Any innovation passes many milestones. A lot happens between a company’s first identification of a problem or opportunity and the arrival of improved cost structures or new products and services. Cable operators want to collapse that timeline. ("Let’s launch voice and reduce truck rolls, increase network traffic and minimize ingress, promote HDTV and make our CSRs more efficient-now.") Happily enough, such pressure breeds further innovation. Consider Broadcom’s work on HDTV. The early chips it sampled produced "phenomenal" picture quality by themselves, but when put into a set-top box, they created an "extremely nasty problem," says Brian Sprague, senior director of marketing at Broadcom’s broadband business unit. "Every artifact in standard definition got magnified five times." Broadcom solved this dilemma through sheer engineering, combined with tools such as double data rate (DDR) synchronous dynamic random access memory (SDRAM), triple-comb filtering and ever faster processing. "We put tremendous cycles into this," Sprague says. Even as MSOs are morphing into full-service telecommunications providers, it’s clear that the slow-motion R&D style perfected by the telcos won’t cut it. Reflecting on his time at Bell Labs, Nikil Jayant, CSO of EGT Networks, says it could take a decade or more to establish a standard and validate science. "Today we have to complete the cycle, not in 10 years, but perhaps two years, perhaps one year," Jayant says. The business and technical factors that are driving and accelerating this trend aren’t going away. If you’re wearing a hat, hold onto it. Jonathan Tombes
Executive Editor

jtombes@accessintel.com

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