I remember walking around at one of the very first CableNET exhibits feeling, "This is it; the cable industry has arrived." Surrounded by modems in racks, well before consumer prototypes were even developed, CableNET demonstrated that our industry's plans for offering advanced services were far more than hype.
Early on, we had concerns that the reverse network would not be robust enough to support two-way, interactive services, but this exhibit had modems up and running. Today, cable operators serve more than 10 million high-speed cable Internet subscribers, and our industry's offering is the service of choice. Now, as I check out the exhibits at CableNET, I wonder which previewed services will have 10 million subs in the future.
–Bill Schleyer, president and CEO, AT&T Broadband
Back in those days, I was Viacom Cable's representative to CableLabs, so I was familiar with the ambitious plans for the first CableNET at the Western Show. The overall concept was to demonstrate actual interoperability among cable technologies and services.
I was also a member of the Western Show Planning Committee, so I took "advantage" of this and snuck into the exhibit areas a day before the show opened.
My first stop, of course, was the CableNET area, and the first person that I ran into was Dave Eng, who was at that time the lead tech person from CableLabs for CableNET. (Dave is now at AT&T Broadband in Denver.) To put it delicately, Dave was going a little crazy trying to get anything to interoperate. Ten years ago, convergence was a popular concept, but it was only a concept. There simply wasn't any framework to define how different services would work together over our nascent HFC networks. Remember, this was a full two years before the first cable modem was placed in a customer's home; there were no digital set top boxes, no on-screen program guides; there weren't even any CableLabs projects like DOCSIS or OpenCable…Just a few disparate interactive TV hopefuls.
Anyway, I asked Dave if there was anything that I could do to help out, and his response was that there probably wasn't anything that anyone could do to help. I offered to run across the street to the convenience store and pick up a six-pack of beer for him, but he replied that he'd already thought about doing that, but it probably would only make things worse!
In the end, Dave did manage to get a few of the demos to interoperate, although I no longer remember exactly what those things were. At the very least, CableLabs was able to show that these various services could co-exist on a modern two-way HFC network.
It is my firm belief that much of what we enjoy today is a direct result of those early CableNET efforts, and my good friend Dave Eng probably deserves at least some of the credit for this.
–Doug Semon, VP/consumer technologies & standards, Time Warner Cable
Activity started during a simple demonstration at CableNET at the Western Show, where a LANcity cable modem and equipment from DEC was used to show the power of the technology. Using PCs, Microsoft software and a multiplayer real-time card game, Dick Green and Don Rumsfeld were the first to play cards across the cable network. The rest of the Western show floor was questioning why a PC was there, as this was a TV and cable show.
This success led to the creation of what we call broadband today. A White House briefing and front lawn demonstration were held for President Clinton and Vice President Gore by Times Mirror Cable. Manufacturing, motion graphics and interactive videoconferencing were among the productivity applications demonstrated on workstations.
Ten years later, the journey has brought a $15,000 cable modem to $50 and empowered the industry to bring in new revenues that amounted to $3.5 billion this year. The exhibit also allows entrepreneurial companies like LANcity to show how their innovations can build billion-dollar industries; serves as a launching pad for global standards (such as DOCSIS); acts as a platform to develop real-life integrated IP video, data and voice services; and has become a playground to connect the World Wide Web, cable's HFC network and consumer equipment.
–Rouzbeh Yassini, founder of LANcity and executive consultant to CableLabs
I was fortunate to be involved with DOCSIS almost from its very inception in 1995. As a result, cable modems and CMTSs have been near and dear to my heart! There are two CableNET exhibits that I'll always remember: 1996 and 1997.
The 1996 exhibit was the first exhibit with numerous cable modem/CMTS vendors, albeit using proprietary technology. And of course, it was the first time that @Home, using Cox's help, demonstrated its wares to the entire cable industry. I remember being nervous, hoping that everything worked and that you could actually surf the Internet from the exhibit floor and that all the vendors would shine.
By that time, Bay Networks had purchased LANcity, so it was weird to see those modems without Rouzbeh standing right next to them! Hayes and Zenith were there with one-way modems, a product that MSOs never really embraced. Companies that MSOs have now worked with for seven years were at this first exhibit of cable modem technology, including Motorola/GI, Terayon and Com21.
With the DOCSIS specifications released during the 1996 Western Show, I was particularly interested to see how these vendors would respond to what is now a worldwide standard–which ones would stick to their proprietary technologies, and what new ones would come onto the scene in response to DOCSIS.
As expected, the early vendors with solid technology were back–but with their own technology. That made many of us nervous. Would they, or wouldn't they embrace DOCSIS? Bay Networks made the leap to DOCSIS, and many new names jumped onto the scene. Broadcom and Cisco were there in spades. We were exhilarated, but also concerned that a giant or two in another industry might subsume our specifications. Of course, time has shown these two companies to be critical suppliers to MSOs and great industry citizens.
It's amazing to look back and see the birth of this product, and take a snapshot now. Who would have guessed that in 2002 we would have 42 cable modem products and 18 CMTS products that are based on DOCSIS 1.1, our second-generation specification? What a success!!
–Susan Marshall, senior VP of data services, AT&T Broadband
Thinking of CableNET '94...the Convergence Marketplace, I recall watching initial trials (and errors) of high-speed data-over-cable demonstrations. CableLabs and manufacturers watched a spectrum analyzer display the curious behavior of a data modem on an HFC "plant" test, specifically constructed for the show. The upstream return laser was driven into saturation, crushing the operation of both itself and its rivals. The power control algorithm we observed, which was initially set to HIGH, demonstrated that "absolute power corrupts, absolutely."
The lessons learned in '94 marked significant improvements at CableNET '95. As a group of MSO CEOs toured the exhibit, the visionary Dr. John Malone exclaimed, "these modems are not interoperable." Later at the show, cable execs and equipment suppliers issued a call for standardized data connections.
During CableNET '96, Multimedia Cable Network Systems (MCNS) and CableLabs, in an alliance called the Data-Over-Cable System Interface Specification (DOCSIS) working group, issued the first high-speed data delivery over cable specification.
CableNET '97 gave birth to the first interoperable cable modems and cable modem termination systems (CMTS) with the advent of DOCSIS. Multiple manufacturers demonstrated feature-diverse yet interoperable modems and CMTSs that employed a common silicon platform from Broadcom. Just one short year after the first draft specification was issued at the previous CableNET, this was an astonishing achievement!
While interoperable demonstrations at CableNET '97 showed great opportunities for cable operators, it only allowed them to deliver best effort data service over the Internet Protocol (IP). CableNET '98 changed these limitations. Demonstrations of preliminary PacketCable concepts for cable telephony using voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) proved to operators that they could offer integrated data, IP telephony and full-motion IP videoconferencing to customers using DOCSIS cable modem technology. DOCSIS quality of service support was demonstrated using fragmentation of IP packets to enable provisioning of constant bit rate services like VoIP and IP videoconferencing.
The next frontier premiered at CableNET '99 with the introduction of an in-home networking solution. Exhibits displayed different network protocols extending the reach of DOCSIS, delivering services to other devices beyond just cable modems. The culmination of these diversified exhibits set the stage for the introduction of the first residential broadband gateway at CableNET 2000. The demonstration of a low-power, feature-rich, VoIP/Home Networking PacketCable reference design provided four primary voice lines and a HomePNA 2.0 in-home networking backbone for attaching extension devices. Now cable operators could extend their service offerings using multiple residential devices, creating a new integrated service environment–the "cable home"!
So, what's new for 2002? Expect the latest innovations in chip technology, incorporating triple throughput, increased noise resilience, and the adaptive intelligence of DOCSIS 2.0-based solutions.
–Dr. Richard Prodan, VP and chief scientist, broadband communications, Broadcom
My strongest impression from CableNET nicely fit the name. I remember making my first VoIP phone call at a CableNET. Intellectually, doing such a thing seemed like an obvious application for a cable network. I understood that it could be done and even how it would be done. But actually doing it and appreciating what was going on was an eye-opening experience.
I look forward to visiting CableNET again to see the progress made since last year. I'm convinced that the bundled offering of video, data and voice will reduce cable churn to the minimum level resulting from just the number of subscribers who move from one residence to another. Marketing will then be able to focus on premium services in all three categories since basic video, data and voice will become a necessity.
–Dr. Walter S. Ciciora, consultant
In December 1997, I was the CTO of Marcus Cable and needed to escort [CEO] Jeff Marcus around the floor of the Western Show in Anaheim. The displays around the CableNET area made this duty much easier than the other shows because the quantity and quality of the displays made the time fly by.
At this particular show, the Internet in general, and cable modem technology in particular, were everywhere. Jeff found a number of the cable modem displays interesting. The one that really caught his eye had a display showing a real-time Webcam view of one of his favorite ski hills in Colorado. Needless to say, the status of our cable modem initiative was greatly enhanced.
–John Pietri, senior VP of engineering, Charter Communications