August 2005 Issue The Digital Battle Continues With SBC headquarters and the Alamo nearby, industry leaders and technical arms vendors rallied in San Antonio for victory. By the Communications Technology Editorial Staff The technical clan that gathered by the San Antonio River for Cable-Tec Expo 2005 met in a city proud of the gallant soldiers who lost the Alamo but galvanized by this year’s hometown Spurs, who went on to clinch the NBA finals. The industry’s C-level executives who set the tone for the 10,000 attendees and nearly 400 exhibitors at this year’s event were similarly bullish in the face of stiff competition. Speaking at the opening sessions in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, they made a bold stand on telephony and offered insight on other works-in-progress, including digital simulcast, business solutions and advanced advertising. Time Warner Cable Chairman & CEO Glenn Britt, Cisco Systems President & CEO John Chambers and Arris Chairman & CEO Robert Stanzione all predicted a winning future for cable’s voice play. Stanzione said cable stands a good chance of blowing past financial analysts’ projections that the industry will sign up 20 million voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) subscribers over the next few years. "The 20 million number is actually conservative, based on what Cox is doing with CBR (constant bit rate) technology and what Glenn and others are doing with VoIP," he said. "I think we stand a good chance at winning a large bunch of those telephone customers." Britt, whose company is signing up VoIP subscribers faster than high-speed data customers, noted that Time Warner has already enlisted more than 500,000 VoIP recruits and is now starting to introduce such new features as caller ID. Britt also noted Time Warner, like several other major MSOs, is talking to potential partners about integrating wireless and VoIP services in a larger phone bundle and is exploring the use of Wi-Fi for voice signals inside the home. Home-workers, all-digital Similarly, the three CEOs see strong growth ahead on the high-speed data side of the business. Chambers and Stanzione suggested that cable operators could use faster data speeds and their new VoIP capability to make deep inroads in the commercial services business. For example, Chambers sees great promise in the burgeoning work-at-home market. "I will pay for every Cisco employee to have a broadband connection to their home that’s secure and fits my specifications," Chambers said. As long as each of the company’s 37,000 employees spends at least a half hour per month working at home, he said, such an investment will pay off for Cisco. As it happens, his workforce is clocking half an hour per day. As for video, these speakers stressed the potential of reclaiming analog spectrum by shifting to all-digital systems and employing switched broadcasting. Britt said Time Warner, which has been testing switched broadcasting in Austin, Texas, plans to roll it out across the country soon along with digital simulcasting. "It’s not a bandwidth issue as much as it is capacity and what we deliver to a customer," said Tony Werner, CTO of Liberty Media. "We have enough capacity today … that we can have a switched stream to every device on the network comfortably." Despite such issues as servicing the 6,000-or-so "one-way digital TV customers" who are using CableCards, the network itself "has the capacity to deliver and stream per TV," agreed Mike Hayashi, CTO of advanced engineering and subscriber technology at Time Warner Cable. Shifting paradigms Streaming will enable cable to target advertisements, said Paul Woidke, vice president of technology for Comcast Spotlight, playing into a new advertising era. "The most important thing is (that) advertising stops being an interruption and starts being information," Woidke said. "There’s a lot of fear out there … a whole lot more fear than there should be" about the impact of DVRs and other devices to circumvent advertising messages. This new advertising paradigm, Woidke said, is changing the way the elements within a cable operation interact. "Now I have to work with the plant that’s being put in place more closely than I did before," he said. These execs displayed some Alamo-style fearlessness about competing with telcos in the quad play—video, data, wireline and wireless voice. Werner suggested that cellular providers will be interested because cable can offer wireless providers "very inexpensive minutes" by switching calls off the cell network onto the home network, although he did admit that "some of them are skeptical." The skeptics may even circumvent cable partnerships to deliver wireless to the home and then use a Vonage-type VoIP service for the "wireline" piece. "They (cell carriers) have an ability to do an over-the-top on us and do a seamless product," Werner said. Cable’s answer will be "QoS (that) will always work better than just a big pipe." Cell and satellite providers, and to a lesser extent even the telcos themselves, have another advantage over the cable industry that will have to be overcome. They offer nationwide service ubiquity. Cable, built on its heritage as an entertainment provider with multiple outlets, didn’t need to worry about presenting a unified face to the customers. That’s changed and demands attention, said Hayashi. On the floor Although total year-over-year attendance declined by around 200 to 300, the number of exhibitors in San Antonio hit 394, up from 377 at last year’s event in Orlando. First-time exhibitors numbered 69, down from 77. A sampling of the exhibit floor yielded technology corresponding with many of the categories discussed in the opening sessions. Cellular Interface Devices: Motorola talked about dual mode code division multiple access (CDMA)/Wi-Fi and global system for mobile communications (GSM)/Wi-Fi handsets under development. Commercial service will depend upon implementation of an IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) core, which Motorola is trialing this year and slating for commercial availability in 2006. Clariton Networks discussed its architecture for enhancing indoor cellular coverage by sending a cellular signal over a dedicated hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) channel from a base station at the headend to customer premises antennas. Fixed Wireless: Several vendors offering solutions for extending HFC plant wirelessly to businesses and multiple dwelling units (MDUs) included ArcWave, AML Wireless, C9 Networks, Wireless Bypass and Xtend Networks. CommScope entered this fray with its AirBridge plant extension. C9 Networks made the offer to upgrade the DOCSIS technology on its air-base stations at no charge to the still evolving WiMax technology when it migrates to that standard. Commercial Services: Xtend Networks showed its Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS)-based XMTS Access Concentrator that provides 24/28 full or fractional T-1 links or DS3 and Ethernet high-speed data services. The company also offers block division multiplexing technology that extends the operating range of HFC plant up to 3 GHz. Scientific-Atlanta showcased its BroadLan product, which is not based upon DOCSIS. BroadLan uses frequency division multiplexing (FDM) within a 6 MHz channel and is capable of delivering 28 Mbps upstream and 35 Mbps downstream for high-speed data, T-1 voice connectivity or dedicated Ethernet services. The product’s use of narrowband carriers and tone-selectable modulation allows it to use the reverse spectrum while avoiding known jammers. PacketCable Terminal Adapters: Pace Microtechnologies unveiled the new DV315 embedded multimedia terminal adapter (EMTA) slated for general availability in 4Q05, but showed little to distinguish it from the host of other EMTAs already on the market. S-A grouped its Webstar terminal adapters to highlight emerging solutions for in-home mobility, with emphasis on the recently approved 1.9 GHz digitally enhanced cordless telecom (DECT) band. On preview were the DPC223 EMTA, boasting a range of 1,000 feet outdoors, 200 feet indoors; and the DPR 2434 router, with an internal cable modem, 802.11g wireless capability and four Ethernet ports. Digital Simulcast: S-A also demonstrated its ability to help deliver digital simulcast programming through a range of encoders, muliplexers and decoders. Terayon Communication Systems was touting Cogeco Cable’s use of its DM 6400 Network CherryPicker to deliver all-digital programming. RGB Networks has an edge processor that offers Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) decoding, modulation and upconversion in one rack unit. Scopus Network Technologies offers a digital simulcast solution that includes local encoding, statistical multiplexing, grooming, rate shaping and edge decoding. Tandberg Television announced that Sunflower Broadband will use its E5710 MPEG-2 encoders in its digital simulcast headend. EGT unveiled Encore, its second-generation MPEG-2 video processing platform, touting its high quality and low bit rates. Harmonic explained synergies between its new IP-based DiviCom Electra standard definition compression platform and its DiviTrackIP statistical multiplexing solution. More simulcast, and awards Digital simulcast also figured in several of this year’s 20 technical workshops. In one of those, Basil Badawiyeh, Adelphia Communications’ manager of advanced video engineering and development, explained this technology as a way to "break through the self-imposed barriers of our existing architecture." As a solution, it will help cable operators reduce churn, offer advanced services to a larger portion of its subscriber base and improve the quality of video without eliminating all analog delivery, Badawiyeh said. It’s also a flexible solution. Charter Communications’ work in the simulcast arena is one of the reasons its Madison, Wisc., property was chosen to be Communications Technology’s system of the year. (For more, see July’s cover story.) The MSO and system were recognized during the SCTE’s annual awards luncheon and in a separate reception. Accepting the award on behalf of the system was VP of Engineering for the Great Lakes Division (and new SCTE board member) Dan Murphy, who underscored the contributions of the Great Lakes and Southern Wisconsin technical leadership team. Other honored at this year’s luncheon included Alan Amato, director of engineering for Times Fiber-Amphenol, as the inaugural recipient of the Excellence in Standards Award; Charlotte Field, Comcast senior VP of national communications engineering and operations, as winner of the Women in Technology Award (and subject of our June cover story); Cox Technical Trainer and Sooner State Chapter Secretary Steven Johnson, as Chapter Member of the Year; and Stanford University-bound Jeff Zeller, as winner of the Milton Jerrold Shapp Memorial Scholarship. The Boston-based New England Chapter once again won the Society’s Large Chapter of the Year Award, in recognition of its outstanding educational programs, membership growth and certification support, among other achievements. The Lighthouse Chapter from Portland, Maine, was named Small Chapter of the Year for increasing vendor day and seminar attendance, hosting a valuable Web site, partnering with local operators and fostering professional development of its members. And the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Chapter won the Chapter Web Site Award. Winning first place overall the 2005 SCTE International Cable-Tec Games was Jim Egloff, a network maintenance specialist with Insight Communications of northern Kentucky, who placed among the top three in two of the Games’ five events. Pre-Expo L&D Conference The surge of activity surrounding VoIP is one driver behind ongoing efforts to optimize the industry’s educational and training efforts. With Time Warner Cable and Cablevision reportedly adding more than 1,000 VoIP subscribers daily, many in the industry already are acquiring new telephony skills. Two members of Comcast University, Earl Hershey, VP technical operations, and Johnny Brasell, VP customer service, explained how Comcast is enabling this transition at the pre Cable-Tec Expo Conference on Broadband Learning and Development. Technicians and customer service representatives are both key players in supporting Comcast Digital Voice, they noted. And while much of the learning material for these groups is the same, different learning methods are required because each group operates differently. CSRs work over the phone, for instance, and have high accessibility to equipment that interfaces with simulation and e-learning. Technicians work in a hands-on environment and are typically in field locations where this type of accessibility is limited. Whether the industry is running its L&D operations as efficiently as possible is an open question. Current estimates show that between $45 billion and $360 billion is wasted yearly on unfruitful training efforts due to ineffective strategy, said Keith DeAngelis, national program manager, technical learning and development, Comcast University. To turn those numbers around, he recommended using the analysis, design, development, implement and evaluate (ADDIE) model. "Training is a small piece compared to everything you have to do," said Alan Babcock, vice president, chief learning officer, NCTI. More than 40 hours should be spent in analysis and development for a one-hour classroom program, he recommended. And while evaluation is the last step in the ADDIE model, the process actually should be reviewed at every step, he said. Lynn Schmidt, VP Charter University, advocated additional evaluation. Most trainers measure audience satisfaction and some measure of change in knowledge, skills and attitude, but only 5 percent determine the ROI of training, she said. That more exhaustive metric, which requires early determination of expected results, tracking of behavior and quantification of results, provides a yardstick that can validate training in terms of measurable business goals. Placing training in a business context is an effective way to get corporate `buy-in,’ one of the themes of the panel led by Bill Dorman, Adelphia director technical learning and safety. Getting both management and the target audience in the entire training process is particularly important in VoIP training, which involves such a major cultural shift, said Roger Paul, Comcast learning and development manager. Another idea is for L&D folks to get in on the discussions that lead to technological decisions. "Set yourselves up so you will be asked to help with deployment," John Zepnik, technical deployment engineer, Time Warner Cable, said. The training team must prove they are stakeholders by demonstrating their contributions to ROI and their effect on other quantifiable measurements, such as trouble call rates. "Be a business person first…. Put a business impact around training," said Mary James, director, learning solutions, Cox Communications. Gordon-Kanouff Elected Chair At their annual pre-Expo meeting, the SCTE Board of Directors elected Yvette Gordon-Kanouff as chair. Gordon-Kanouff replaces Wayne Hall, who served two consecutive terms, the limit set by SCTE by-laws. Vice president of strategic planning for SeaChange International, Gordon-Kanouff is a senior member of the SCTE and one of the four SCTE directors at large. Filling the additional executive committee member role over the past year, she also had been serving as chair of the planning committee. As such, she played a key role in laying the groundwork for the SCTE Foundation, the tax-exempt vehicle dedicated to educational assistance, research and industry history that got its formal launch at Expo. A mathematician by training, Gordon-Kanouff has 19 years on the communications industry, including a stint as director of engineering of Time Warner’s Full Service Network, which debuted video-on-demand (VOD) in Orlando in 1994. She is the first woman to lead the Society’s board. The board elected Vicki Marts and Bob Foote as western and eastern vice chairs, respectively. Marts is master telecommunications center (MTC) manager for Cox Communications in Wichita and represents Region 5. Over the past year, she served as secretary of the board. Also named this year’s Member of the Year (see additional sidebar), Foote is regional VP for Arris/Telewire Supply and represents Region 12. He has been serving as chair of the membership committee. Completing the officer lineup, the board elected Tom Maguire (Region 1) as secretary, Bob Macioch (Region 4) as treasurer, and Steven Johnson (Region 10) as additional member. Foote, Member of the year Amidst hometown enthusiasm for local basketball stars, the SCTE named its own most valuable player at the San Antonio event: Bob Foote, regional vice president, Arris/TeleWire Supply. "I present this (Member of the Year Award) to an individual whose personal efforts at the global, national and local level have furthered the efforts of the Society," said Dan Maloney, president of the connected home solutions unit of Motorola, which sponsors the award. Maloney introduced Foote and made the presentation at the SCTE’s annual awards luncheon on June 15. As chairman of the SCTE’s Membership Committee and director of Region 12, Foote helped increase membership last year by more than 1,300 and helped propel the New England Chapter (named Large Chapter of the Year—for the seventh time in the past eight years) to first place in the 2004 Member-Get-A-Member Campaign. A 20-year veteran with Arris, Bob joined the SCTE in 1989 and was elected to the Society’s board of directors in 2000. He has served as eastern vice chair of the board and as additional executive committee member. This year Foote ran for the board’s top spot at the board meeting on June 14 in an election that, insiders say, triggered the "Tiebreak" clause of the SCTE’s Policies and Procedures. Additional executive committee member Yvette Gordon-Kanouff won the ensuing coin toss for the chair’s position. Foote is now serving again as eastern vice chair. "Bob Foote is absolutely most deserving of this award this year," said SCTE President and CEO John Clark, in a statement. "He is tireless in his resolve to elevate the status of the Society. Everyone in the SCTE family owes a huge debt of gratitude to Bob for his intelligent, competent approach to making SCTE the best professional society it can be." Expo Workshops A highlight of Expo every year is the many excellent technical workshops, and this year was no exception. Here’s the lineup from this year’s show.