSwitch calls its technology the Cable Operator Multiservice Platform for Enhanced Telephone Evolution – a longer than necessary moniker to create the acronym COMPETE. Cuteness aside, it’s designed to help cable operators move to full IMS PacketCable 2.0. Dynamic QoS "We’ve implemented a few technical capabilities, including dynamic quality of service (QoS) so that we can prioritize the voice packets from the cable plant. IMS will provide our cable operator customers with a very nice migration path to PacketCable 2.0 and IMS," he said. Equally important, he said, MetaSwitch has focused on sales and marketing to help the operators make the transition. While MetaSwitch plays nice with existing VoIP equipment like Nuera‘s gateways and Cisco Systems‘ network and CPE gear, the team is available to walk smaller cable operators through the process. "Some of them will need hand-holding, no doubt, and we bring a lot of capabilities in that regard in terms of professional services," Byrd said. The other thing MetaSwitch brings is a telephone-like focus on the business customer. While the big MSOs pursue the residential market, MetaSwitch sees an opportunity for their smaller brethren to reach in and steal commercial business from smaller incumbent telephone companies. Go after business "The pull that we’re getting from our customer base includes the ability to go after the business customers and leverage IP-based technology and softswitching capability that we provide," Byrd said, who politically conceded that "the bread-and-butter customers are residential customers who already have TV service." Finally, he said, there’s the future. Voice, while new, is already passé. Mobile voice is hot, and "we see the MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) opportunity as very attractive for cable operators," he said. "With IMS coming out as well, we’ll enable our customers to offer a triple play of voice, video and data over fixed or wireless types of devices." – Jim Barthold

The Daily


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C-Spire signed an agreement to acquire Alabama-based Troy Cablevision. The transaction also includes Union Springs Telephone Company.

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