Cable-Tec Expo: AI, Machine Learning to Change the Customer Experience, Comcast’s Watson Says

Denver -- Comcast Cable president and CEO Dave Watson tagged artificial intelligence and machine learning as a next big area of focus, especially to mine device and network data in ways that improve customer care.

Read More: Complete coverage of Cable-Tec Expo 2017

“We just hosted an AI demo day (in Philadelphia), it’s incredible … if there’s ever an industry that’s primed and could benefit from taking data and making it available to agents and customers, it’s ours. I think it’s really going to change the customer experience, profoundly.”

Watson spoke here during Wednesday’s (Oct. 18) luncheon panel at SCTE•ISBE Cable-Tec Expo, with Arris CEO Bruce McClelland and Multichannel News technology editor Jeff Baumgartner. Major themes: Gigabit services, WiFi resilience, and mobile 5G.

McClelland, who subscribes to Comcast’s Gigabit service in the Atlanta area, described it as “really responsive and pretty addictive.”

As for what services will warrant that much raw throughput: “The last thing I’m worried about is whether we’re going to consumer all the bandwidth -- I think we are,” in part because of advancements in virtual reality, augmented reality, 4K/HDR video, and the Internet of Things.

Watson also emphasized Comcast’s wireless intentions, both mobile and WiFi.

“By 2020, there’s going to be something like 50 devices hanging off of the WiFi, so it better be good,” he said. To address in-home coverage, he referenced Comcast’s investment in Palo Alto, Calif.-based Plume, which makes WiFi “pod”-styled extenders that will essentially create a mesh network in the home.

RELATED: Comcast Launches ‘xFi,’ Invests in Plume

Arris is similarly focused on mobile 5G small cells, for higher speeds, better connectivity and improved latency.

“It’s not unlike the HFC network, as we continue to split nodes and reduce service group sizes … there’s an opportunity to be very disruptive in the mobile space.”

Watson noted that it took about a decade for 4G wireless to fully launch.

“I’m not sure it’s as dire as an either/or,” in terms of 5G’s potential as both a mobile backhaul opportunity, and a last mile replacement. “It can be complimentary and additive, but it’s going to take a while.”