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In Big D, SCTE Gets Futuristic

Cable engineers head to Dallas this week for the Society of Cable Telecommunications' Engineers' annual Conference on Emerging Technologies 2004, three days of tutorials on such front-burner issues as the all-digital network, operational support systems for triple-play networks and consumer devices and OpenCable.

The conference (Jan. 13 to 15) is designed to give cable engineers a view of what's just over the horizon. In addition to the panel sessions, Real Networks Inc. CEO Rob Glaser will deliver a keynote speech Jan. 15, adding a broadband Internet bent.

"The starting point for ET is making sure we have the right time horizon for the program," SCTE CEO John Clark said. "Three to five years out."

With that in mind, "the real focus is the promise of the all-digital network and the need to get more out of the bandwidth cable operators possess," Clark said.

To that end, Cequel III vice president of network engineering Don Loheide will deliver one key presentation "about getting content from anywhere to anywhere," said Marvin Nelson, vice president of technical programs at SCTE.

"That's our kickoff paper," he said. "How to extend bandwidth without extending the physical bandwidth — that was one of the things we're after."

BROADER BUSINESS

A session on the business market aims to go beyond targeting small and midsized businesses, Nelson said. "There's no reason why we can't play in the big leagues. What will it take to get us into that level of service provider?"

Neptec Optical Solutions CEO John Carberry delivers a wrap-up paper on "the coming collision of titans in broadband."

"That one really jumps out, and that's really a change from past ETs," said Clark, because Carberry will bring an outside perspective on what the regional Bell operating companies are up to.

"This is a future-look conference and it's targeted at a very specific segment of our industry," Clark said. "We aim at the top 700 to 800 technologists who will be involved in shaping cable's future technologies."

The all-digital network is front and center at ET. Thomas Staniec, vice president of network operations and engineering at Time Warner Cable, will moderate a pre-conference tutorial on the subject on Jan. 13.

The next day, following the presentation of the Young Engineer of the Year award by Clark, attendees will hear two all-digital presentations: "Migration to an All-Digital Product Offering" from Loheide, and "Completing the Transition to DTV" from executives from Cisco Systems and nCUBE Corp.

OCAP VIEWS

Three papers take a good look at the OpenCable Applications Platform: "JetsonsTV: Cable Delivered Interactive Entertainment, Information and Communication," from Terry Glatt, vice president, technology at Pace Micro Technology Americas; "OCAP Migration Path for Current and Legacy Two-Way Digital Set-Top Boxes," from Steve Calzone, Cox Communications Inc. ITV systems engineer and Vidiom Systems Corp. chief technology officer Eric Miller; and "DOCSIS Set-Top Gateway," from John Chapman, distinguished engineer, Cisco Systems Corp.

Interest in OCAP and interactive applications has increased markedly among cable operators in recent months because of News Corp.'s purchase of DirecTV, given News's extensive use of interactive applications with its British Sky Broadcasting plc satellite-TV service in the United Kingdom.