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Roberts' demos DOCSIS 3.0 at NCTA; execs envision business migration

Wed, 05/09/2007 - 9:53am
Gary Arlen; Special to CED

LAS VEGAS - Comcast Chairman/CEO Brian Roberts , in a flashy introductory segment for the "State of the Industry" session Tuesday morning, unveiled what he called "the first public demonstration of a wideband cable modem." He downloaded an entire encyclopedia, including photos and a visual dictionary, in barely four minutes - a two-week task via dial-up modem, Roberts said.

"With wideband, we're going to unleash a whole new era of video," Roberts predicted, as Arris Chairman and CEO Robert J. Stanzione, seen onscreen from a remote location, transmitted hefty visual and multimedia files at 150 Mbps, using DOCSIS 3.0 technology, onto screens on stage at the Mandalay Bay Conference Center ballroom, where about 4,000 attendees witnessed the demonstration.

There is no current schedule for DOCSIS 3.0 deployment, Roberts said after the conference session. But he emphasized that "the best part that it is incremental and backward compatible" so it will be "quite easy" to implement.

After the wideband demonstration, Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons echoed the view that "the prospects for cable have been "enhanced exponentially" by broadband. He said that broadband technology helps all of his company's businesses, including distribution and production.

Parsons also noted that "scale" is an inevitable part of the industry's future, suggesting that more consolidation and vertical integration are on the horizon.

News Corp. President/CEO Peter Chernin agreed: "This is a world where the big get bigger," and that more acquisitions are likely.

Philippe Dauman, president/CEO of Viacom Inc. in response to a question from session moderator William Kennard (managing director of the Carlyle Group and former FCC Chairman) about bypassing cable delivery and going directly to consumers, said that "we want to [reach] consumers wherever they are."

Earlier, NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow opened the session with a rebuttal to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's Monday remarks.

"We appreciate his offer to engage in a dialogue," McSlarrow said, adding that he had welcomed Martin's acknowledgement that cable is bringing broadband to rural areas of America.

The NCTA chief executive's remarks focused on the convention theme of "competition," pointing out that, "When the government encourages growth and regulates with a light touch, consumers win." McSlarrow emphasized that competition enabled telephone companies to break into video service.

"It is puzzling that Chairman Martin does not take the same approach to open [an] open marketplace," McSlarrow concluded.

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