Here’s a wrap-up of the first half of last week’s Commercial Services Symposium in Charlotte, N.C. See next week’s Pipeline for the second half. (For a copy of the CD-ROM with all papers and presentations, contact the SCTE.) From Existing Plant Talk of a beachhead first appeared in the opening talk by Accenture Partner Steven Rosati. And the comparison of cable’s efforts here to landing on enemy territory is apt. "The important thing is not to go out and invent something new," Rosati said. The requirements for success in this latter-day Normandy landing remain steep. "Best-effort is no longer good enough," he said. Indeed, both the delivered services themselves and cable’s own need to shore up its future value can be described as mission critical. Wireless extensions to cable’s plant have now become proven weapons in this fight to win over customers from the telcos. Note the prominence at this event of wireless vendor Arcwave, which sponsored the keynote address by Cox Business Services VP Kristine Faulkner and collaborated with another MSO on the final panel. Note also that CommScope has cut its cables and launched a product in this space, as well. CommScope Applications Engineer Mark Vogel reviewed wireless basics, including the Fresnel Zone, upstream noise mitigation, link design, power requirements and data rate limitations. "You’re not going to be able to support a DS-3 with this system," he noted. A wireless extension, however, can support Ethernet (Data) services, IP voice and video and T-1 service. Existing plant is itself a work in progress. Witness DOCSIS 3.0, which Xtend Networks’ Brent Levitan described as a double-edged sword. It enables hundreds of megabits per second in both the down and upstream (great for commercial services), but places additional demands on an already crowded spectrum. Thus Levitan emphasized the ‘contention ratio,’ or the level of resource sharing among any (n) number of subscribers. "The trunk is the scarce resource in the PBX," he noted, by way of analogy. "The same concept can and probably should be applied to DOCSIS 3.0 implications." The upshot of Levitan’s analysis: Operators will need five downstream channels and two additional upstream blocks to serve 10 customers with rates up to 100 Mbps at a contention rate of 75 percent. Moreover, cable needs to go above 1 GHz to find this additional capacity. Outside the Box As for pushing thoughts further beyond legacy cable, the SCTE focused attention in the second panel of this symposium on two additional, wireless-related applications: WiMax and cell backhaul. If projections are credible, the broadband wireless market generates its own attention. Fujitsu’s Senior Technical Marketing Manager Randy Eisenach referred to estimates that have this market growing from some $125 million in 2005 to $1.9 billion in 2008. He noted that at least one MSO is already offering pre-WiMax fixed wireless for niche applications, but for an example of current capabilities, pointed to a CLEC that is already serving 175 cities in the San Francisco bay area. The ability of WiMax to enable such last-mile access to multiple sites from single radio sites is what sets it apart from the WiFi hot-spot approach. Eisenach further distinguished the two technologies, defined WiMax’s core orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) core, addressed the migration from unlicensed to license spectrum, and ran some financials on potential business park applications. While operators consider whether and how to turn the 802.16 WiMax foe into a friend, they have less competitive disruption to worry about in the cellular backhaul arena. As Scientific-Atlanta’s System Engineer Giogio Bombelli explained, accelerating backhaul needs have turned wireless network providers into "willing buyers." And they need both primary and backup links. It’s a no-brainer, although questions such as just how many T-1s any given tower is going to need over the next three to five years can be tricky. And given the relatively small number of wireless carriers, there’s also the challenge of coordinating among a national account and local systems. But assuming an operator can support TDM services and has "all key access solutions in the toolbox," Bombelli forecast considerable success for cable in this growing niche. – Jonathan Tombes

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