Session staples will include DOCSIS 3.0, separable security, bandwidth management

Cable-Tec Expo MarketIf the Cable Show is a vast feast, a smorgasbord of the richest foods available, then SCTE Cable-Tec Expo is more like a general store, where you go to get the staples you absolutely have to have to create the tasty stuff you make later.

The 2007 edition of Cable-Tec Expo will cover many of the basics, including laying the groundwork for offering business services; preparing for and implementing DOCSIS 3.0; improving HFC infrastructure; quadruple play networking; monitoring, troubleshooting, and improving HFC performance; back-office software; and the inevitable subject: separable security.

How does that saying go? You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much bandwidth? Many of the topics at Cable-Tec Expo are about reclaiming, better utilizing, or expanding bandwidth.'

DOCSIS 3.0 appears to be on schedule for possible introduction before the end of 2007, but almost certainly before Cable-Tec Expo 2008. Based on the number of presentations on DOCSIS 3.0 scheduled, now is definitely the time to get fully up-to-speed on the technology designed to significantly improve bandwidth on the cable data channel. If you mix and match the sessions just right, you can get almost a narrative of DOCSIS.

One track takes a look at DOCSIS largely from the standpoint of the headend. “DOCSIS Technologies & Services” will cover the DOCSIS 3.0 suite of specifications, including modular CMTS (M-CMTS), downstream channel bonding, IPv6 and timing synchronization. The focus will be on network readiness and deployment, but you can’t be ready unless you have some idea of what you’re readying for.

Another session in the same track, “Launching Ultra-Broadband Services Using DOCSIS 3.0 Channel Bonding,” will cover the channel bonding technique and how to deploy M-CMTSs.

One of the things an MSO can do with all the bandwidth afforded by DOCSIS 3.0 is to start offering IP-based video through M-CMTSs on the DOCSIS channel, which is one of the many approaches toward what is generically called “IPTV.” A paper on that subject comes from BigBand Networks, which has been talking about this sort of thing for years and years, and finally, it’s becoming clear the company was just a bit ahead of the curve on that one.

Another track provides a perspective of DOCSIS mostly from the standpoint of the set-top box.

A workshop in this track looks at migrating through the succeeding revisions of the DOCSIS standard, walking through the issues of migration pertaining to CPE firmware management, possible segregation of devices per feature set offered, SNMP MIB usage (proprietary versus standard), logical versus physical upstream channel usage for DOCSIS 2.0 migration, and preparation for DOCSIS 3.0 migration.

The tutorial also addresses many issues seen in prior migrations and shows the processes used to solve them. The session will be presided over by Brian Wheeler, director, product management at Arris, and Saifur Rahman, principle engineer, Comcast Cable Communications.

Part of the preparation for DOCSIS 3.0 (and the OpenCable Application Platform, or OCAP, as well) is preparing cable networks to support signaling through the DOCSIS Set-top Gateway (DSG) standard.

The DOCSIS track at Cable-Tec Expo will also include a session on the steps necessary to migrate to a DSG architecture. Engineers from Comcast and Time Warner Cable will identify potential obstacles encountered and explore possible solutions to the obstacles. In addition, the session details each of the elements impacted by the DSG migration, including network infrastructure, headend configuration, provisioning and billing.

Dan Torbet, principal engineer at Arris, will discuss how the shift to IPv6 will affect DOCSIS. IPv6 is the next version of the Internet Protocol (succeeding IPv4). The key difference is that IPv6 will open up a vastly greater number of possible addresses for Internet-connected devices, but with a cost of some bandwidth overhead.

Another approach to managing bandwidth resources is switched digital video (SDV) – a technique which, if you look at it a certain way, can also be called “IPTV.”

The SDV track will include sessions on how to deploy SDV and how to keep it up and running, with participants from two companies, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable, which have no small amount of experience with the technology, which they promise to share.

Orange County Convention Center
The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando
plays host to SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2007.

One track looks beyond the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network to the ultimate in bandwidth: optical fiber. The “Innovative Fiber Architectures & Implementation Considerations” track includes sessions that provide an overview of alternate architectures and innovative construction techniques that may substantially reduce the cost of laying fiber right to the premises.

Additional bandwidth is always a good thing, but the necessity for more can be mitigated by managing the bandwidth you have. The “Monitoring, Capacity Planning, and Traffic Engineering” track at Expo is sort of a grab-bag track that will cover various monitoring approaches and how to use available data for capacity planning and traffic engineering. Various network areas will be addressed, including DOCSIS, VoIP, broadcast video and VOD.

One session will cover capacity planning and traffic engineering; another, DOCSIS traffic engineering combined with deep packet inspection techniques.

A session that focuses on separable security will lead into another that combines that issue with rolling out OCAP (many operators are taking the July 1, 2007 deadline to start delivering boxes with separable security as an excuse to start rolling out OCAP boxes). That will lead directly into a session that focuses solely on OCAP – specifically, “troubleshooting the OCAP headend.”

Business services remain of interest for two reasons: there’s a lot of money to be made, and it can often be made at the expense of competitors.

In one session, Insight Communications will be on hand talking about its deployment of carrier Ethernet from Fujitsu Network Communications. Cox Communications and Ciena will cover Cox’s experience using G.709 Optical Transport Network (OTN) technology to offer a wide range of services over dedicated fiber access to the business while leveraging a converged infrastructure.

In a second session on the topic, PhyFlex (until recently known as Narad Networks) will add to the conversation on carrier Ethernet, specifically touching on the CSU/DSU modem functionality commonly used on T1 lines and how this functionality is available to operators using circuit emulation services over DOCSIS. Arris will present on how to leverage existing HFC infrastructure to provide (1) cell tower backhaul; (2) business T1; (3) digital voice; and (4) high-capacity services to increase ARPU and reduce OPEX while meeting ROI metrics. In both cases, the examples will be drawn from actual implementations.

Other sessions will include a tutorial on the basics of the Internet Protocol, focusing on IP fundamentals and protocols that are especially relevant to the DOCSIS and STB network, another on advanced RF/IP troubleshooting, and one on unifying back office software.

The opening general session, sponsored by C-Cor, will focus on “Building the Sustainable, Competitive Network.” The so-called “breakfast of champions” will be comprised of Marwan Fawaz, chief technology officer and executive vice president, Charter Communications; Robert (Bob) Zitter, executive vice president, technology and chief technology officer, Home Box Office; John Schanz, executive vice president, national engineering & technical operations, Comcast Cable; and Jim Ludington, senior vice president, advanced technology group, Time Warner Cable. The panel moderator will be Leslie Ellis, independent technology analyst and CED contributor.