CableNet to Present Latest in High-Tech

Dec 1, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Cable operators will peer into the future at the annual CableNet exhibit at this year’s Western Cable Show.
CableNet, sponsored by research consortium CableLabs, is the industry’s technology showcase. In its 11th year, CableNet will feature 45 companies in its final run at the Western Show, which itself is bowing out this year. But CableNet will reappear in five months as a component of the National Show, sponsored by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, to be held in New Orleans in May.
In its final Western Show appearance, the showcase will feature a host of applications, some of which are just coming to market and others that won’t be commercially deployed for a few years. The applications run the gamut from interactive TV tools to HD on VOD to voice over IP (voice delivered using the Internet protocol) to home networking.
Expect voice over IP to play a large role in the tech demos this year, said Mike Schwartz, senior VP of communications at CableLabs. “I see a lot about voice over IP. It says the industry is finally getting ready for this,” he said. The CableNet exhibits usually track along at the early stages when cable companies are getting interested in such projects, he said.
For example, CableNet in 1996 featured a number of technology companies exhibiting pre-DOCSIS modems. Cable modems have since become an established business for operators.
While CableNet’s focus is technology, the demonstrations are designed to allow both chief technology officers and nontechnical people to get a taste of some of the latest emerging broadband technologies, Mr. Schwartz said.
Here’s a sampling of the companies and demonstrations set for CableNet 2003:
* Motorola will showcase its next-generation home networking center that does it all. Called the Broadband Media Center, the Motorola box was developed in conjunction with ITV company Digeo and cable operator Charter, which plans to deploy it commercially later this month in Rochester, Minn.
Charter announced in June a purchase of 100,000 boxes. The home gateway box handles high definition, includes DVR functionality and a cable modem, and comes with an optional DVD drive. The Moxi Service from Digeo enables gaming and photo storage, said Bernadette Vernon, director of strategic marketing at the digital core gateways group at Motorola.
“You can move data through the house and you can move video through the house,” she said. “So if you were watching VOD in your living room, you could pause it and watch it on the TV upstairs. It is a two-tuner solution, so you can watch and record at the same time.”
The primary box is about 60 percent larger than a traditional set-top box; the secondary unit for additional TV viewing is about the size of a cable modem. The broadband media center comes in two versions: the 9012 for a little under $500 and the 9022, which includes the DVD player and two-TV support, for $750 to $800. The 9000 line was introduced in July.
* Microsoft plans to showcase the Microsoft TV Foundation edition that it introduced at the NCTA show in June. Since then it has been formally evaluated by Motorola and has received the seal of approval that it works with Motorola boxes. Foundation is a platform that supports interactive program guides, games, targeted ads and subscriber self-provisioning, said Laura Norman, senior marketing manager at Microsoft. It also allows operators to create “on-demand storefronts” to increase the usage and buy rates for VOD.
* VOD server maker nCUBE will demonstrate HD content from iN Demand playing through an nCUBE server. It will also show HD ad insertion, which allows HD ads to be inserted into video content, said Jay Schiller, senior VP of market development for nCube.
“When customers buy our equipment to insert on analog or digital, it will also handle HD,” he said. “So when HD comes along, they don’t have to swap out the system. The system can insert into HD or SD programming.”
* Interactive TV company ICTV will demonstrate some of the technology it has talked about over the past several months: VOD menuing and merchandising, customer care and advanced games applications that all run on ICTV’s HeadendWare platform. ICTV is expected to announce and demonstrate a relationship that will offer operators an additional revenue-generating opportunity from VOD menuing, the company said.
* Real Networks will demonstrate the video version of its Helix digital rights management solution. Digital rights becomes more important to operators as they contemplate the possibility of migrating to an all-digital, or IP, infrastructure, said Ian McKerlich, general manager of broadband solutions at RealNetworks.
* P-Cube plans to demonstrate its Engage application, which allows cable operators to manage IP services and to determine how much IP capacity is needed for different types of applications. The IP business is just starting to ramp up in the United States, said Yuval Shahar, president and CEO of P-Cube.
“Our focus is intelligent service control-mapping the IP traffic and providing visibility for MSOs to see what can run on an IP network and have control to manage how a network reacts to certain traffic,” he said.
P-Cube will also be featured during Julian Brodsky’s “Emerging Broadband Ventures” presentation Dec. 3. The vice chairman of Comcast and chairman of Comcast Interactive Capital will lead a session in which he will introduce four emerging technology companies, including P-Cube, to an audience of venture capitalists and cable operators.
* Syndeo will demonstrate how cable operators can offer PacketCable-based primary line telephony and SIP (session initiation protocol)-based video telephony services on the same network. The demonstration will allow callers to see each other on-screen on monitors.
* BigBand Networks will show headend-based and edge-based switching and processing applied for cable services, including digital, HDTV and VOD.
* Cedar Point will showcase its IP telephony solution. The company will demonstrate its Safari Media Switching System, which supports advanced multimedia services, including video telephony, without additional devices.
* Lemur Networks will demonstrate activation and provisioning in the PacketCable environment as well as Web-based self-care features of its i-Fabric Voice Manager.