Each of the four panels as this year’s SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies (ET) in Los Angeles presented a sampler of related technologies. Situated at varying points along multiple technology horizons, many of them could have taken up entire sessions of their own.

Some of these topics and presenters brought their own internal histories. In the network evolution panel, Cisco Systems Software Architect Alon Bernstein presented his proposal for DOCSIS 4.0 ("The Best of Both Worlds: DOCSIS and PON"), which effectively served as a kind of coda to a paper based on a comparison of DOCSIS and passive optical networks (PONs) that he presented at ET 2007 in Houston.

Last year, Bernstein discussed the options of DOCSIS management over PON or DOCSIS media address control (MAC) control over PON. This year, he tipped his hand toward the latter, including an example from PacketCable Multimedia (PCMM), which plays a key role in the MAC layer of DOCSIS technology.

One of several fiber-deep options that cable network architects are mulling over, DOCSIS PON, or DPON, would take advantage of existing back-office systems and CMTS software, but could require certain changes in optical line termination (OLT) technology. (For an adapted version of Bernstein’s proposal, which is a good example of the kind of three-to-five year forward thinking that ET aspires to encourage, see the forthcoming February issue of Communications Technology.) Video service quality Another story line, which takes us back to last summer’s Cable-Tec Expo, involves Time Warner Cable Senior Director, Video Systems, Glen Hardin. At last June’s event in Orlando, in a session devoted to switched digital, Hardin borrowed from control theory to introduce his proposal for "Closing the Loop" on video narrowcast services.

Hardin followed up at ET with a brisk presentation, based on a paper co-authored with RGB Networks VP Product Marketing Ramin Farassat.

On the last panel of the last day (SCTE was saving the best …?) Hardin advanced his ideas of tracking the exponentially burgeoning numbers of video streams by way of "watermarking" each single program transport stream (SPTS). In turn, such an identifier could serve as a first step toward transforming the advanced digital video network from a "cognizant" entity into an "intelligent" one.

As video assumes the shape of a carrier-class service and the underlying technology itself develops further to handle multicast and unicast SPTSs (both unencrypted and encrypted) such a transformation looks like an imperative.

First, there is increasing sophistication of the network. "It’s so complex that even my analog signals are digital now," Hardin said. Second, the need for quality assurance, particularly in a switched framework, is rising.

"Crossed content is a killer," he noted laconically, adding that the antidote is to "continuously interrogate" the stream.

Is this a three-to-five year thing? Or as with other ET papers, is it something closer, more urgent and doable? "It’s not that hard," Hardin said. "It’s something that I think we can tactically implement in the short term."

– Jonathan Tombes

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