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From the Big Easy and SCTE 2019

portrait of Tim Doiron

October 7, 2019
By Tim Doiron
Sr. Director, Marketing

10G, 5G, and the Need for Speed

As I head to the New Orleans airport following the conclusion of this year’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, I am reflecting on the conference and its main themes.  I am also smiling to myself a little bit as I think about the amazing gumbo, shrimp po’boy, and beignet that I had while I was here – not all at one sitting, by the way.

How Did We Get to 10G Already?

You couldn’t help but notice 10G was one of the main themes at this year’s conference.  In this case, the G isn’t for “generation” – it’s for gigabits per second, Gb/s or just G for short. Cable operators have continued to evolve the network capacity and capabilities of their hybrid fiber coax (HFC) networks and today can offer 1 Gb/s services over the HFC infrastructure, in addition to traditional video bundles and voice services.  As cable MSOs envision future HFC network evolutions, including fiber deep and distributed access architecture (DAA), 10G has become the mantra or unifying theme – meaning the ability to deliver 10 Gb/s connectivity services.  While it will take years and require multiple transformations, 10G is the modern rallying cry for cable.

But What About 5G?

5G was also one of the top themes at the conference.  In this case, we are indeed talking about the 5G you know about – fifth-generation wireless technology.  Multiple cable operators like Charter Spectrum offer mobile services via mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) relationships with traditional wireless/cellular carriers.  In order to reduce their wireless transportation costs, cable operators employ several techniques, including programming the smartphone to roam onto public WiFi hot-spots or residential WiFi whenever possible.

I attended a breakfast session on 5G where a representative from the CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) Alliance provided an update on wireless spectrum that is being made available in the 3.5 GHz range.  While some of the spectrum will be auctioned for dedicated use, other blocks are being made available as shared spectrum for public and private networks.  This shared spectrum offers further opportunity for cable operators to offload their subscriber traffic from the macro cellular network onto CBRS’ shared spectrum.  Charter in particular intends to use dual-SIM handsets to cover this scenario, with their own wireless infrastructure using CBRS’ shared spectrum.

In addition to offering consumer wireless services, cable/MSOs are also trying to offer mobile transport services to the traditional 4G/5G wireless service providers.  While most 5G mobile transport in North America will be fiber fed, cable operators also discussed DOCSIS evolutions, in the form of symmetric DOCSIS and low-latency DOCSIS, to better address mobile transport opportunities where their HFC networks are available.

The Need for Speed

In many of the sessions and panels, participants expressed the need for increased intelligence and software automation.  Service providers want to automate as many tasks as possible to accelerate service delivery, improve user experience, and anticipate and resolve issues before they can significantly impact the network or the customer.  They also want to maximize the skills and efficiency of their personnel.

Powering Cable/MSO Transformation

10G, 5G, and software automation themes drove nearly every customer and partner conversation in our booth.  Infinera’s CNOS/DRX disaggregated routing solution is helping break vendor lock-in on the IP/MPLS portion of the network – something that will inevitably help service providers introduce new packet processing technology into the network at a faster pace.  Infinera’s new hardened X-haul-optimized packet-optical transport switch with Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) technology enables cable operators to cost-effectively offer mobile fronthaul transport services for 4G/5G delivery.  Infinera’s Groove G30 compact modular optical transponder helps service providers deliver cost-effective 600 Gb/s coherent DWDM transport for enterprise services.  In the area of intelligent software automation, including Infinera’s Transcend Software Suite, one recurring discussion stands out. Infinera’s Auto-Lambda DWDM technology replaces the tens or hundreds of 10 Gb/s fixed optical transceiver modules in conventional systems, all of which need to be stocked and carried by outside plant technicians (OSPs), into a single plug-and-play transceiver.  No digging in the truck for the right part.  No provisioning or configuration.  Just plug the Auto-Lambda SFP into the RPD or any other 10G grey optic interface and watch it scan and sync up.  The smiles I saw on OSP technicians’ faces when we demonstrated this technology reminded me just how much I love this job.

From the Big Easy to the Big Apple

So, that’s it from sunny, steamy, culinary awesome New Orleans.  My colleague, Jon Baldry, and I will be in NYC on Thursday, October 10 for Light Reading’s 5G Transport & the Edge conference, where we are participating in two panel sessions. We are trading the Big Easy for the Big Apple.

Safe travels!