Only Pollyanna or a Comcast PR person – the two may be interchangeable – would deny that cable has more baggage than Paris Hilton heading off to jail. Others industry watchers – consumers, regulators, legislators and even trade press – recall multiple instances of arrogance and foolishness … like cable-ready TV sets; 50-cent remotes leased for $5 a month and blocked IRs; and squeezing 18 channels into a 6 MHz slot and calling it digital TV.
That’s why audiences may have something of a jaundiced eye when looking at cable claims that DOCSIS 3.0 and other next-gen elements like a modular CMTS are complementary technologies that improve networks and not desperate attempts to squeeze more bandwidth from HFC because the industry’s stuck in a rut of its own construction.
The competition is attacking cable’s limitations from a marketing and technology perspective – and no doubt will re-assert that case at NXTComm, which inconveniently conflicts with SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.
Susie Kim Riley, founder-CTO of Camiant, has heard both sides and knows what’s bunk and what’s not. Yes, cable has a finite number of channels, she said, but fiber’s not as bottomless as the competition would like everyone to believe. Need to see the manager "Even if you go full fiber, you always need some sort of management," said Riley. "Even Verizon or people who are rolling out fiber services use these kinds of techniques to enable multiple applications over that same common fiber. Fiber has capacity limitations."
Riley should know. Common core pieces of Camiant’s technology work throughout the telecommunications space, including with wireless networks.
Cable built a box with its own marketing blitz saying that HFC could handle future bandwidth demands just by splitting nodes. That was, of course, before the Internet exploded; HDTV became more popular than American Idol, and the phone companies actually revved up their Model T engines and started pushing fiber like broadband cocaine. Now, remarkably, even a satellite industry that was seemingly mortally wounded by interactivity has stopped the bleeding and re-entered the battlefield as an HDTV bully.
"The bottom line is channels don’t grow on trees," Riley said. "The cable network is a shared access across services. You can’t increase the number of channels; you want to use those channels as effectively as possible."
To make those channels branch out from the same trunks, things like a modular CMTS – not necessarily part of DOCSIS 3.0 but pretty much joined at the hip – and channel bonding must be applied. Tear down the walls "You want to get away from having silos of resources dedicated to any one particular application," she said. "On the PacketCable Multimedia side … we enable you to dynamically allocate the access network resources across a variety of applications, whether it’s streaming video-over-IP or some sort of gaming application or voice-over-IP. We dynamically allocate resources so that those resources can be effectively shared across these various applications and at the same time provide quality of service."
The situation facing the entire telecommunications industry – not just cable, despite what its critics/competition say – is the increased amount of content and applications being developed for and shoved at a finite network space.
"You can’t really keep adding more content," said Riley. "There’s a great need to be able to share those asset resources and put more content out there, and the only way to actually deliver a diverse set of content to that subscriber is to dynamically share asset resources."
That, she said, is what the modular CMTS and Camiant’s universal edge resource manager (UERM) and eventually DOCSIS 3.0 will do – dynamically allocate QAM streams and channels for the DOCSIS portion of the service. QAM-ing the nerves "In today’s world the QAM allocation is static. You have QAMs statistically dedicated to your DOCSIS network, and you also have QAMs that are dedicated to video-on-demand and SDV types of services. The UERM lets you dynamically allocate QAMs across these three applications and enables the operator to scalably roll out new applications," Riley said.
So technology-wise, cable’s on the right track despite what the competition’s marketing campaign says. But, Riley concluded, cable’s not the only vehicle moving down that track.
"Cable sometimes thinks it’s the only one doing all the innovation when it comes to resource sharing or policy. The wireline guys are all doing the same thing," she concluded. – Jim Barthold