CableNET to ShowcaseHome Networking, ITV

Cable Television Laboratories Inc. and the California Cable Television Association are preparing to show the world "what's next" in cable technology and applying the finishing touches to the eighth-annual CableNET 2000 showcase, which will run parallel to this week's Western Show in Los Angeles.

It's also just about time to find out what's really behind all of this DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), PacketCable and OpenCable stuff we've been hearing so much about, and to get a first-hand view of just how far the technologies based on those standards have advanced since our last lap around the sun.

In addition to making technical strides, those projects have also created an extremely fertile breeding ground for longtime technology players and newcomers. In the early 1990s, CableNET supported about 25 participants and 2,500 square feet of floor space.

The annual technology showcase has grown on a large scale since then, and this year will handle roughly 70 participants and 10,000 square feet of wall-to-wall demonstrations.

Last year, a mob of tech enthusiasts and skeptics walked the halls of CableNET, gaining some hands-on experience with interactive-television applications and other nascent technologies and applications that were finally making the pipe dream-to-reality shift.

They'll all be on hand again this year, giving Western Show attendees an opportunity to find out for themselves what technologies are smoking and what ones are perhaps just blowing smoke.

With so much equipment and software to tie together, CableNET has almost become a year-round process. CableLabs' request-for-proposal process with vendors started back in the June-May timeframe.

Today, that focus centers on technology and applications that are threading their way into home or small office/home office settings.

"We'll have about 100 areas devoted to living space," said CableLabs senior vice president of communications Mike Schwartz, who noted that some of those areas will even house replicated kitchens with home networking capabilities.

Though CableNET's size and scope will give show-goers plenty of technology on which to chew, many of the demonstrations play along similar themes and indicate the technical trends that the cable industry is currently exploring, or, at the very least, thinking about.

Judging from this year's yield of demonstrations, voice-over-IP, wired and wireless home networking, interactive television, and streaming media applications should grab the lion's share of the attention.

Another hot topic will be DOCSIS 1.1, which includes specifications that foster integrated QoS and voice and data applications. Cable modem termination system vendors such as RiverDelta Networks Inc., Cadant Inc. and ADC Telecommunications Inc. as well as cable modem manufactures like Future Networks Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. will be demonstrating how their equipment interoperates for the more advanced (and complex) specifications.

CableNET also will show off a variety of digital set-top boxes with point-of-deployment security features, designed to pave the way for a retail set-top market.

Additionally, legions of vendors are also champing at the bit to demonstrate how their technology supports CableLabs' interoperability projects.

More than vendors are getting into the act. CableLabs itself will show off "Go2Broadband," an Internet-based messaging service that informs potential high-speed cable customers if service is available in their neighborhood and lists consumer-electronics stores that carry cable modems on their shelves.

What's in Store at CableNet