Suddenlink’s CTO Terry Cordova recently was named to the 2011 class of Cable TV Pioneers by The Cable Center, and he currently is serving as Program Committee chair for this month’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta. Cordova has been at the forefront of cable’s product-and-service innovation, and he has worked tirelessly to make sure his company’s 130-plus techs are 100-percent SCTE certified.
Cordova talked with Communications Technology and sister publication CableFAX about what he sees as the continuing successes and challenges in the cable industry while also touching on the progress of such ongoing initiatives as Project Imagine, Careerlink and the “green” movement.
If you could implement one new technology tomorrow at Suddenlink, what would it be?
I would implement a multi-room DVR solution widely across the enterprise with a very compelling user interface using existing MoCA and /or Ethernet capability that would do unified searches and provide content folders and other options. We are making some progress with our TiVo solution but, given the ability to snap my fingers, I would enable multi-room DVR in every DVR household we have.
What are the top three products/services your customers have been requesting?
Digital TV, high-speed Internet, phone and wireless home networking (we call it WiFi@Home) are our hottest services right now. Our expanding HD lineup is popular as are our new, faster Internet services. We’re also finding our new TiVo Premiere DVRs, now with multi-room capabilities, increasingly popular. We also expect that as data consumption continues to grow, customers will have more and more of an interest in our DOCSIS 3.0 product. The good news is that it will be available to nearly 90 percent of our customers by year’s end.
How are you leveraging wireless?
On the residential side, Suddenlink2GO is a good example. We also offer WiFi@Home to make it easier for customers to share high-speed Internet connections anywhere in the house without wired connections. By year-end 2011, we’ll be approaching 90-percent deployment of DOCSIS 3.0, so we’re now buying D3 Wi-Fi modems to maximize the customer experience in the home. For businesses, we’ve been installing Wi-Fi hot spots.
And where are you with TV Everywhere initiatives?
We introduced Suddenlink2GO on June 8 as an online video service, featuring tens of thousands of full-length TV episodes and shorter video clips plus more than 1,300 movies – all accessible through a Suddenlink portal anywhere in the United States, both inside and outside the home. We’re also reviewing options to make our VOD service available through Suddenlink2GO.
On July 18, Suddenlink was among six major providers (including Comcast, Cox, DISH Network and Verizon) listed in CNN’s announcement that CNN’s and HLN’s complete 24-hour television networks would be streamed live on CNN.com, on the CNN App for iPad, and on the CNN App for iPhone and iPod touch.
How is the expansion of your VOD space going? Will you have to create even more space sooner than you thought?
In late July, we doubled the capacity of our VOD service from 10,000 hours to 20,000 hours; and we have been adding more and more content to fill that space. Sometime next year, we’re planning to increase our VOD capacity to 30,000 hours.
What are you doing in the enterprise-business marketplace?
We have a fast-growing commercial sales team offering services including Layer 2 Optical Services that connect anywhere from two up to 70 locations; dedicated Internet access up to 2.5 Gigs; and Business Class Phone services, including PRIs, Web hosting and network security. We have expertise in developing solutions for healthcare, financial, government and education vertical markets. Through CoStreet, the Carrier Services Division of Suddenlink, we offer solutions including fiber to the tower and long-haul circuits — up to 10 Gig connections — to cellular and other carriers.
Is security part of this mix?
Suddenlink Security is a great complement to our other services. It’s another way for our customers to benefit from our state-of-the-art network, including the ability to monitor property remotely and get email, text or phone alerts. We’ve seen about 66-percent growth in the 12 months ending June 30. In the coming months, we plan to offer several new features, including the ability to remotely arm and disarm the system, lock and unlock doors, turn lights on and off, and reset thermostats. We’ll also be integrating home safety devices – smoke detectors, flood sensors, and carbon monoxide detectors, for instance – so that customers are protected, even when not at home.
Are you pretty much on autopilot as chair of SCTE Cable-Tec Expo’s programming, now that we’re only a couple of weeks away?
We’ve got a hard-working Program Committee doing a lot of heavy lifting to make sure Cable-Tec Expo is as relevant as possible for attendees’ needs. There are a lot of changes that have happened behind the scenes — the planning that has gone into the Green Pavilion and the Next Generation Video Pavilion along with a great increase in the number of individual presentations and this year’s Capacity Management Symposium have significantly improved the show. The Opening General Session we’ve put together will likely be one of the best ever, with representation from many key industry leaders.
“Digital TV, high-speed Internet, phone and wireless home networking (we call it WiFi@Home) are our hottest service. We’re also finding our new TiVo Premiere DVRs, now with multi-room capabilities, increasingly popular. ”
SCTE Cable-Tec Expo is focusing heavily on green initiatives this year. What has Suddenlink been doing to decrease its carbon footprint?
Our employees, through a program known as “Greenlink,” have taken on a number of initiatives to reduce energy consumption, use more recyclable products for break rooms and meetings, reduce water usage and more. Our Jonesboro and Russellville, Ark., teams have initiated what they call “eCycling” programs to help local citizens properly recycle old electronics equipment. In just a couple of years, our folks have collected between 80 and 90 tons of equipment in just those two communities. We also are an Energy Star partner.
Do you have any results to report regarding Careerlink?
Careerlink has been a great success. Our goal is to develop and train the most skilled technical work force in the industry to provide superior customer service. This program was instrumental in Suddenlink becoming, last July, the first major cable operator to have all of its broadband technicians and installers (who have been with the company for at least 90 days) achieve one or more professional certifications from SCTE. We’ve seen reductions in the number of service calls and repeat calls. Suddenlink has the most improved results where we’re measured by J.D. Power & Associates between 2007 and 2010.
What are some of the biggest challenges ahead?
We will be completing our Project Imagine program next year; it’s our nationwide capital investment program, begun in late 2009, calling for approximately $350 million over three years above and beyond Suddenlink’s traditional capital spending levels. To date in Project Imagine, we have upped our average number of HD channels from 24 to 66, with some lineups now having more than 90 HD channels; we expect to have capacity in most areas for up to 200 HD channels by the end of the project. Going forward, our mission is to provide our customers with greater flexibility. As part of that, we want to provide choice in their search for compelling video content. Our June 8 Suddenlink2GO announcement was just the beginning.
Ultimately, we will continue to challenge ourselves to improve customer service beyond the industry-leading improvements we’ve already produced since 2007. One major effort in that process involves scheduling. Our technicians now use a wireless handheld appointment manager system that provides them with tools to help them increase their percentage of on-time appointments and appointments completed on the same day as scheduled. Through a recent employee contest, we’ve named this system PROMPT.
In the first six months after we launched this tool, we saw the time techs were able to spend with customers (rather than driving or completing required administrative tasks) increase nearly 14 percent. We saw the percentage of jobs completed the same day as scheduled increase nearly 9 percent. And we saw the percentage of on-time appointments increase nearly 5 percent. We are currently testing this technology’s customer notification and survey capabilities in several locations and hope to soon provide our customer-service reps with improved visibility into technician ETAs (estimated times of arrival), so they can provide that information to customers. Subsequently, we hope to roll out the automated voice and online functionality, enabling customers to check technician ETAs on their own without needing to speak with an agent.
Contact Terry Cordova at email@example.com.