Most mortals have trouble predicting the future. At the start of the first session at the SCTE’s Conference on Emerging Technologies last Wednesday, Liberty Global SVP and CTO Tony Werner said that there are several ways to get it wrong. “There are things that we think are just around the corner that take forever to develop or are never built,” Werner said. “The other thing is that there are things that surprise us.” A recent call from a colleague using a Skype phone over a satellite-broadband link during trans-Atlantic flight, for instance, was remarkable enough that Werner did a double-take and called back. In another category, Werner said the amount of video content available on the Web is something that he expected yet still finds surprising. The question of how networks can accommodate that rising tide of content was one of ET’s leading themes. Arrest that lamba At the close of his breathless tour of the fast-approaching horizon, for instance, Wednesday ET keynoter and bona fide futurist Jim Carroll said that in order to handle such massive quantities, optical switches in the future will slow light down to 30 miles an hour. “We’ll be regularly stopping light,” he predicted. At that point, someone might have summoned one of the industry’s top optical brains (OpVista CTO Dr. Winston Way and Aurora Networks CTO Oleh Sniezko were both in attendance) for a follow-up on when, where and how this could happen. As it happens, ET’s one optics-oriented paper, presented on Wednesday by Shamim Akhtar, a senior manager of engineering and operations at Comcast, veered back toward the here- and-now by touting results from the test of an outdoor plant-implementation of CWDM. Arguably emerging two years ago when Time Warner Cable’s Tom Staniec talked about his “lambda on a pole” in the pre-conference ET tutorial, that technology is now pretty well baked. What may have been novel in Akhtar’s presentation, however, was the idea of proactively using this technology in the business services arena. Three-to-five years? Two prominent presentations in sessions A and B on Wednesday both did a good job of surveying existing trends and future decision points, thus fitting into the ET mandate of looking out three to five years. In his session A discussion of bandwidth vs. storage, Joe Matarese, CTO, C-COR Solutions Business Unit, for instance, spoke exabytes (if not zettabytes and yottabytes, as did futurist Carroll). Kicking off session B, Time Warner Cable Chief Network Architect John Carlucci level-set cable’s existing networking and storage technologies, took note of the standards and technology “laws” associated with growth, drew a matrix of the types of services that will fuel growth, and closed with a daunting list of “things to be sorted out.” One item that is being sorted out faster than we may realize is switched digital video, a topic discussed both by BigBand Networks CTO Ran Oz, in his talk on edge innovations, and by Scientific-Atlanta Director of Network Architecture Lorenzo Bombelli, in his overview of the components of an open SDV architecture. Bombelli flagged the accelerated rollout at the outset: “Why present a 2006 architecture in a 2010 panel?” The answer is not only that operators (Time Warner Cable, in particular) kicked SDV into a higher gear in 2005 but also, as Bombelli said, that it “is really a launching pad … useful in transition.” Which begs the question: transition toward what? One answer came from Cisco Systems Software Development Manager Harsh Parandekar, whose talk introduced V-DOC (video delivery over DOCSIS) as one of the industry’s latest acronyms. “V-DOC is a more future-looking solution,” Parandekar conceded. How expensive a solution it is is a variable that generated some of the day’s most pointed give-and-take. Critics of a V-DOC approach chafe at current expenditures on CMTS technology; Parandekar countered that the combination of DOCSIS 3.0 and the forthcoming modular (M)CMTS architecture will increase bandwidth and reduce cost. VoIP/SIP, enhanced TV, all-digital The tension between future possibilities and here-and-now technologies shaped the discussion of other topics. Eugene Lew, VP of advanced services at NeuStar, said present demands of MSO IP interconnection are creating the need for a VoIP and SIP directory by using a global root model that also includes cable’s wireless partners. In introducing the open-source embedded scripted language called Lua, Mathew Emans, VP product management at Navic Networks, pointed to an intriguing new way to enhance cable’s set-top software stacks. Dave Higgins, VP of engineering and information technology at Comcast Media Center, described how CMC’s video-rich navigation (VRN), developed in conjunction with GuideWorks, has now integrated linear TV and VOD choices onto one portal. Wei Min Zhang, CTO BroadLogic Network Technologies, shared his vision of delivering 600 Mbps throughout a home by way of an IP Home Gateway that leverages up to 16 carriers and could provide a “virtual upgrade for many operators” from 550 MHz to 860 MHz. Meanwhile, RGB Networks President and CEO Adam Tom, whose technology is enabling some of the industry’s digital simulcast deployments, argued that the answer to current and looming bandwidth limitations is the continued advancement of video processing technologies. Competition: More digital and IPTV Dovetailing with Tom’s presentation was that by Basil Badawiyeh, manager, advanced video and development, for Adelphia Communications. His Thursday morning, session C, talk on “Cascading Simulcast Waves” emphasized the potential for expanded HD services to trigger more such deployments. Badawiyeh said it would take the flexible use of several techniques (rate shaping, advanced codecs and switching) to handle a 1:1 SD:HD simulcast. “The most important thing is the scalable design,” he said. Roughly organized around the theme of competition, session C featured two IPTV-related presentations. Kshitij Kumar, director, business development at C-COR, said that the “open” or free, over-the top purveyors of video threaten yet at the same time “need” cable. In response, cable should become the “uni-play,” or single provider of all communications services, by leveraging intelligent carrier IP/Ethernet networks. Harmonic VP Solutions Nimrod Ben-Natan said bandwidth constraints, not constant bit rate (CBR) standard and channel-change delays, are among the weaknesses of a telcoTV offering. One advantage: “They can scale VOD quite nicely.” As an enabler of both threats and opportunities, IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) figured in the talks by both Luis Blanco, business development manager at Ericsson, and Eric Rosenfeld, director of PacketCable architecture at CableLabs. Blanco argued that work under way within ETSI and its TISPAN (Telecom & Internet converged Services & Protocols for Advanced Networks) technical committee to develop specs not covered in the IMS core, while initially aimed at xDSL networks, could nonetheless benefit cable in its fixed/mobile convergence play. Rosenfeld explained that PacketCable 2.0, which will be released sometime this year, sought to address developments in the areas of SIP and IMS. “Up until now, there has never been a voice for cable in the development of these standards,” he said. The goal of such participation, he added, was to “enhance IMS and ultimately put those requirements back into IMS.” – Jonathan Tombes and Mike Robuck

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