AUSTIN, Texas – Where are the tech guys when you really need them? The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) chose yesterday’s National Cable Television Cooperative Winter Educational Conference (WEC) opening session detailing the progress of the SCTE’s Smart Energy Management Initiative (SEMI) to test a new videoconferencing program, with President/CEO Mark Dzuban speaking from Pennsylvania. However, due to some problems with the Austin Hilton internal network, attendees only (save for a few minutes) got the audio feed.

“It’s very ironic that there are problems with the power, considering the topic of our conversation today,” joked Derek DiGiacomo, senior director/Information Systems & Energy Management Programs at SCTE. But it’s all good, as SEMI is moving forward and cablecos know they need to do more to decrease their overall energy consumption.

Noting that network energy costs right now are hitting about $1 billion a year and will be ratcheting up to $1.5 billion within the next few years, DiGiacomo detailed SCTE’s SEMI plans moving forward, projecting a SCTE/NCTA/CableLabs-branded energy strategy by year’s end.

Between this year and next, SEMI plans to add a recycling component. In 2013, there could be a fleet-management program and a CPE program.

And while it’s no secret that it will cost money initially to put a comprehensive energy-conservation program in place, operator by operator, return on investment starts almost immediately, with DiGiacomo noting SCTE’s HQ has cut its energy consumption in an extraordinary fashion: a 43-percent savings after installing solar panels, 89 percent by switching to LED lighting and 50 percent by changing out some servers.

The Future of Broadband

What can cable operators do to steel themselves from upcoming competition from the likes of Apple and Google, who have made no bones that they want to take a significant piece of the broadband video and data marketplaces? The answer is financially painful, said Rob McCann of Canada’s Clear Cable, but it must be done: continue to build out the network and fund it with tiered data pricing.

“Data usage is up 50 percent per year everywhere,” he pointed out. “We have to invest to manage this.” He strongly suggested operators point money in three directions:

>> Anything Wi-Fi (indoor, outdoor, mesh) during the next 12 months.
>>  All things PON: Try anything to get fiber as close as possible to the user. Of particular importance is RFOG, because it can be deployed without having to add any new hardware.
>>  DOCSIS 3.0.

But how do operators choose which way to go first? According to McCann’s thinking, MSOs need bigger Internet connections because of the 50-percent growth each year “and you can’t get away from the cost.” He also says bigger access networks are a must along with more ubiquitous networks to reach subscribers where they’ve never been reached before. He suggests using the power of DOCSIS 3.0 to give the final push to heavy data users, telling them they must moved to usage-based billing.

Debra Baker

The Daily

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