Over the past several years, cable operators built out a fiber-rich network architecture, which enabled the launch of high-speed Internet access and advanced video services. Now this platform is being leveraged for voice. During the rollout of these new services, something else has been happening as a parallel strategy: movement to a retail, consumer electronics strategy. The encouragement of the consumer electronics industry to innovate in the cable telecommunications space changes the dynamics of what may be possible in the future. The advancement of the cable telecommunications platform is not occurring in a vacuum. Competitors such as broadcast satellite and, perhaps more importantly, traditional phone companies are changing the technology upon which their networks deliver services to the consumer. Understanding the new capabilities of one’s competitors is an important component of building strategy for the future. However, in all of this, one emerging theme stands out, and that is that the consumer is starting to lead the way. For years, both phone and cable have operated more on the basis of a push strategy than a pull strategy. In a push strategy, the operator works to push the consumer along by demonstrating the usefulness of new technologies that produce services consumers can use to enhance their lives. However, in a pull strategy, the consumer begins to take the wheel. Today consumers are beginning to see the possibilities of leveraging technology introduced by the convergence of telecommunications technology, and they are starting to demand services before they are introduced. As the SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies program committee began discussing the future for the industry in the next three to five years, the theme of consumer pull began to emerge as a central element. The underlying consumer demand seems to be around mobility. The ET program is set up to explore the issue of consumer demand for technology solutions and the impact that will have on the cable network. In the past, each service provider counted customers based on geographic limitations—that is, those connected by wire to the service provider’s plant. Technology is emerging that will allow the customer to remain a customer regardless of geographic location through the use of mobile technologies that are now becoming available. Incorporating full mobility will impact the network architecture end to end. Wireless technology is certainly one area where further research will be needed in how best to incorporate and apply the available technologies and to invent the technologies that are missing. However, this is not the only issue. There is also the issue of bandwidth availability and utilization. How much additional bandwidth needs to be allocated to the transport network, and how might that architecture need to change? Do 6 MHz channel allocations continue to work in the access network, or will channel allocation bandwidth need to become more dynamic? Answering these questions is not going to be easy or simple, but the questions do need to be considered and possible solutions debated. This will be the focus of the 2005 SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies (visit et.scte.org for details and to register). As the consumer begins to pull the industry, what must the industry do to be ready to meet consumer demand in the future and remain relevant in a market that is only going to be more competitive tomorrow? Marv Nelson is SCTE vice president of technical programs. Email him at mnelson@scte.org.

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