Denver -- Tele-Communications Inc. chairman and CEO John
Malone's keynote speech Wednesday will highlight a week of tech-talk and
floor-hopping, as cable's technical ranks head here in droves this week to
participate in the biggest annual event for broadband practitioners, the Cable-Tec Expo.
At press time, upward of 7,000 were expected for the
three-day technical conference and exposition, which starts Wednesday at the Colorado
Convention Center and runs through Friday, with certification tests and a golf tournament
to follow Saturday morning.
More than 375 hardware and software vendors will also set
the stage for this year's Expo, hosted by the Society of Cable Telecommunications
With its mantra of "training, certification and
standards," the SCTE developed the annual Expo as a one-stop immersion-learning
experience for technical cable staffers, with technical sessions repeated several times
over three days, new-product exhibits and certification testing.
Pre-conference tutorials precede the Expo Tuesday, so that
attendees can brush up on technologies like local- and wide-area networks and how data
move over them; cable-modem basics; and a primer on digital techniques.
Malone's speech is part of the SCTE's all-day
Engineering Conference. He'll join Richard Green, CEO of Cable Television
Laboratories Inc.; Richard Leghorn, a CableLabs director and industry pioneer; Trygve
Myhren, president of Myhren Media Inc.; and James Robbins, president and CEO of Cox
That group is expected to discuss their views on the future
of broadband, while reflecting on its past, in the context of CableLabs' 10th
anniversary this month, executives said last week.
Following that, cable's key senior technical brains
will talk about how to implement that vision.
In a panel discussion, Alex Best, Cox's senior vice
president of engineering; Jim Chiddix, chief technical officer of Time Warner Cable; Tony
Werner, executive vice president of engineering for TCI; and Bud Wonsiewicz, senior vice
president and chief strategy/technical officer for MediaOne, will discuss the operational
aspects of all things broadband, from digital video to cable telephony to the newest
buzzword, Internet protocol.
Following those presentations and the SCTE's typically
extensive awards presentation -- including the naming of this year's new SCTE
chairman of the board -- the exhibit floor opens.
The 1998 Expo show floor promises the usual cornucopia of
equipment, spanning every aspect of a cable system -- from satellite receivers to headend
gear, plant hardware and in-home electronics like set-tops and cable modems.
Last year, the SCTE decided to add a third day of exhibit
time, based on requests by both attendees and vendors. That decision holds this year, as
Engineers headed here this week said they're eager to
lay their hands on interoperable cable modems and affordably priced set-tops -- both
digital and advanced-analog -- and to view developments in optical technologies, like
dense wave-division multiplexing.
Antec Corp., Harmonic Lightwaves Inc. and new player Ortel
Corp. are among the vendors expected to detail their DWDM solutions here this week. TCI,
for one, has said that it will use DWDM in 14 major markets representing 100 communities.
That work is under way or on the schedule for TCI's
systems in Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area, Denver, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago,
Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore.
Some cable engineers also said they want to check out a new
amplifier made by ADC Telecommunications Inc.'s ADC Broadband Communications unit,
which will make its debut appearance in a private section of ADC's booth.
Billed by ADC as an industry first, the amplifier includes
a wireless transceiver that lets technicians "point and shoot" a hand-held
computer at it to garner vital statistics, instead of having to physically climb up to
check the unit. The new ADC amp has already generated a significant amount of pre-Expo
buzz among cable engineers.
Werner said he's also interested in another amplifier
technique: the addition of gallium-arsenide semiconductors, which offers performance
benefits over other hybrid techniques used in amplifiers.
Other items on Werner's Expo shopping list include
DWDM gear, processing solutions for broadcast-digital-TV signals and "other general
fiber optic" gear, like new lasers.
Best said he'll also be looking out for
"VOD seems to have resurrected itself," he said.
In the "need-a-solution-here" category, Best said he also wants to see
developments in tools for reverse-spectrum activation and management.
This year's Expo is also the last one during Bill
Riker's term as president of the SCTE. Riker is leaving the group June 13 to join the
National Cable Television Center and Museum as vice president.
The SCTE is in the midst of an executive search to fill
Riker's former SCTE role. At press time, no candidates had been identified.
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