Intense competitive pressures and rising customer expectations are driving small and independent cable operators to deploy more cost-efficient methods of managing their networks.

That was the message sent by panelists during a session at the NCTC’s Winter Educational Conference yesterday in Long Beach, CA.

“We want to monitor digital video to hopefully save some money and have concluded that QOS is really worth working on, because customers are demanding very high quality,” said Mark Stutter, manager of CATV for Broadband Services.

Panelists pointed to ASI, QAM and IP as the key areas to monitor and emphasized the need for smaller operators to elevate their plant management.

“We must be pro-active with our network monitoring, especially with customers spending so much on HDTV and high-speed Internet” said Greg Gehlbach, NOC manager for Sunflower Broadband.

The Sunflower approach includes building upon existing infrastructure. “We want to start at the headend with our monitoring system and monitor outbound, broadcast and narrowcast, and start with the equipment we already have,” Gehlbach said.

This year, he noted, Sunflower plans to monitor VOD, ad insertion and SDV and “tie all the tools together for our CSRs so they can look at video and see where the problems are.”

The watchword

Pro-active was the operative term throughout the session, as panelists agreed that monitoring their networks is crucial.

“As networks expanded and ASI is transported farther, we need to be more pro-active with our monitoring. We want as much redundancy as possible. And with IP connectivity, we must be able to monitor our networks,” said Gary Nilsen, VP of engineering for Wide Open West.

The extent of today’s video monitoring, as indicated by operators such as WOW, suggests a notable shift.

“We’re monitoring every segment of our network and can set triggers to identify and capture intermittent problems,” Nilsen said. “We’ve been reactionary in the video world for years. Now, it’s about pro-actively monitoring our networks and responding to problems.”
– Craig Kuhl

The Daily

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