Pop quiz time. Here’s a pair of questions on Louisiana.

What does New Orleans’ Canal Street have in common with optical transmission? And why does the Crescent City have the last of the 25 Hz AC electrical usage in the United States?

Those are teasers. For more, you’d need to attend the NCTA technical session today (Monday, May 18) at 3 p.m., in Room 211 of the Morial Convention Center. And get there early. GCI Cable and Entertainment CTO Dan Pike will give the answers in his opening remarks to this session on optical networking.

Pike’s historically laced commentaries have a small hard-core following. (Of at least one, but I suspect more.) The annual collection of NCTA Technical Papers is itself a more widely recognized testament to Pike’s insight and judgment. But the taciturn technologist and longstanding chairman of the NCTA Technical Papers Subcommittee naturally shifts attention away from himself.

"Throughout the NCTA record, the selection committee has been very good at foreseeing the type and kind of technologies that the industry needs," Pike said. "The committee this year was ideal." Optical focus This year’s sessions contain both standard and timely themes. "Interactive advertising is of interest now," Pike said, "and some technologies that enable mobility."

"Some things just kind of continue," Pike said. Those include core but evolving technologies that enable the industry to accomplish its fixed goal of providing "more and better information and entertainment to the customers."

Optics would fall into that camp. Perhaps indicative of a quiet revolution in that space, however, is the lineup on that panel. Participants include another industry icon, Wave7 Optics’ Jim Farmer; Motorola’s Phil Miguelez; Cox Communications’ Dan Estes; and itinerant optical evangelist Gaylord Hart, now with Infinera.

The topics range from passive optical networks (Farmer) to node segmentation (Miguelez) to an applied discussion of a new breed of add/drop multiplexers (Estes) to photonic integrated circuits (Hart.)

As it happens, Hart also is the co-author of Estes’ paper. That co-authorship makes sense given that Cox selected Infinera as its DWDM partner for its ongoing national backbone build. What’s noteworthy is the background.

Early on as a startup, Infinera faced considerable skepticism for its optical-electrical-optical design. It still faces an apparently obstinate George Gilder, at least as of this February report on OFC/NFOEC from Light Reading’s Craig Matsumoto.

But never mind cranky Gilder, Infinera has no doubt come of age. The other sessions Apart from optics, another evergreen is bandwidth expansion, which was the topic for this year’s opening tech session on Sunday, moderated by Comcast Executive Fellow David Fellows. See below for details on the remaining slated sessions, the first four of which occur on Monday, the last two on Tuesday. (All convene in Room 211):

Pipe Dreams: Managing Content in the New Digital Media Ecosystem
Monday, 9-10:15 a.m.
Moderator: Kevin Leddy, Time Warner Cable
Speakers: Jay Bestermann, ARRIS; Eitan Efron, Oversi; Joseph Oren, Cinea (a Dolby Company); and Reza Rassool, Widevine Technologies

Bit Parts: New Approaches for Managing Video Encoding
Monday, 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Moderator: Craig Cuttner, Home Box Office
Speakers: Ron Gutman, Imagine Communications; John Hartung, EG Technology; Andrew Levine, Home Box Office; John Schlack, Motorola

TV Advertising 2.0: Merging the Mediums
Monday, 1:45-2:45 p.m.
Moderator: Tony Werner, Comcast
Speakers: John Chandler-Pepelnjak, Microsoft; Mukta Kar, CableLabs; Steven Riedl, Time Warner Cable; Brent Roraback, Microsoft

Guiding Light: New Possibilities in Optical Network Architectures
Monday, 3-4:15 p.m.
Moderator: Dan Pike, GCI Cable
Speakers: Dan Estes, Cox Communications; James Farmer, Wave7 Optics; Gaylord Hart, Infinera; Phil Miguelez, Motorola

Special Delivery: Strategies and Architectures for Infinite Content
Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Moderator: Kip Compton, Cisco Systems
Speakers: Sree Kotay, Comcast; Weidong Mao, Comcast; Michael Pasquinilli, Concurrent Computer; S.V. Vasudevan, Cisco Systems

On the Move: Technology Enhancements for Mobile Content Delivery
Tues, 2:45-4 p.m.
Moderator: Nick Hamilton-Piercy, Rogers Communications
Speakers: Timothy Burke, Liberty Global; Sheriff Popoola, Motorola; Rauf Qureshi, Cox Communications; Mark Shaughnessy, Motorola

– Jonathan Tombes

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