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Broadband Direct

Daily news and top headlines for broadband communications engineering and design professionals

Building the cornerstone

May 31, 1999 8:00 pm | by Dick Gulley, Staff Applications Engineer, Scientific-Atlanta Inc. | Comments

The impact of convergence and digital technology on the cable industry is leading to major changes in network design and management, and probably nowhere is this more evident than at the headend. The combination of video, voice and data is placing tremendous loads on cable systems that were built just for the delivery of TV programming.


Planning for the future

May 31, 1999 8:00 pm | by Michael Laferty, Associate Editor | Comments

The digital revolution-whether it is video, voice or data-is shaking the cable industry down to its very roots…literally and figuratively. At the very heart of this revolution is the cable headend. With the addition of high-speed data, digital TV, a host of interactive services, and finally, lifeline telephony, old structures and old designs simply won't do.


Creating smarter headends

May 31, 1999 8:00 pm | by Patrick Harshman, Ph.D., Director of Product Line Management, Digital Systems; and Elisa Camahort, Product Marketing Specialist, Harmonic Inc. | Comments

It used to be simple. MSOs provided analog video service, and telcos offered data and telephone service. Though they had the same customers, MSOs and telcos didn't compete. Now, MSOs face ongoing competition from broadcasters and satellite operators, and new competition from telcos with xDSL services, to offer subscribers advanced broadband services.


Prosperity's dangers in a service industry

May 31, 1999 8:00 pm | by Walter S. Ciciora | Comments

For most (but certainly not all) Americans, this is a time of great prosperity. Employment is at record peace-time highs. Most employees feel somewhat secure in their jobs. But because these are more competitive times, the degree of security is a little bit less than in previous economic up-cycles. Luxury goods and premium brands sell well.

Serving up a new business

April 30, 1999 8:00 pm | by Craig Kuhl, Contributing Editor | Comments

The new economics of video-on-demand (VOD) are piquing the interest of a growing number of multiple system operators (MSOs) who, in the past, have considered VOD's multiple components too costly and the revenues too skimpy to venture into the business. However, since Time Warner Cable convened the Full Service Network's $300 million VOD pathfinding trial in Orlando in the early 1990s, the costs...

Healthy skepticism

April 30, 1999 8:00 pm | by Roger Brown, Editor in Chief | Comments

OK, it's confession time. As a journalist, I'm supposed to be above these things, but I'll admit that when it comes to digital subscriber line (DSL) service, I never really believed it would work. DSL is the telcos' great hope for revitalizing their mostly copper network because it allows the provision of data services over existing twisted-pair wire.

Technical types at the table

April 30, 1999 8:00 pm | by Thomas G. Robinson, Executive Vice President, CBG Communications | Comments

Not to say anything derisive about corporate attorney types and other franchise negotiators, because I love them all dearly (in Philly we say we love them "like they was my brother"), but let's be frank here. When it comes to technical issues, I sometimes think they just complicate matters. The ability of any particular technology to meet consumer needs would seemingly be best assessed from a t...

PacketCable spec nears completion

April 30, 1999 8:00 pm | by David Iler, Associate Editor | Comments

... part II Network management This portion of the spec centers upon the SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)-based information received at the headend from cable modems in the form of Management Information Base (MIB) data. This data is used to measure the reliability and speed of a network. A draft of the spec is due in July.


Taking Control

April 30, 1999 8:00 pm | by Michael Lafferty, Associated Editor | Comments

... part II Andy Paff, chief technology officer at Worldbridge Broadband Services (, says the need for third-party service providers is self-evident, given the costs of building your own Network Operations Center (NOC). "One of the things that became apparent to us," says Paff, "is that operators are going to have to watch their networks seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Northpoint: A true test?

April 30, 1999 8:00 pm | by Jeffrey Krauss, Home Video Viewer and President of Telecommunications and Technology Policy | Comments

Here's an interesting idea. Because DBS satellites are parked over the equator, DBS home dishes all point to the south. So if you had terrestrial transmitters pointing south, with receive dishes pointing north, you could use the same frequencies. In fact, you could use the same set-top boxes for both DBS and this terrestrial service, and merely add a second antenna and switch between the two an...

Taking aim at cable modems

April 30, 1999 8:00 pm | by Roger Brown, Editor-in-Chief | Comments

Consolidation within the cable television industry has clouded the issue a bit, but most people still consider Denver and the Rocky Mountain West to be the capital of cable TV. It is perhaps appropriate, then, that US West has targeted the area for its massive roll-out of digital subscriber line-based services.

DOCIS heads north

March 31, 1999 7:00 pm | by James Careless | Comments

Canada's Cogeco Cable has gone where no MSO has gone before: it has commercially deployed DOCSIS (Data-Over-Cable Service Interface Specification) cable modems to all but one of its systems in Ontario, Canada. The only exception is Kingston, where Cogeco Cable has clustered its older LANCity modems to use up their effective lifespans.


Wrestling with return path realities

March 31, 1999 7:00 pm | by Craig Kuhl, Contributing Editor | Comments

Upgrading cable plant to include an active two-way path is being touted as the latest and greatest passage to new revenue streams. New services such as high-speed data, telephony, video-on-demand and others are fast emerging as integral components to a cable operator's business model. Invest anywhere from $75 to $180 per home passed, or about $1,500 a mile, according to industry experts, and vo...

Hammering out digital video standards

March 31, 1999 7:00 pm | by Jeffrey Krauss, Cable standardizer and President of Telecommunications and Technology Policy | Comments

Digital video standards activities are winding down—many of the controversies have been resolved. The two areas that remain uncertain are copy protection and data/multimedia broadcasting. Digital video and audio formats There has been essentially no change in the video and audio transmission standards since completion of the Grand Alliance work.

Economics 101: Retail - really?

March 31, 1999 7:00 pm | by Walter S. Ciciora, Ph.D., Recognized Industry Expert on Cable and Consumer Electronics Issues | Comments

The lesson to be learned is that "compatibility" and "compliance" are very difficult issues. While listening to a radio talk show in Colorado, I heard something very scary. I'll never forget what one caller asked: "Why do they keep raising my taxes? Why doesn't the government just pay for it?" Many Americans are lacking in fundamental economic skills.


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