SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2014 – ISBE, RDK, and SEMI

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Denver had its first broadcast of Ed Sullivan’s ‘Toast of the Town’ on the corner of 6th and Sherman. A little over 60 years later, Denver was host to hundreds of service providers and vendors for this year’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, only a few blocks away at the convention center; raising the bar and surpassing expectations.

The 2014 Expo was more than just a forum for service providers to meet up with software and hardware vendors, it was an opportunity to gain insight into current events throughout every part of the cable industry, from DC power transformers to the latest changes in best practices, standards, and new capabilities. I had numerous great discussions with industry experts throughout the four days in Denver, and would like to share some of my findings.

The newest industry buzzword, ISBE (pronounced IS-BEE), the International Society of Broadband Experts, was one of the biggest announcements at the Expo. ISBE will serve as a brand to provide unified training throughout the global cable engineering and operation markets. With close ties to SCTE and CableLabs, ISBE is intended to eliminate brand confusion by making sure that state-of-the-art content and training curriculum is available to industry professionals everywhere in the language they speak. ISBE members are also working to get training in high schools, so that the next generations can continue to develop and deliver exciting technological advancements. This is an exciting piece of news for cable industry workers outside of the US, who haven’t had an equivalent to SCTE until now.

It was refreshing to see RDK (reference design kit) making impressive headway as a reference platform stack for use in CPE including STBs, gateways, smart TVs, and converged devices. Providing a common platform will eventually yield efficiencies in CPE developments as well as provide an abstract layer for service providers to deliver a common user experience across multiple devices and vendors.

Another exciting session was energy efficiencies in the plant. SCTE Smart Energy Management Initiative (SEMI) looked at five key areas in a cable operator including the facilities, plant, operations, technologies, and marketing/regulations with the net goal of reducing power consumption by approximately 20% across all combined. SEMI is key in the evolution of standards that can be seen in the net effect of DOCSIS 3.1. Leveraging some of the capabilities in CableLabs standards including R-PHY for remote nodes, increased capacities/efficiencies provided by CCAP, and reducing waste through dynamic capacity increases using NFV — the future looks exciting.

DOCSIS 3.1 and TR-069 were, as usual, big discussion points at the Expo. The ramifications of big data over DOCSIS 3.1 are still being understood. With the explosive growth of OTT and the increased pressure from consumer electronic devices with capacity of 4K and looming 8K video, service providers are scrambling to provide reliable networks with sufficient capacities to handle the increasing variable loads. Out comes the next evolution in DOCSIS 3.1 with R-PHY, OFDM and increased efficiencies including dynamic, independent QAM modulation to deal with RF impairments. A big challenge posed to service providers is trying to figure out how they will supply the increased power required when switching to DOCSIS 3.1 and dissipate the corresponding heat produced. It was great hearing concerns directly from service providers during the Expo sessions with ad-hoc brainstorming on how to adapt to various fixed plant constraints or how to support MOCA 1.1 with DOCSIS 3.1. Furthermore, many operators are still searching for solutions that will help them leverage and manage devices using TR-069. The benefits — like streamlined configuration, automated initiation, enhanced network vision, QoE in the connected home, and increased customer support — are all becoming well understood, but now the question of how to use it efficiently and effectively is on the top of the operators’ minds.

Developing our solutions with these topics and questions in mind is a crucial takeaway from these industry trade shows, and having the opportunity to discuss these developments or participate and share in Q&A sessions with other industry experts serves great value as we move forward. If we can align our software systems with new industry standards, or alleviate operator worries with intuitive and well-rounded products, we will ensure that the industry continues to progress effectively into the future.

SCTE Cable-Tec Expo ’14 was a rousing experience that gave me the opportunity to reach out and make new connections, see what the industry is working on, and learn a whole lot along the way. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Expo in New Orleans — can I hear a ‘woot woot’.

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