Cable’s days as an isolationist industry are over. The new world of telecommunications services is a free-for-all with telephone companies delivering video, cable companies delivering voice and everybody scrapping for everybody else’s business. Time Warner Cable Houston is stepping right into the fray by using time division multiplexing over Internet protocol (TDMoIP) pseudowire from RAD Data Communications to make its metro Ethernet service offering attractive to mobile carriers. And yes, those carriers will be competitors if and when TWC turns up its own mobile service. “A lot of people ask that question: ‘Aren’t you enabling a competitor?’ Yes, but if we don’t sell it to them, somebody else will, and why would you want to walk away from all that money? They’re going to compete with you anyway,” said Chuck Sweeney, vice president of business solutions for TWC Houston. Cable’s new breed Sweeney is among a new breed of cable executives who are embracing the new industry paradigm and rushing in to grab all the loose change that’s flying around. “You can’t stick your head in the sand. The marketplace is constantly churning and changing, and we have to find other sources of revenue and opportunity all the time,” he said. In this case, the opportunity was to use RAD’s TDMoIP and TWC’s fiber-Ethernet infrastructure to undercut the prices ILECs were charging for cellular backhaul. A simple fiber connection between the cell towers and Time Warner Cable’s Houston Ethernet network was not enough. Pseudowire was essential, said Sweeney, since the cell towers typically run on TDM voice equipment that requires a T1 interface. “We could run fiber out to the tower and put TDM equipment there, but that’s very shortsighted,” he said. “Eventually the legacy voice equipment that the cell towers have will be upgraded to voice-over-IP, in which case the TDM would be absolutely the worst delivery. What we’re doing is bringing packet-based technology out to the cell towers and providing a TDM interface to the legacy equipment.” T1 circuit emulation Pseudowire emulates T1 circuits over the Time Warner Cable MPLS network running over a 10 GigE core. A RAD unit is located at each of the towers to hand off Ethernet and T1s, and the TWC network carries it back to the cell company’s main switching centers. The system has been tested with five nines of reliability and should see the first true deployments this year with the unnamed cellular provider, Sweeney said. “Nothing happens as fast as you’d like it to,” he said. “The towers have been in for probably six months, and the customer is very happy. We are now designing fiber construction to a universe of cell towers in the city.” A ‘partnership’ In terminology that’s really new for the cable industry, Sweeney called the project a “partnership” between the cell carrier customer and the vendor “to agree on deployment strategy” that fits both their requirements. Time Warner Cable would like to decide which towers get built first and then line up a system that moves progressively from tower to tower throughout the metro serving area. “But the customer has its own set of priorities, which aren’t necessarily identical to what we think would be the most efficient deployment,” Sweeney said. The end result will be a compromise between two entities that will one day soon be deadly competitors. A telecommunications constant “In the telecommunications industry, everybody has always bought and sold from their competitors,” Sweeney said. “Whether the cell carrier companies buy from us or from somebody else, they’re going to be spending money on network, and they’re going to be competing ultimately at some point for some of the services we’d like to provide.” TWC’s stance, instead, is to take away business from the ILECs. “Our network is completely independent of the existing incumbent local exchange carrier networks,” he said. “If they (cell carriers) want to induce redundancy by using two providers, we’re the best alternate provider because we don’t use any Bell facilities, whereas most CLECs are dependent on the ILECs for at least part of their solution.” Comcast’s plans Much was made about Comcast’s plans to drive hard into the voice space in 2006. Brian Roberts, Comcast’s president-CEO and chairman, used the 16th Annual Citigroup Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference in Phoenix to predict that Comcast will be “over 2 million phone customers at the end of ’06.” The company, he promised, would use a $99 bundle with high-speed data to drag customers into its Comcast Digital Voice (CDV) service. While this news is being welcomed by the bevy of vendors who have been seemingly forever testing their voice technology with the giant MSO, it’s tempered a bit by the other side of the coin. Roberts further said that Comcast would not be pursuing the small-medium business (SMB) space in 2006, even though this is seen by many as a logical and lucrative opportunity for merged voice and data services. “There are a lot of great things we can do,” he conceded. “There are a lot of us inside the company that think that could be the next thing, small-medium sized business—bringing a whole suite of products in an IP world to the small business community as we pass them.” Comcast’s COO Steve Burke may even be among them, but, in the bottom line world, Burke “is saying we have 75 cable systems that need to learn how to sell telephone,” Roberts said. “We need to have a bundle, and he’s right.” Jim Barthold

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