Mike Sparkman is vice president, Worldwide Sales, for Aurora Networks.

What products and services are you developing over the next five years, and why are they important to cable?

Aurora Networks is the only broadband cable supplier exclusively focused on next generation optical technologies and architectures. Our product road map is closely aligned with the business and technology priorities of our customers and includes products that:

• Enhance bandwidth per subscriber of the MSOs’ HFC network and an evolutionary migration of this network to FTTH architecture
• Support next generation ultra high-speed data services using the MSOs’ node-based architecture
• Enable MSOs to leverage high capacity cable plant to compete with other service providers for high dollar value business customers who require ever more bandwidth.

Some examples include our recently announced LcWDM transmitter technology, our Fiber on Demand ultra high-speed data delivery architecture, our Virtual Hub, and our Power Gateways for wireless high-speed data services.

During your meetings with cable operators, what areas of concern do they mention most frequently?

Each MSO emphasizes different aspects of their architectural, upgrade and bandwidth strategies to support the high take-up rates of digital phone, data, VOD and other future services. The industry is working diligently to connect all the infrastructure dots, so the real challenge today is to stay far enough ahead of the curve to achieve a balance among capital spending, technology and cost advances, and the constant need for more bandwidth per subscriber, both downstream and upstream. These types of discussions are very typical in our meetings, whether at a corporate, regional or local level. The discussions are quite similar with smaller MSOs, the only variation being some economies of scale, timing and implementation.

Do you have an international presence?

Yes. We have always looked at growth outside the United States as an important strategic initiative, and we have considerable presence in Asia, Latin America and Europe. As we develop sustainable levels of business in these regions, we can invest and grow more aggressively. As a result, we have a very balanced worldwide customer base with virtually no one single customer or regional dependency.

Which is the biggest threat to the cable industry: telcos, satellite, or over the top providers?

Regardless of which player is the biggest threat, cable has an inherent lead in the race for overall bundled services. Today’s race is between cable and telcos for the majority of consumer dollars. Telcos now have realistic first mile fiber-based technology to enable them, for the first time, to deploy unlimited video, ultra high-speed data and voice, and they are rolling it out. Telcos’ costs are still high relative to cable’s scalable HFC architecture, but this time I think they are here to stay in the fight for bundled consumer entertainment and communications services. It’s their only option to survive.

What service or product will have the biggest impact on cable subscribers over the next five years?

I think it comes down to access, bandwidth, strategic alliances, economic scalability and competitive factors. With the voice, video and data triple play, the next big application and consumer demand may be a “three-screen” service that starts with HDTV sets, maps over to broadband-connected PCs, and follows subscribers on cell phones or other portable devices.

What is the defining moment for your company over the past five years?

Aurora’s growth from a startup, with no revenue five years ago, into the world’s third-largest supplier of advanced optical transport systems to the broadband cable industry.

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