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Engineering-wise: Creating the cable generalist

Tue, 09/17/2013 - 7:09pm
Steve Harris, Senior Director, Advanced Network Technologies, SCTE

Every time I open CED, I’m reminded of just how rapidly our industry is changing. Whether it’s deployment of new advanced video technology, the continued rollout of business services or new applications for broadband, it’s clear that our industry is quickening its pace of innovation.

We’ve come a long way from cable’s days as an analog video delivery platform. The past 20 years have seen a parade of technologies and business changes that have revolutionized our service offerings in ways that would have been unimaginable to many of the industry’s founders.

With the new technology has come new opportunity for the cable engineering community. The creation of truly converged IP networks that can meet the needs of an increasingly diverse, increasingly mobile customer base is requiring new skill sets for field and network operations personnel.

The guiding factor in putting together our “Creating the Cable Generalist” pre-conference symposium at SCTE Cable- Tec Expo next month was simply this: a recognition that the need for increased expertise is driving demand for a new type of cable engineer who can move easily and knowledgably among the many services that our industry has to offer.

As the industry is dismantling its video, voice and data silos, it is creating new opportunities for current and future cable professionals to increase their value to their employers, their industry and themselves. By mastering the entire landscape of the network, service offerings and customers, the next-generation professional is able to drive deployment of high-quality, highly reliable services that are helping cable maintain its competitive edge.

As we make this transition, a key problem that needs to be solved is the significant portion of network issues that continues to derive from human error. Broadband telecom and network operations center staff may make configuration changes that solve an issue for the aspect of the network they understand fully, but create issues for other services and network elements.

Sometimes it’s as simple as IP engineers needing a basic RF and DOCSIS background, or vice versa. Or it may be subtle interoperability issues between different access network types like HFC and metro Ethernet that arise in troubleshooting IP connectivity issues.

Another aspect of this problem relates to the continued efforts to centralize and consolidate back offices by cable operators to create ‘one network’ and 360-degree views of the customer. As more of the cable technical workforce gets increased visibility into more data about our networks and customer issues, it is critical that this workforce understand the data they are seeing and not misinterpret and make poor decisions on how best to use that data.

Cable generalists also make better managers and strategists because they understand all aspects of the networks, not just the ones in the silos through which they rose. Imagine an RF engineer or technician who rises up through the ranks and suddenly needs to make decisions on upgrades to the now majority-IP portion of the network. They need to understand basic networking, digital fiber networking, and network interoperability issues to make these decisions.

At “Creating the Cable Generalist,” recognized experts from our industry will conduct the following sessions: Competitive Access Networks, exploring many of the existing competing access network architectures such as, but not limited to LTE, GPON, Google Fiber, RFoG, MEF and Community Wi-Fi; Connecting Technology to Business Success, an overview of the frameworks used to analyze competition in technology industries, as well as how to develop a technology strategy; Digital Video, a close look at MPEG compression techniques used to optimize bandwidth efficiency while maintaining competitive video quality; BSS/OSS Fundamentals , which will discuss the various management areas, key network elements and the role of customer care; Wi-Fi Connectivity, exploring enhanced capabilities at the physical layer, improved RF propagation and AAA, WPA and WPS security; Internet Foundations such as CE, DOCSIS, SDN, IPv6, SONET, QoS, virtualization and others; Network Interoperability, a discussion of the interoperability challenges and routing alternatives used by MSOs and traffic found in the digital network; and Optical Networks, which will focus on theory and real world applications that will aide in the understanding of fiber physics, optical detectors and transmitters.

The complete list of topics, as well as registration information, is here.

As we developed the agenda for “Creating the Cable Generalist,” we thought long and hard about the issues above and the other challenges facing the industry. The symposium is designed to provide attendees with a 360-degree view of the opportunities ahead and lay a foundation for future learning.

The remarkable growth that cable has experienced over the past several decades has been due in part to the eagerness of the industry’s engineering workforce to embrace technological change and expedite delivery of new products and services. With the era of the cable generalist upon us, the industry is setting the stage for the creation and availability of new products that can drive cable success well into the future.

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