Meet the Speaker: Ayham Al-Banna, Distinguished Systems Engineer & Architect, CTO Office, Arris

AAAyham Al-Banna is a Distinguished Systems Engineer & Architect in the Chief Technology Office at ARRIS Group, where he works on defining the architecture for the US Cable Access Modules of the current and future ARRIS CCAP/CMTS systems and products.

Ayham will be speaking at the Cable Congress 2014 event taking place in Amsterdam on 12-14 March 2014. For more information on how to register, please click here.

Innovation in technology is focused on delivering for the end user. What are some of the biggest technology advances driving new and better services for the consumer?

AA: Yes, indeed. The end user is the focus of technology innovation. Multiple technologies and specifications were developed recently to deliver better user experiences. For example, CCAP, DOCSIS 3.1, Remote PHY, and Remote CCAP are all emerging technologies that provide customers with substantially higher data rates. In particular, better service is achieved by dense CCAP systems, new DOCSIS 3.1 modulation and error correction (i.e., OFDM and LDPC), and longer reach fibre with better SNR, enabled by the digital optics of Remote CCAP and Remote PHY.

Another technology that offers better user experience is IP Video, which provides end users with the ability to receive and view video content on all screens. QoE Monitoring is yet another technology that ensures that all services are offered with high quality. By the same token, the Wi-Fi Management technology improves the experience and performance of in-home networking.

What are some of the biggest technology advances that the average consumer may not notice?

AA: While cable service providers have a multitude of technologies with which to provide customers with faster services and better user experience, average customers may not notice the technological means behind the service improvement. For example, customers will not be aware that cable service providers are using denser CCCP boxes, Remote CCAP, or Remote PHY technologies. This also includes SDN and NFV, which are emerging technologies that are transparent to the average customer.

On the other hand, the deployment of some other technologies, like DOCSIS 3.1, might be slightly visible to average customers as they need to obtain new CPE equipment — although those customers will not likely know the details of the underlying technology that required the ‘newer and faster’ CPE device. Finally, average customers will definitely be able to observe a change in the technology when cable service providers migrate to FTTH networks where fibre is built to the home.

How is cable using technology to differentiate itself in the marketplace?

AA: Cable constantly capitalizes on new modulation and error correction technologies to improve service offering. Specifically, in the past, cable used ATDMA and SCDMA in DOCSIS 3.0 to provide customers with the needed throughputs. Recently, the cable industry started utilizing more modern modulation and error correction technologies by exploiting OFDM and LDPC in the newly created DOCSIS 3.1 specification.

Cable also capitalized on utilizing new cooling and design techniques to result in denser CCAP boxes. Wi-Fi is another technology that was recently utilized to form Wi-Fi communities and thus enable cable service providers to expand their reach beyond the conventional home service.

This continuous development process, which is based on utilizing newer technologies, enables cable service providers to offer higher throughputs and also differentiate themselves among other access providers.

From a technology standpoint, what are cable’s priorities for 2014?

AA: The year of 2014 will focus on video and HSD convergence by deploying CCAP boxes. Additionally, cable service providers will start preparing their networks (back-office and outside plant alike) in preparation for the upcoming deployment of IP Video using Multicast and DOCSIS 3.1 trials which will likely start in a year or so. Managing Wi-Fi connectivity and providing more ubiquitous Wi-Fi service will also be an important part of 2014.

Technology in this industry moves at an incredible pace. Today we talk about on-demand, connected life, wireless, over-the-top, ultra-fast, and multi-screen, but what new buzzwords will emerge in 2-3 years’ time?

AA: Snappiness on the Internet will likely become a buzzword. It describes the rate at which the needed information is provided in a short burst. Snappiness is different from Average Bandwidth. However, it will likely become more important as consumers get more demanding in their Web Browsing activities.

Interactive Gadgets will likely be another buzzword. This is basically when your refrigerator lets you know that you are low on tomatoes or your pantry asks you to bring coffee beans on your way home. These Interactive Gadgets can constantly be connected with the user over the web via the home Wi-Fi network via their cable service.
Automated Homes or Autonomous Homes could appear as 2014 buzzwords as well. This is basically when home devices take care of the home. For example, the humidistat could adjust the house humidity level based on the outside temperature. Lights and TV could shut down automatically if no one were present.

How does an organization like ARRIS embed innovation into its culture?

AA: ARRIS tries to keep all engineers at all levels in the company tied to the newly-evolving technologies. For instance, CTO teams and other groups in the company provide constant tutorials that are accessible to everyone. New information is rapidly disseminated as it becomes available to all of the company’s engineering teams. Periodic sync-up meetings are held between different organizations to help share ideas. ARRIS also encourages engineers to explore new ideas and prototype them by providing the necessary tools and resources. This is an important part of keeping the company innovative.

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