Many old-name cable vendors are gone. Jerrold became General Instrument became NextLevel, became General Instrument, became Motorola. Magnavox became Philips. Scientific-Atlanta became Cisco. And C-Cor became … C-Cor, even as it threw off the image of a boutique cable distribution equipment vendor tucked in rural State College, PA. C-Cor’s name is unchanged, but its course has veered radically as it kept pace with changing cable tastes. Thus, C-Cor is ready to be a player now that the industry has finally started to take VoIP seriously. C-Cor acquired its VoIP capabilities by purchasing companies such as Alopa Networks and Stargus and incorporating their legacy products into a technology mix to feed hungry cable operators still parochial enough to reward a name brand that goes back to the industry’s beginning. Changing focus “It’s to our advantage because one thing C-Cor has done pretty well is focusing on some of the cable access networks’ specific challenges,” said Dan Rice, vice president of assurance solutions at C-Cor. “Stargus and Alopa really excel in applying technologies that optimize specifically cable networks.” It also an advantage that people like Rice, who came along with Stargus, have cable industry depth. “I spent a lot of time at CableLabs when we were developing the DOCSIS standard … and then I spent some time at Road Runner and Time Warner (a primo C-Cor customer) doing operations,” Rice said. This, he said, gives him insight into PacketCable’s workings and an understanding that PacketCable is not flawless, especially in how it has handled the emergence of session initiation protocol (SIP). PacketCable and SIP “The main difference between the PacketCable specifications being used today and the SIP technology being used by folks like Vonage is that a SIP client intelligence resides in the client, where in the PacketCable model the alternative is called MGCP (media gateway control protocol) … and the intelligence lies within the network,” explained Rice. Things become more complicated when the ever-popular IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) enters the picture as “somewhat of a hybrid where you still use SIP end points but a lot of intelligence can be moved into the voice network,” Rice said. Collision course The migratory path, he said, is a collision course where SIP and PacketCable will converge, probably in PacketCable 2.0. That, of course, will incite to the next voice revolution-fixed-mobile convergence, now commonly called FMC. “We’re spending some time taking a look at that,” said Rice, describing an effort to focus both on PacketCable 2.0 and noncable-specification international efforts. “We have engineers who participate on the standards bodies, engineers who are paying attention to IMS and were trying to work with our customers to develop a strategy of when they’re actually going to start doing these things and when we need to be ready with additional solutions,” he said. Sadly, for bleeding-edge techno-geeks, there isn’t any great need for C-Cor or any other cable manufacturer to revamp factories to build FMC gear. The cable industry this year is focused on VoIP-telephone over cable lines-in its dullest roll-it-out-and-they-will-buy-it form. The rest of the world is where it’s happening. More happening in Europe “In Europe, we’re seeing a lot more pressure to move to more advanced VoIP services based on stuff like presence and multimedia that combine with on-demand data services. We’re seeing a little bit more future-looking type of things in Europe,” said Rice. This forward-looking effort even includes customers who are doing both PacketCable and SIP-imagine that!-with plans to migrate some PacketCable functions to SIP to perform “some of the fancier services related to presence and things like that,” he said. Meanwhile, back in the States, an area that some critics are beginning to describe as a technology backwater, C-Cor-surprisingly agile for a company that, were it an employee, would be collecting a pension-is cementing its ties with cable while peeking outside the bunker. “In select products, we’re actually getting pretty good traction growing outside the cable space,” Rice said. In cable, people know who we are; we have a good reputation, and we’re continuing to sell additional solutions there. Now we’re starting to penetrate outside the cable space with some of the solutions we hope to grow.” Speaking of parochial This week is Spring VON, the annual ritual dedicated to voice-on-the-net services, and, as with past VONs, cable is an afterthought. Oh, there will be cable guys strolling the show floor, and some panels will be devoted to looking at cable’s efforts, but when it comes time to discuss next-generation voice services, the focus will be anywhere but on cable. Even C-Cor, which is gung ho over VoIP, won’t have a serious presence at the show, said Rice. “While you get a lot of cable people going to VON, it’s not quite as much a cable-specific show, and we’re still spending more of our time on the cable side,” he said. – Jim Barthold

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