There are myriad reasons to attend tomorrow’s first SCTE Canadian Summit 2009 in Toronto, but to Rogers Cable Communications’ Dermot O’Carroll, the biggest one is the shared fellowship with other Canadian cable operators during a two-day event tailor made for them.
In 2006, the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association (CCTA), which O’Carroll said was akin to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) in the United States, closed its doors. Since then, cable operator employees in Canada were left to network on their own, or to attend cable industry events south of the border in the U.S.
O’Carroll, who is Rogers Cable’s senior vice president of network engineering and operations, is on the SCTE’s board of directors, and he started working with his fellow board members on the launch of a “purely technical conference in Canada.” The end result was the SCTE Canadian Summit 2009, which kicks off tomorrow morning.
Rogers Communications founder and former CEO Ted Rogers, who passed away last year, stressed the importance of networking with colleagues to O’Carroll and other Rogers employees.
“Ted Rogers used to say the best way of doing research is to buy a plane ticket and go talk to other people and find out what they’re doing,” O’Carroll said of the need for a Canadian conference. “All of the Canadian MSOs will be here, they’ll be talking about what they’re doing, and it’s an opportunity to meet your colleagues and learn from them, and we can all learn from our colleagues.
“One of Ted’s biggest lessons was to listen to other people, share and exchange information. I think this is a tremendous opportunity to do that. This is the first time in many, many years that we’ve had that opportunity in Canada. All of the senior engineering people will be there, and they will be talking on various panels, and they’ll be available to meet and chat with people. I think it’s a great opportunity to share information, learn from each other and build a network of relationships.”
O’Carroll said the summit isn’t just for cable operator employees.
“I think everyone here is very excited about it, and I think the vendors in Canada are also excited because they had no real forum for meeting with Canadian cable operators and Canadian technology people to talk about their products and plans,” he said.
O’Carroll said the main difference between Canadian cable operators and their colleagues in the United States is that the former don’t face as much regulatory pressure as cable operators in the U.S. He cited tru2way and analog-to-digital conversions as two examples of regulatory pressure in America.
“We have the opportunity of watching what happens in the U.S. and learning from their experiences, watching the mistakes that happen and watching it scale,” he said. “We have the opportunity to look at things like MPEG 4, switched digital video and analog-to-digital conversion and decide when we will apply them to our networks in order to maximize the efficiency and optimize the cost of our spectrum usage.
“I think to a great degree we’re in a better place because of that. Because we can make these decisions based on rational network choices rather than responding to regulatory pressures. We can also see some of the issues that they run into in the U.S. and try to avoid causing our customers any similar problems.”
O’Carroll said Rogers Cable, a division of Rogers Communications, is halfway through its implementation of switched digital video on its network, and on the data side it’s testing DOCSIS 3.0.
On the competition side, Rogers doesn’t face the same pressures as U.S. cable operators, O’Carroll said.
“We have a telco competitor, but I think the issue they’ve run into in the U.S. is that Verizon has gone to a fiber-to-the home environment,” he said. “I think as a result of that, they’ve started launching services with speeds that customers really don’t need. As a result of that competition, some cable operators are being forced to deploy DOCSIS 3.0 before the technology is ready.
“The technology is essentially in its infancy, and the danger of doing that is that your customers are exposed to the issues of early stage technology. I think we’re in a position that we can test the software, do technology trials, do field trials and hopefully deploy it to our customers when it’s ready for use, and not before.”
Tomorrow’s summit starts with a “Technology Leaders Roundtable” session, which O’Carroll will take part in. O’Carroll said because this is the first Canadian conference in several years, he expects a good turnout.
“The strength of the cable industry has always been that the MSOs work together to push each other forward, to share information and learn from each other,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to do that in Canada. We often go to SCTE, NCTA and CableLabs events in the U.S. where we share and exchange information with American MSOs, but Canadian MSOs are some of the top of the pack, and in many cases best of breed, and we can all learn from each other.”