Cable-Tec Expo 2011: Starting to Deal with the Multiscreen Reality

Cable-Tec Expo 2011 is history. The initial impression is that the key indicator -- the number of sore feet in Building B of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta -- suggests a healthy industry. More than 10,000 people visited the show this year, easi...

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By Carl Weinschenk, Senior Editor

Cable-Tec Expo 2011 is history. The initial impression is that the key indicator -- the number of sore feet in Building B of the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta -- suggests a healthy industry. More than 10,000 people visited the show this year, easily surpassing the 8,200 that were in New Orleans last year.

One thing that visits to a number of booths made clear is that multiscreen has entered a new phase. The early days -- the “gee-whiz” stage in which the discussion begins and ends with pronouncements about the extravagant promise and basic coolness of the new technology -- are over. The awareness of that promise still is there, of course. That now is mixed with a real world acknowledgement that nothing comes easy. Indeed, the challenges are about as impressive as the promise.

The industry is beginning to deal with those intricacies. How can the tricky mix of adaptive bitrate streaming formats -- at least three types and, within each, multiple “profiles” -- be accommodated without reinventing the wheel several times over? How can advertising best be inserted into this complex environment? What types of platforms are necessary to support multiscreen without making it more difficult to move into other potentially lucrative businesses, such as smart home and home security?

These questions won’t be answered in a technical bubble, of course. Indeed, the industry is undergoing a seismic shift in how it is used by its subscribers -- and even the definition of what a subscriber is. At the conference, Marie Fiala Timlin, the assistant vice president of product and solution marketing for Sandvine, described how fixed line, real-time entertainment service traffic is shifting. She said the increasing use of OTT to carry real-time entertainment means that data usage patterns are looking more like broadcast: There is more drop off during non-peak hours, and prime time is more pronounced and a bit more concentrated.

Network usage patterns will impact, perhaps subtly, the decisions that are made. For instance, Steve Tranter, the vice president of broadband and interactive for NDS, said operators must decide whether the headend or home gateway is the focal point of the intelligence in multiscreen deployments. This predominantly is a financial, not technical, decision. In that context, usage patterns are the key metric. Likewise, management and other operative considerations will be the gating factor on the move to an all-IP network, said Mark Palazzo, the vice president and general manager for Cisco’s cable access business unit.

Carl Weinschenk is the Senior Editor for Broadband Technology Report. Contact him at carl@broadbandtechreport.com.



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