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Expo leftovers

Mon, 11/21/2011 - 2:03pm
Mike Robuck

The first thing Time Warner Cable CTO Mike LaJoie touches in the morning is … his cell phone. LaJoie started to say the last thing he touched at night was also his cell phone, but to the amusement of his fellow MSO CTO panelists and opening session attendees, LaJoie allowed that there was probably something else he touched prior to turning in for the evening.

LaJoie's reference to his cell phone was in regard to cable building out its digital ecosystem to support more services and devices. Customers' expectations have changed, because now they want information and communications products to be with them all of the time, LaJoie said. The end goal of the digital ecosystem should be allowing consumers to bring all of their devices to the table for consumption.

"My cell phone is the remote control for my life," LaJoie said. "It has all of my contacts in there, my email on there, I make my phone calls there, I get my news there. It's the first thing I touch when I wake up in the morning because it's my alarm clock. It's nearly the last thing I touch when I go to bed at night. But I put that away when I go home to watch TV. It doesn't work with my entertainment systems at home."

"I don't want to touch your phone. I know that," fellow panelist and Comcast CTO Tony Werner quipped.

Show attendance up, vendors happy
Even before the SCTE released the increased attendance numbers for last week's Expo, most, if not all, of the 14 vendors I spoke to during booth visits were happy with the foot traffic. While Expo attendance was up 24 percent over last year's edition, the cable vendors were pleased with the quantity and quality of the people who dropped by their booths.

One vendor said he had more briefings scheduled Thursday morning than when the show started on Tuesday. Traditionally, the last day of Expo has been "vendor day," as most of the cable execs and decision-makers have left town by that point, but the show floor bustled with business this past Thursday.

Tom Gorman: One of life's good guys
My Cable-Tec Expo was bookended by conversations with Charter Communications' Tom Gorman. On Sunday at the airport in Atlanta, Gorman remarked that it had been a long haul during his stint as a past chairman of the SCTE and, more recently, as chairman of the SCTE Planning Committee. Gorman said he was very pleased with the current direction of the SCTE, which includes bringing the focus back to cable engineering.

Thursday morning, before the show floor closed, Gorman said he had no idea that he was going to be named SCTE Member of the Year during Tuesday's awards lunch. Gorman said he was on the committee that nominates the Member of the Year and that he was trying to remember who won while sitting at the awards lunch when he noticed that some people were starting to stare at him prior to the announcement. It may have been the only time Gorman was truly caught off guard during his service to the SCTE.

Capacity Management Symposium digs wide, deep
Monday's pre-Expo Capacity Management Symposium was yet another example of how the SCTE in general, and SCTE CEO Mark Dzuban in particular, is re-focusing its efforts on cable engineering.

After the event, I spoke with SCTE CTO and senior vice president of engineering Daniel Howard at a dinner Wednesday night. Howard said he took a very detailed, deliberate approach to lining up the speakers and topics for the symposium. He didn't want the speakers to dive right into the depths of the gory tech details in their presentations, but rather provide a general overview of a technology, such as having Cisco's John Chapman explain the difference between Internet protocols TCP and UPC first before plumbing the depths.

The SCTE plans on having more of these types of technology symposiums, as well as presenting similar symposiums in other countries.

Cox tops the news at SCTE
As journalists, I guess we have become spoiled with the on-high news that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has delivered at The Cable Show the past few years. A few years ago it was the iPad app; earlier this year it was the public unveiling of Comcast's Xcalibur service.

The biggest cable operator newsmaker from last week was Cox Communications. Cox President Pat Esser mentioned the company was close to deploying an iPad app for live streaming during the opening general session. Cox's Steve Necessary, vice president of video product development and management, was on hand at the show to provide more details on Cox TV Connect, which will make its debut during the holiday season with 35 national channels.

Cox's decision to exit its wireless service wasn't directly show-related, but it was notable because Cox had previously said it expected to have its Cox Wireless service in 50 percent of its footprint by year's end.

Cox hasn't said what it will do with the wireless spectrum that it owns, or what will happen to its wireless division employees, but it would appear that Cox is going to ramp up its Wi-Fi footprints out of the home.

"Enabling the ecosystem for Wi-Fi in the home, Wi-Fi around larger footprints and also having a high-speed mobile data solution – being able to travel – is part of the solution set we're designing," Cox Communications executive vice president and CTO Kevin Hart said during the MSO CTO panel.

Cox has had Wi-Fi deployed in some systems, such as Las Vegas, for years, but Hart's comment, which came before Cox's announcement about dropping its wireless service, seemed to indicated that the company would follow other cable operators, such as Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Shaw Communications, in making Wi-Fi the mobile wireless play of choice.

Many thanks
Lastly, thanks again to all who wished me a happy birthday last week. As I was making the stretch run from building A to building B Tuesday morning for the opening of Expo, I was thinking that after more than 12 years of covering cable, I really didn't know that many people in the business. The rest of the conference proved me wrong.

See you in Orlando, and enjoy those turkey leftovers.

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