It’s been two weeks, so it’s about time to wrap up our coverage of the National Show, which this year saw a rise in exhibitors (360 from 340) and drop in attendees (15,500 from 17,000.) Unlike CableTec Expo ("All engineering, all the time"), this event casts a wide and high-level net at the industry, which creates certain obstacles for us. There are the programmers with distracting, celebrity come-ons and general sessions delivering technically irrelevant insights, such as when big-shot panelists have Comcast CEO Brian Roberts on speed-dial, just to name two examples. True enough, CEOs are important. And we don’t avoid all programmers. (A family-friendly photo of Barney with CT editors exists as proof.) Moreover, within NCTA’s big umbrella, as we have been noting for several weeks, there actually is quite a lot of technology. Here’s a final run-down of some top takeaways. Switches and peers This is starting to sound like a broken CD, but switched video has moved well beyond the Time Warner/BigBand Networks test phase. The collaboration between BigBand and Scientific-Atlanta last year was critical, but more vendors and MSOs now are engaged, as we noted in last week’s recap of the CTO session in Atlanta. One addendum: Although the paper on VOD storage/streaming modeling from C-COR’s Bob Duzett initially looked somewhat out of place on the ‘Throwing the Switch’ technical session, note that once you’ve moved into the unicast domain—one of BigBand’s favorite themes these days—switched and on-demand delivery becomes largely indistinguishable. The upshot is that this year’s switched deployments could accelerate the rollout going forward of additional on-demand infrastructure (to support StartOver, NPVR, etc.). On the telephony front, the joint venture with Sprint-Nextel got lots of play. We got the message that it’s not just about another wireless service. Message also received: Getting things done through a committee composed of five separate companies is hard. Yet as important as the potential revenue from wireless is, there’s another telephony-related issue that’s causing a transfer of funds from MSO to telco bank accounts right now: the lack of a national MSO peering infrastructure. There are several approaches to this question, but anyone working on this should add to the must-read list the paper by Cisco Systems’ Rupal Desai and Rob Kissell, "Hierarchical Inter-CMS Architecture Using Standalone SIP Route Proxy." Advanced ads, CableNET, etc. Continuing with the financial theme: The intersection of advertising and technology is a ripe topic. (See interview with Paul Woidke in this issue, and related article in the May issue of Communications Technology.) In that light, see also the paper from C-COR’s Guy Cherry and Atlas on Demand’s Rick Bohrer, "Architectures for Advanced Advertising: Commercial Drivers and Engineering Solutions." Bohrer and Cheery argue that there are four technology touch-points to advanced advertising: VOD and switched digital; the advertising return path; real-time techniques and demands; and multiple delivery models. Not far removed from the advanced advertising category are the guidelines for enhanced television (ETV) that were presented in the paper by CableLabs’ Frank Sandoval and David Hooley, "ETV: Cable’s Interactive Platform for Legacy and Advanced Receivers." As always, CableLabs’ CableNET was a valuable showcase. It’s a good place to see initial payoffs for CableLabs’ MSO-driven work in specifications development. This year there was a single chip reference design from ATI based on OpenCable, for instance, along with various other OCAP and ETV demos. But CableNET is also where to get snapshots of innovation emerging separately from numerous companies, large and small. For our purposes, there are some things that can be missed at NCTA. But CableNET and the NCTA technical papers and sessions are not on that list. – CT Staff

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