Wakeup call: Cable execs talk tru2way

Wed, 06/25/2008 - 9:05am
Mike Robuck

While most SCTE Cable-Tec Expo attendees slumbered, four of the top executives in the cable industry tackled subjects ranging from tru2way to traffic management during a 7 a.m. breakfast panel sponsored by Arris.

Moderator Ken Wright, Arris’ CTO, started the breakfast off by asking the panel – which consisted of Comcast EVP of national engineering and technical operations, John Schanz; Liberty Global CTO Balan Nair; Time Warner Cable EVP of advanced engineering, Mike Hayashi; and Rogers SVP of network engineering and operations, Dermot O'Carroll – about tru2way.

“I think the system is getting stable,” Hayashi said. “Over the past six months it has stabilized.”

Hayashi said tru2way, or OCAP, was deployed in half of Time Warner Cable’s systems in the areas where the Aptiv Navigator is being used. Time Warner Cable is actively buying OCAP-enabled set-top boxes and digital video recorders (DVRs) in the Aptiv markets.

Time Warner Cable’s big focus now is to “operationalize” OCAP, Hayashi said, but with any new software there is instability. Time Warner Cable started work on tru2way, which is the consumer brand name for OCAP, at the same time it took on CableCards, which Hayashi said made for a “very steep learning curve.”

Schanz said Comcast has been very aggressive with its tru2way work. Tru2way is key to the evolution of the cable platform, which will provide more products and new experiences for customers, but Schanz cautioned that cable operators need to be looking forward as the platform evolves.

“Lots of times we think about requirements, but requirements are the minimum,” Schanz said. “We need to think about where our consumers are going to be two or three years from now.”

O’Carroll said Rogers isn’t handcuffed by governing bodies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but he also advocated looking at the long-term when deploying a new platform. Rogers will also benefit from the tru2way work done by cable operators in the U.S., but as a wireline and wireless provider O’Carroll said his company is looking at how a technology can be integrated across platforms.

Nair said that the Globally Executable Multimedia Home Platform, which OCAP is based upon, has been deployed in Belgium, and that the results were “very positive.” Nair cited the ability to build an application once and deploy it in separate countries such as Chile and Japan as one of the technology’s attributes.

Wright also asked the panelists about opening up TVs to user-generated content, which Hayashi said was “many years out.” Schanz said the “wild, wild West” of an open environment could be detrimental if the proper guidelines weren’t in place.

“Its a little ways out there,” he said. “Customers take us where they want to go with applications and experiences. We would hate to have something come down and ruin that experience. Consumers will lead us, but we should keep an eye on reliability.”

The panel also discussed the management of Internet traffic on their systems. While network management has garnered a lot of attention this year, specifically with Comcast, O’Carroll said it has always been a service provider’s duty to make sure all of its customers get the best Internet experience possible.

Three months ago, Rogers started a program that places caps on the amount of Internet usage by subscribers, and it charges extra for those who go over their limit. Rogers set up a page on its Web portal that allows subscribers to check where their usage stands. Customers who are over the limit are shown what their extra costs would be for going over the cap, but currently Rogers “zeros out” the additional charges. That will change on the next billing cycle in about a month when customers will be charged for going over their limits.

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