Huntington Beach, Calif. — The SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies took a time-out Wednesday to recognize the accomplishments of four top leaders in the cable industry.

During its annual luncheon, SCTE made formal presentations of awards associated with the conference: the IP Innovator Award, the Star of Integrity, the Polaris Award and the Chairman's Award.

The rest of the cable industry may still be trying to envision an all-IP world, but Mike Emmendorfer, this year's IP Innovator Award winner (sponsored by Cisco Systems), is already there.

Emmendorfer, the vice president of advanced engineering at Charter Communications, has had a hand in just about every aspect of the MSO's drive to merge voice, video and data services onto a unified IP platform — well ahead of many of its MSO peers.

His peers recognized Emmendorfer for a laundry list of IP accomplishments, including the design, test and launch of one of the first fully IP voice networks in the U.S. cable industry. Emmendorfer also helped install Charter's first DOCSIS virtual private network to supply enterprise services, and has led the deployment of a session initiation protocol (SIP) scheme to support integrated voice, video and multimedia services.

For his part, Emmendorfer is quick to point out the award also recognizes the importance of IP and Charter's drive for an all-IP infrastructure.

"Certainly this recognizes not just the efforts of Mike Emmendorfer. It does recognize the efforts in my view of the Charter organization and our vendor partners," he said.

Donald Gall, the chief technology officer of Pangrac & Associates, took home the Polaris (sponsored by CommScope), which recognizes a member for exceptional achievement in the development and use of optical fiber. Gall's peers bestowed the honor as much for his past achievements as for the contributions he will likely make to the cable industry down the road.

Gall is one of a select group of engineers credited with spearheading cable's revolutionary hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) architecture, an architecture borne out of necessity.

In the 1980s as an engineer for Time Warner in Kansas City, Gall and colleague David Pangrac helped operate an 1,800-mile system that teemed with 30-amplifier cascades. The problem? The operator had more than its share of problems keeping the service reliable and delivering a quality picture.

"It was obvious at that point that the [cable] architecture that survived from the '50s and '60s wasn't working in the major metros," Gall recalled.

Gall came across a possible solution to his problems when he saw an ad from Ortel for a 6 GHz analog laser. Gall and others theorized that such a laser might shorten the cascades. Though the MSO turned down the idea initially, it was later adopted and became a key point on the timeline toward cable's migration to HFC.

These days, Gall and his associates are looking at the next step — fiber-to-the-home — and devising ways for cable operators to move in that direction using existing headends, CPEs, billing systems and backoffice software.

Keith Hayes, the 2005 Star of Integrity winner, was recognized for his instrumental role in the incredibly rapid rebuild and upgrade of Adelphia Communications' networks, and preparing them for the introduction of advanced services such as high-speed data, video-on-demand and high definition television.

Sponsored by C-COR Inc., the Star of Integrity recognizes the accomplishments of an SCTE member for achieving network integrity for advanced cable applications.

Though Adelphia was well behind its peers more than a year ago, the MSO managed to have 97 percent of its plant upgraded by the end of 2004.

"My role was making sure [Adelphia's construction directors] could be successful, ensuring capital and parts...and running interference on contractual issues," Hayes said in an earlier interview. "I tried to do everything that I could do to flatten the bumps on the road."

In addition to the general upgrade, Hayes, a former SCTE chairman, also made key contributions to operational improvements at Adelphia. Among those was an effort that has reduced truck rolls by more than 20,000 per month.

SCTE Chairman Wayne Hall and Society President and CEO John Clark also bestowed the "Chairman's Award" on GCI Cable and Entertainment Chief Technology Officer Dan Pike, recognized for his seven years of service on the SCTE Engineering Committee.

The contributions of Pike, who served as the SCTE Engineering Committee chair from August 1997 to July 2004, were key in the number of SCTE-approved standards rising from a mere four to 136. During his tenure, the number of American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-approved SCTE standards skyrocketed from just one to 129.

Pike gave what will probably be remembered as the briefest acceptance speech in ET awards history: a quick "thank you," followed by an equally quick exit from the stage.