SCTE Member Since 1979 Title : Technical Leader, Broadband Network Engineering, Cisco Systems Broadband Background: Prior to joining Cisco, Hranac held management positions at companies including High Speed Access International and Coaxial International . He also serves as senior technology editor for Communications Technology magazine, where he writes a monthly column. Hranac has held many positions on the SCTE board and in local chapters and has the distinction of being the first person in the cable industry to be certified in SCTE’s BCT/E program (in 1987) and became the SCTE’s first Fellow Member in 1991. You haven’t been on the SCTE Board in a while. Any plans to go back? While it’s prudent to never say never, I’ve no immediate plans to run for a Board position. I had the pleasure and honor to serve as Region 2 Director for six years in the 1980s and early 1990s. After a couple years off, I ran for an At-Large Director position and served in that role for another six years. Since I left the Board, I’ve continued to be active on a variety of the Society’s committees and subcommittees, pen a monthly column in Communications Technology, contribute to SCTE-List, and do 25 to 30 presentations at SCTE events each year. What’s your take on the Scientific-Atlanta purchase? Any effect on your work? This is a good marriage of two companies with very similar cultures, and it shows Cisco’s commitment to the cable industry. In a nutshell, it’s a winner. The acquisition of S-A has no direct impact on my day-to-day work, although from time to time there will be involvement in joint projects with some of my colleagues on the S-A side of the house. You’re big on "back to basics"—how much need is there for that in the industry? I like to joke that my CT columns cover just three topics, and I simply mix them up each month: tighten those pesky F-connectors, sweep the plant, and fix the leakage. Seriously, "back to basics" is a general category that really cannot be overemphasized. Here’s an analogy: It’s pretty tough to build a house without a proper foundation, and "back to basics" serves as the foundation for the advanced technologies being deployed by the cable industry today and in the future. If we don’t get the basics right, the quality, reliability and availability of every service that we offer will be affected. Related to basics, in what areas (topics) do you most often see need for instruction/clarification? I get a lot of questions about upstream maintenance and troubleshooting, but over the last several months the most popular topic I do at SCTE events is one called "Deploying VoIP on the Outside Plant." This roughly four-hour presentation covers a variety of RF issues in the outside plant and what it takes to enable the outside plant to reliably support high-speed data and voice. There has been a fair amount of interest in linear distortions, too, because these types of impairments have generally been below the radar until recently. One topic that continues to create confusion is cable modem termination system (CMTS) upstream "SNR"—which is really modulation error ratio—and what it means. If you had to name the single biggest problem with cable’s networks, what would it be? How would you recommend correcting it? Without a doubt, keeping the upstream clean. This is a never-ending challenge because the majority of crud in the reverse comes from subscriber drops. We as an industry simply have no control over what customers do with the inside wiring, and one bad drop can bring down a node. There is no easy fix, but if we focus more on using high-quality components, installing the drops correctly from the get-go, implementing a drop quality control program, and educating our customers better, I think drop problems will be easier to manage. One other thing that concerns me is the cable industry’s apparent willingness to forego outside plant preventive maintenance, claiming that doing so saves money. Not doing preventive maintenance may well save a few bucks in the short term, but in the long haul problems and costs will go up. You still travel a great deal; what’s your take on the international cable scene? Any particular threats or opportunities stand out? Most of my travel these days is domestic, although I still do a couple overseas trips per year. Here in the United States, we’re used to seeing cable modem service outdo DSL— although the telcos are gaining ground quickly—but overseas it’s the other way around. DSL has the majority of broadband subscribers outside of North America. Domestically, competition is without a doubt our biggest threat, as the DBS guys have painfully shown us. It wasn’t that many years ago that some high-level cable industry executives considered "DBS" to be an abbreviation for "don’t be silly," and that attitude cost us big time. Now the telcos are jumping into the picture with fiber-to-the-home and similar architectures, with the intent of getting a piece of our market share. Their attempts in the video space have had problems in the past, but this time around I think they can inflict some serious damage if we don’t take them seriously. If you were starting out in cable today, where would you want to be? What would your immediate career plans and goals be? Probably doing what I do now. Immediate plans and goals would include getting up to speed on new technology, something that is difficult to do even for those who have been in cable for a length of time. Any final thoughts on vendor/operator relations? Successful vendors do much more than just sell boxes and widgets. These days, operator/vendor relationships are defined more as strategic partnerships.