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Technology & Devices

The Biggest Consumer Tech Industry You've Never Heard Of


October 25, 2013

This week at the 30th SCTE Expo was a convergence of technologists, engineers, and business leaders, many asking each other the same questions we ask ourselves at NCTA. Questions including: Can IP technology change how consumers see the cable industry?  How can cable be viewed less like a utility and more like a consumer tech company? How do cable companies demonstrate that their innovation is as sexy as the products and services made popular by Google, Apple, Intel, and Sony?

Among the industry leaders tackling these questions were NCTA’s CEO Michael Powell, Cox CEO Pat Esser and Phil McKinney, CEO of CableLabs.

SCTETechImgThe truth is that for decades cable has been a leader in broadband and home video technology, but only recently has had to brag about it. Competitors like Netflix, Roku, and Apple have fostered a tech-savvy marketplace filled with consumers who want to play an active part in the future of communications technology.  Gone are the days of “I don’t care – just make it work” and here to stay is a highly competitive marketplace that is driven as much by perception of the technology as it is by actual functionality.

Sitting in on a broadband technology session, I learned how DOCSIS 3.1, the new high-speed data transfer standard, has the potential to deliver home broadband speeds well over 1Gbps within a few years. I saw how HOTSPOT 2.0 will allow for a faster, more efficient, and more consistent Wi-Fi experience. And I was shown how multi-user MIMO 3×3, a new kind of wireless access point, will allow many more devices to share one Wi-Fi hotspot with less disruption.

As I learned, nodded in agreement, and took notes, I realized that the challenge of creating and deploying tech is only half the battle. Cable companies are going to have to make these technologies thrilling. They’re game changers and their release has to be akin to the debut of a new iPhone or the PlayStation4. They’re going to have to inspire excitement and imagination. This is no short order.

But when we think of what cable company’s offer, maybe this isn’t so formidable. From Comcast’s X2 platform and Cox’s Contour to BendBroadband’s cutting edge green tech, the future of broadband and home video technology is bright, innovative, and fast.  Cable is getting better and better at turning the guts of broadband and home video that was designed to work quietly in the background into the front face of home technology. Thanks to events like SCTE, sharing the world of cable and broadband innovation is not just an afterthought – it’s the raison d’etre of design and deployment.