The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers has built up a mountain of accomplishments during its previous 40 years of existence, and now that mountaintop is providing a good perch for where the association needs to go in the future.
Roughly 100 days into his term as president and CEO of the SCTE, Mark Dzuban has a pretty good idea of where the SCTE is headed in both the near and long term. Dzuban said focus groups composed of cable operator chief technology officers and other members of senior leadership teams are currently being formed to define where the industry as a whole is headed and how the SCTE can help the MSOs reach their goals.
“There is a renaissance – and I use the term renaissance because it’s for the appreciation of basic engineering skills – underway as the Society has moved from traditional cable technology to a much broader stroke of telecommunication interests,” Dzuban said. “The renaissance of basic engineering skills isn’t just about the last mile of the cable plant. It’s the whole network and how we develop our partnerships and skills.”
Yvette Kanouff, a past chairwoman of the SCTE’s board and SeaChange International’s chief strategy officer, said the SCTE is working on both broadening and deepening its scope in order to stay nimble and relevant in an industry that has changed considerably since the SCTE’s inception.
“While it’s super important to keep the chapter support and the support in the field, there has been so much consolidation that the SCTE has to focus on the main issues engineering-wise that we are facing operationally today,” she said.
As part of his overall plan, Dzuban said he has already spoken with CableLabs President and CEO Richard Green, Bill Check, senior vice president of science and technology for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow to “minimize redundancy and to optimize the clarity of our missions.”
One example of the SCTE and NCTA working in tandem was the announcement in May that the SCTE was taking over responsibility for the ongoing maintenance and publication of the NCTA Recommended Practices for Measurements on Cable Television Systems.
“I went out and met with Dick Green and the gang at CableLabs last year to talk about the best practices and how we have to get that jumpstarted,” said Tom Gorman, the SCTE’s at-large director and chairman of the board, and Charter’s vice president of field operations. “We’re all working on defining those roles to make them clearer because they weren’t always evident to a lot of people.”
While the SCTE is working on drawing up its plan of attack to address the needs of an ever-evolving industry, there are several areas that Dzuban and company have already identified and started work on, including energy management, disaster recovery, more certification, network operations and developing IT/IP expertise.
“Clearly, one of the areas we need to focus on is energy management,” Dzuban said. “There are tools that we’re working on today that will drive down the idle time of trucks from 3 hours a day to 30 minutes, which from an operational perspective is pretty significant.
“We’re also looking at the consumption of energy in our facilities.”
Along with more advanced certification courses, the SCTE will also need to look at new standards and committees to keep up with emerging technologies.
“There are some clear trends that we’re seeing,” SeaChange’s Gordon said. “We’re seeing a lot of centralization of functions, especially as we really start to look at the three-screen environment and start to share video across one to the other, and sharing bookmarking among content. If you’re really looking toward tomorrow, you have to look at IT infrastructures and the standards across those in a very serious way.”
Dzuban said he is working with various entities, cable operator employees and vendors on fine-tuning a three-year plan, but he expects to be continually tweaking the plan as the industry changes.
“We have certification programs that are now being revisited by the CTO and senior folks, who are saying we need to get ahead of the ball instead of behind the ball and build a workforce for the new technologies that we see on the horizon,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘Let’s build the foundation and the tools these folks will need to operate these systems in a forward-looking view.’”