Marwan Fawaz became CTO for Charter Communications in March 2006, having filled a similar role at Adelphia Communications, which he joined in 2003. Fawaz previously had served as a regional VP at Charter.
Any final thoughts on what your team at Adelphia was able to accomplish, or what you had to leave undone?
Adelphia was a unique and a challenging environment. I would characterize it as the most gratifying experience in my 21 years in cable. In the face of great adversity and significant limitations on resources, the company was able to become healthier operationally, financially and competitively. The list of accomplishments was long, but the one area that I will always remember is how everyone pulled together as one team—not just in the engineering and technology organization, but across all functional groups corporately and regionally. Teamwork and camaraderie was what propelled us all to work through the many distractions and difficulties to deliver a network and an operational platform that complement Time Warner and Comcast network requirements, and after the sale, enabled a smooth transition.
The one area that my team and I would have loved to expand on was the scaling of a telephony product and commercially launching it. We had completed significant network preparation work, but for obvious reasons it did not make sense to for us to launch telephony under the Adelphia brand.
What are your priorities at Charter?
The overarching priorities at Charter that everyone in the company is driving toward are to continue to improve the end-to-end customer experience and increase loyalty, grow revenues through accelerated product sales and services, enhance operational and capital effectiveness, and equally as important is continuing to develop our employees. Engineering and technology organization priorities revolve around company goals. We will focus on driving more efficient and better use of our network resources and simplify our network architecture to help improve operational readiness to support new products and applications.
However, our top priority is to continue expanding our telephone footprint throughout all of our markets. Also as important is preparing for the digital transition and the efficient mining of our bandwidth. To that end, we will expand our simulcast/simultrans (all digital) markets, employ switched digital video (SDV) technology, prepare for DOCSIS 3.0 migration, and explore advanced codec deployment.
Are there any particular technical strengths at Charter that you aim to leverage?
An area that stands out to me as most impressive at Charter is our engineering talent. Especially in the three Divisions, our ability to react and move quickly to implement technical and engineering initiatives is quite remarkable. My aim is to leverage those talents to help us achieve our goals. Charter was an early pioneer of simulcast/simultrans deployment, and the industry learned a lot from that experience.
It is also important to point out that, overall, our network is competitively ready and in good shape. We will capitalize and hone those assets to help drive for continued growth in the triple-play bundle as well as commercial services.
At Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, you advocated for DOCSIS 3.0. Is that technology emerging quickly enough for you?
Jointly with CableLabs we have made a lot of progress since then. The specifications have been published to the supplier community. Also, we MSOs have had active discussions with all of the vendors in that space, including chipset manufacturers, CPE and CMTS suppliers to help advance the development of all DOCSIS 3.0 equipment. We have had an opportunity to communicate our priorities for products’ road map development. In addition, we did a better job in communicating our transition plans for DOCSIS 3.0 as it relates to any interim pre-DOCSIS 3.0 solution that may be required for competitive reasons.
What’s your view of the competition?
Competition continues to intensify in our industry; however, it is not a new concept for us. We take all of our competitors very seriously, and I am sure they view us in the same way. We have had success in competing with satellite providers through the rollout of the bundle and continue to have a superior a high-speed Internet product over DSL. Our telephone product is growing at a remarkable pace. I am also confident that in a level playing field our HFC network will do very well against any FTTP service providers.
How much of a technical stretch do you think it will be to accelerate Charter’s business services unit?
I do not believe that it is a matter of a technical stretch to accelerate commercial business growth. Charter has seen tremendous success in growing this area of our business in the past few years. Our fiber and DOCSIS solutions for small and medium-size businesses continue to lead healthy revenue and unit growth. We have recently added another product in the area of commercial VoIP, capitalizing on our softswitches infrastructure from the residential platform. I believe it is matter of competing resources for all the priorities we have as a company and will find ways to continue to balance them as we manage our business needs.