Cable’s best techies are about to gather in Denver for SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, and the eyes of MSO execs are already starting to glaze over in anticipation of acronym-heavy e-mails from their engineers. They should pay strict attention, though: Their techies are perfecting innovations that promise to make MSOs money, cut costs and generally cream the competition. They’re the industry’s first line of defense against the telco barbarians at the gate. While cable execs love their marketers and "strategic thinkers," it’s those geeks toiling in the basement that will drive revenue and cost savings over the next few years. With the assistance of CableLabs CTO Ralph Brown, we’ve assembled a quick guide to some of the projects that promise to boost the bottom line. Our goal is to help cable execs understand the language and motives of the wizards in the laboratory. DOCSIS 3.0 It’s all about speed and competitive advantage. The current DOCSIS 2.0 standard tops out at around 30 Mbps, but the 3.0 version will include "channel bonding," which enables up to 160 Mbps downstream and 120 Mbps upstream. (Take that, Verizon and AT&T.) MSOs can use higher speeds to retain customers and offer high-octane broadband tiers to drive incremental revenue. DOCSIS 3.0’s modular CMTS, meanwhile, allows closer integration with QAM-based video so that MSOs can share equipment between services. "It’s a capex preservation strategy," says Brown. DOCSIS 3.0 should be ready in Q3. Prototypes will be on display at Expo. PacketCable 2.0 CableLabs released the core specs for PacketCable 2.0 in April—and not a moment too soon. As cable operators work on quadruple-play strategies, PacketCable 2.0 is the glue that will bring it all together so those new revenue streams can flow. "It’s really creating the next generation of IP services," says Brown. One big benefit: Fixed-mobile convergence that will allow seamless integration of voice-over-IP landline phones with mobile handsets. Expect a lot of talk about that and other IP-integration benefits at Expo. OpenCable This initiative has always been about promoting interactive capabilities, but it will also expand potential markets. The OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver (OCUR), for example, gives MSOs entr�e into the PC market beyond that Ethernet connection to the cable modem. OCUR-equipped Windows Vista PCs coming out next year will create "a substantial new outlet for MSOs" looking to extend cable service from the TV to the PC and beyond. The OpenCable Applications Platform (OCAP), meanwhile, will let one set-top work on any cable system. The bottom line: It’s all about lowering equipment costs for operators, and that ultimately increases profits. Michael Grebb is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who specializes in technology and media trends. He can be reached at Cablegrebb@aol.com.