Archive for the ‘Speaker Interviews’ Category

Is it worth waiting for a Universal Standard for the Smart Home? – by Paul Bristow of ADB

Is it worth waiting for a Universal Standard for the Smart Home?

paul 2By Paul Bristow, vice president of marketing communications, ADB

I am passionate about the Internet of Things intersecting with the connected home, as it is leading to the really Smart Home.

When I think about the Smart Home I picture a variety of use cases related to convenience, comfort, security, piece-of-mind that can improve our quality of life, including the wearables and portable devices that drift in out of the Smart Home. For me the Smart Home is all about “organising a compelling user experience”, and not just about giving people a new piece of technology.

There is a lot of emphasis today on the quest for a universal and overarching standard that solves the Smart Home technology fragmentation. Like most vendors we support all the leading industry initiatives, but there are a lot!

This image gives a sense of the number of associations and bodies that are currently working on aspects related to the Smart Home.

image

However, when it comes to the smart home, fragmentation is absolutely not a showstopper. For sensor technology, fragmentation is the necessary result of diverse usage requirements that need specific connectivity protocols.

Battery-operated devices are a good example (think of temperature and humidity sensors, radiator valves, window closing contacts, wearable fitness sensors, etc): Wi-Fi consumes too much power, but is also faster than the application requires and so they resort to other optimised, lower throughput technologies such as Zigbee, Zwave or Bluetooth low-energy, which allow batteries to last for months or years. Energy-harvesting sensor technologies, like EnOcean, don’t even need a battery and workby harvesting the energy they need from the environment around them.

Moreover it appears that progress towards a single unified standard will take many years, indeed if it ever arrives, and the industry just can’t wait that long. Instead, a more rational approach is to start leveraging the variety of in-home sensor standards now.
With all this fragmentation around, some cable operators might be nervous about launching their Smart Home offerings, thinking the market isn’t yet ready. But all is not lost. There are already platforms available that can accommodate a choice of sensor standards while abstracting their details for applications. This way, applications can address composite lifestyle use cases right now by integrating multiple devices and sensors using different standards.

While the digital TV industry has been talking about personalisation for years, the Smart Home market needs by default to start out in a personalised way, as every family’s needs and desires are different.

Fortunately the answer to fragmentation and personalisation is one and the same. With a flexible software platform that handles the fragmentation, cable operators can focus on the very role that will enable managed Smart Home mass customised adoption: that of a service provider.

As evidenced by the $3.2 price tag Google paid for the Nest smart thermostat firm, expectations are high that consumers are gearing up for the smart home. This is reflected in forecasts from industry analysts, ABI Research. They predict the managed home automation market will grow each year at a CAGR of 60% through 2017.

I believe that as consumers move from connecting their homes to connecting their lives the time is right for triple and quad play providers to expand into a multi-play offering. And given the opportunity, consumers are most likely to turn to their trusted cable supplier to take their first steps into the smart home future.

Meet the speaker: Dr. Ken Morse of Cisco Systems

Meet the speaker: Dr. Ken Morse, CTO, Connected Devices, Cisco Systems

ken morseDuring the more than 32 years Dr. Ken Morse has been involved in software and hardware development, he has co-founded four companies in the digital video and entertainment space. In his current role as CTO, Connected Devices, Dr. Morse is responsible for ensuring that the company maintains its digital video, data and voice leadership position by driving the embracement of new technologies, architectures and product categories for in-home service provider devices . Prior to this role he was CTO for SP Video Technology Group.

Ken 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?

Ken Morse: We are seeing continued developments with Cloud. The cloud is good at delivering new services that consumers care about on all types of devices, no matter where they are. Operators are using cloud to collapse linear on-demand recorded content, to offer unified search & recommendations that help subscribers search what is relevant for them.

The industry is working to provide consumers with other means for consuming content on a variety of consumer electronics devices or “companion devices,” that enhance the experience on the main TV. Tablets and smartphones are being used as remote controls, synching content from the tablets and smartphones with the main TV, to create the ultimate immersive experience.

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

KM: Home networking device management is a big technology advancement that consumers won’t notice if it is doing its job. If the wireless is working, subscribers are happy and they don’t think about it. Behind the curtain, we have (Cisco Prime Home) software that is managing the QoS into the home and the end-to-end network to keep things running smoothly. There are also big advancements in silicon today, which is in set-top boxes and home gateway devices. The silicon has evolved to give better experiences at lower cost points for operators.

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

KM: There is a lot of progress with cloud software. Cloud powered services driven by software offer operators the benefits of a scalable, “always on” two-way network that lends itself to differentiation. Cloud software is helping operators deliver the largest breadth of HD services and VoD libraries, accessible from multiple devices.

How is the next generation video experience evolving?

KM: In the past, what we used to call the “nice to have”, is now table stakes: any time anywhere content. It is now all about differentiating the true user experience. Giving people fast access to the content that is most meaningful to them, and access to things they wouldn’t have found easily otherwise.

How does an organization like Cisco embed tech innovation into its culture?

KM: Cisco avidly fosters the creation of new ideas & innovation internally. The company has an established process for internal engineers to submit new ideas and seek funding for experiments to come to fruition. Cisco’s “New Initiatives Group” within the Service Provider Video organization allows engineers to play with prototypes and new technologies and services on a 3-5 year horizon, encouraging innovation ahead of the curve.

Meet the Speaker: Matthias Kurth of Cable Europe

Meet the speaker: Matthias Kurth of Cable Europe

Matthias KurthMatthias Kurth joined Cable Europe in October 2012 as Executive Chairman. Mr. Kurth sits on Cable Europe’s Executive Committee which has oversight of the cable industry’s main representational duties in Europe. Matthias lastly held the position of President of the German Federal Network Agency, Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), the authority for telecommunications, postal, energy and railway markets in Germany, including frequency management and digital signature. He played an instrumental role in the liberalization of the German energy market and left behind notable achievements with respect to competition in the telecommunications market. Matthias also served as Chairman of the European Regulators Group (ERG) in 2009 to increase regulatory cooperation at the EU level.

Matthias 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.

In your view, what were some of the biggest highlights for the industry since we last gathered for Cable Congress in London?

Matthias Kurth: In 2013 cable really showed what its networks could do for consumers in Europe. Cable’s massive investment over the years in broadband infrastructure has given operators a huge technology advantage that is now delivering on its potential. The upgrade of cable broadband speeds in commercial offers in Europe to 200 Mbps and even 500 Mbps in some markets is one key example. By combining its speed advantage with new service platforms and the inclusion of over the top, cable is affirming that it delivers the best value to the European consumer.

What are the biggest opportunities and challenges that should be driving cable’s priorities in 2014?

MK: This is a dynamic industry with an incredibly high level of competition between legacy players and new entrants, which is pushing the entire industry to keep up the pace of innovation and stay close to the customer. Fulfilling the customer’s growing and evolving needs and simplifying the use of platforms and services will remain a challenging factor for cable. If cable makes full use of the positive relationships it has with its clients, the industry will have the best, customer-focused perspectives and therefore be best positioned to keep growing in this highly competitive market.

2013 was a year of deal-making. What are the prospects for further consolidation and how could this stimulate industry growth?

MK: It’s true that there were a number of notable deals announced in 2013. Yet Europe’s cable landscape remains highly fragmented. Consolidation in such a disjointed market offers a chance to make better use of economies of scale and generates efficiencies so that more can be invested in infrastructure, products and services for end-users. Premium content – which is already experiencing high demand from customers – is getting more and more expensive, and carriers need a good market position for negotiations.

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes started a debate last year about the “Connected Continent” and creating a single market for broadband providers. What role does cable play in connecting Europe?

MK: When it comes to high speed broadband over 30 Mbps, cable has already connected the content better than other carriers. As an important investor in broadband infrastructure, we support the Commission in advocating for a more investment-friendly approach in the broadband market. Still, some topics in the proposals are controversial and the outcome is not yet clear.

Cable Congress in 2014 will focus on cable’s flourishing future – in your view what does that future look like and what will it take to get there?

MK: To predict the future is always difficult. What is for certain is that our industry has to face constant and dynamic change. If we learned the right lessons from the past – that we have to be ahead of our competitors when it comes to innovation and investment, then we are well prepared for the future.

Meet the Speaker: Jordan Casey, Founder and CEO of Casey Games

About Jordan Casey

Jordan Casey is a 14 year old self taught programmer and entrepreneur from a city called Waterford in Ireland.

He currently runs 2 companies: Casey Games – An Independent Game Company and TeachWare – A web based application for teachers to easily manage all their students information in the cloud.

More here >>

Join Jordan at Cable Congress next week as he goes through his story and challenges he has faced and what it’s like to be a young entrepreneur. Don’t miss his keynote speech on 13th March.

Join Jordan at Cable Congress next week as he goes through his story and challenges he has faced and what it’s like to be a young entrepreneur. Don’t miss his keynote speech on 13th March.

Meet the Speaker: Ralph Brown of CableLabs #cablecongress

Meet the Speaker: Ralph Brown, CTO, CableLabs

RBRalph Brown is responsible for leading CableLabs’ technical staff in delivering innovative solutions to the cable industry. In this role he leads development in seven areas of technical excellence: Systems Architecture, Network Design, BSS/OSS, Client Software, Security, Strategic Assessment, and Test/Prototype Development. He also is responsible for identifying and leading in areas of convergence and synergy across CableLabs programs.

Ralph 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.

CableLabs plays an important role in developing technology and standards for the cable industry. What did the organization focus on in 2013?

From the DOCSIS 3.1 specifications to 4K/Ultra HD – the past year was full of tremendous innovation and growth for the cable industry. CableLabs was a major catalyst for change.

Completing the DOCSIS 3.1 specifications – in record time of 18 months – was a huge success. Once completed, we incorporated the Chinese-DOCSIS requirements for the first time. This enabled the achievement of a global scale for cable broadband technologies.

CableLabs brought European and Asian cable operators on board as members, increasing the number of cable subscribers represented from 80 million to more than 125 million.

CableLabs also qualified a new class of high performance optical network equipment for Cable Business Services customers as part of the CableLabs DPoE specification. The organization also helped prepare the industry for 4K Ultra HD content and continued its work to create energy efficiency in set-top boxes, across the telecommunications industry.

Lastly, CableLabs worked to develop Wi-Fi technology for cable on a number of fronts:

  • Bringing seamless roaming across cable Wi-Fi access points to cable through the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Passpoint™ standards;
  • Establishing a Wireless Service Locator service for cable operators;
  • Publishing key technical papers in the wireless spectrum policy debate as part of a continuing campaign to secure additional spectrum that can be leveraged by our members.

What are the cable industry’s biggest priorities for 2014 from a technology perspective?

In 2014, CableLabs will focus on bringing our member’s innovative technologies for Wi-Fi and wireless, business services and big data, internet of things and more — in the same manner that we did for DOCSIS.

DOCSIS3.0 was a major game changer for network capability. How is DOCSIS3.1 pushing cable networks even further and how will the customer benefit?

DOCSIS 3.1 introduces new modulation technology (OFDM), which increases bandwidth efficiency by as much as a factor of two. This helps cable operators better utilize the bandwidth of their current network and continue delivering the sophisticated applications and services their customers demand.

 

How are the needs of cable operators evolving and how will this influence CableLabs’ future work?

Cable operators are facing even more competition, not only from traditional service providers, but also from over-the-top (OTT) providers.

CableLabs will give our members the technologies and tools needed to remain the preferred provider in all markets.

Tell us about the recent international expansion of CableLabs and the importance of ensuring alignment of industry R&D activities globally?

It’s all about scale. International cable operators are positioned to take advantage of the growing global marketplace for products and services. The greater the alignment, the bigger the impact to their businesses and the world. This also benefits vendors, because they will only have to satisfy one set of international standards vs. trying to meet the individual standards of each region.

Meet the Speaker: Ayham Al-Banna of Arris #cablecongress

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.

Exclusive Interview with Manuel Cubero

MEET THE SPEAKER:
 
Exclusive Interview with Manuel Cubero  ahead of Cable Congress next month
 
2013 was a year of change in the industry, including Kabel Deutschland with the acquisition by Vodafone. Manuel, in the run up to his appearance on the Panel Session: Cable Challenges Across Europe on March 12 at Cable Congress, tells us how he sees the competitive European cable landscape evolving.
 

“If the acquisition of Kabel Deutschland by Vodafone proves only one point, it is this: you cannot do without fixed assets. The European cable industry should be reassured.”

As Manuel is moving into a new role as CEO of Kabel Deutschland, we ask about his vision for the company and strategic priorities. We also find out why cable is such an attractive business model for investors.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE

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Meet the speaker: Manuel Cubero of Kabel Deutschland Holding AG #cablecongress

Meet the speaker: Manuel Cubero of Kabel Deutschland Holding AG

Manuel CuberoDr. Manuel Cubero is member of the Management Board and Chief Operating Officer of Kabel Deutschland Holding AG, the operator of Germany’s largest cable network. He is responsible for the company’s Sales, Technical Operations, Customer Service, IT as well as for Content.

Manuel 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.

2013 was a year of change in the industry, including for Kabel Deutschland with the acquisition by Vodafone. Can you tell us a bit about how you see the competitive landscape for the European cable industry evolving?

Manuel Cubero: If the acquisition of Kabel Deutschland by Vodafone proves only one point, it is this: you cannot do without fixed assets. The European cable industry should be reassured.

In addition, the European cable industry will increasingly be looked at when it comes to showing how exactly “convergence” can, in fact, create value. In my opinion, we can be the ones liberating this fuzzy concept from consultants and turning it into reality – maybe in new and surprising ways?

In order to do all this, we need to keep working as an industry on getting the right regulatory framework in place: one that truly supports the digital economy and breakthrough innovation through fair competition between infrastructures. In this regard, the further consolidation in our industry will continue to play an important role.

Are Europe’s regulators getting it right vis a vis promoting fair competition?

MC: In general the European regulatory framework and its implementation by European regulators have been heading in the right direction. It has enabled the much desired and fruitful infrastructure competition throughout Europe.

Cable with its vast investments in superior networks and innovative products has been an essential driver of this competition. Telco incumbents have had to find answers visa-vis the challenge by cable and, in particular, cable’s landmark high speed broadband offers. This has led to accelerated investments in incumbent telcos’ own networks which, in turn, has been very beneficial for Europe’s digital economy.

Regulators might want to keep in mind this recent success when thinking about regulating alternative infrastructures or shifting the regulatory paradigm towards symmetric regulation. This would only be in the interest of former telco incumbents and may endanger past and, more importantly, future investments in alternative infrastructures.

From an operational standpoint, what do you think will drive cable’s growth as we look at the state of the industry 2014?

MC: To be perfectly honest, even though you might not like this “boring” answer: more of the same.

As an industry we have been working tirelessly on improving our products, year after year, upgrading our value proposition. Developments such as Liberty’s Horizon box or our own endeavours of turning the customer premise equipment into Wi-Fi hotspots are such examples: We need to continuously prove to our customers how great it is to be a cable customer.

Last, but certainly not least, we will continue to work on our operations and flawless execution. In our call centres, for example, we have had very good success in ever improving customer experience, increasingly using customer care as a very successful sales channel and pushing down costs. We need to continue to do all three at the same time. These three goals are no opposites, they actually support each other.

You’re moving into a new role as CEO of Kabel Deutschland. Can you tell us a bit about your vision for the company and what your strategic priorities will be?

MC: First and foremost, our key priority is to deliver what we promised stand alone. We cannot afford to let go in terms of our continued sales success, driven by the most competitive products in the market, flawless operations and great customer experience. We have agreed with Vodafone that this is our first, second and third priority. We cannot have our daily stand alone business lapse because we get distracted by preparing for a later integration. Our competitors seem to bet on this happening. We better prove them wrong.

After having a profit and loss agreement in place, the remainder of our strategic focus will be of proving that the combination of a great mobile player and a great cable company can create additional value. First and foremost, we need to prove this to our customers. We need to be able to show each and every customer what‘s in it for him or her.

Why is cable such an attractive business model for investors?

MC: Cable is very resilient vis-a-vis changes in the economy and cable provides steady, predictable cash flows.

In addition to all that stability and predictability, cable provides tons of growth opportunities. Given our technology edge and the speed reserves we have, this is nowhere near the end.

Our goal as an industry should be to continue to deepen this attraction: nowhere can investors get a stable and huge oil-tanker and a flotilla of agile and aggressive speed boats, all at the same time.

Guest Blog: Guy Bisson, Research Director, Television, IHS

Guy BissonBy Guy Bisson, Research Director, Television, IHS

As head of IHS Screen Digest’s television department Guy directs all TV-related research and statistical modelling activities. He has been researching and writing about the global television business for 15 years and was instrumental in building IHS Screen digest’s TV research department and the online statistical information service, Television Intelligence.

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

What were the most significant developments for the cable industry in 2013 and what are some of your predictions for the industry in 2014 and beyond?

If only I was a ‘glass half full’ type of person. If I was, I could claim to be 50 per cent right in foreseeing what I think were the two key developments for the cable industry in 2013. Trouble is, I’m not. Not only do I generally see every glass as half empty, but I believe that half a glass is already as good as gone. That means I have to admit to being half wrong last year in thinking that Vodafone would not push ahead with its acquisition of German cable operator KDG—one of the two key developments in 2013.

The other key development was the moves by Virgin Media and Sweden’s Com Hem to bring Netflix on board as a content partner within the TiVo platform. That one I did predict some years back, as any regular at the Cable Congress will know.

On the face of it, these two events seem unconnected. What links the acquisition of a German cable company by a telecoms operator eager to access a local fixed-line network, and the content and channel negotiations of two Northern European cable companies? Well, not only are these two events closely related, they set the scene for my five predictions for 2014 and beyond in terms of key industry developments.

1/ Mobile operators will increasingly seek alliances with cable infrastructure owners and other TV platform operators and content owners.

Here’s a true story: some years ago I got a call from a client in the telecoms business telling me my forecasts for European pay TV ARPU were “obviously wrong”. The reason, they argued, was that ARPU always goes down, not up as my forecasts showed. I politely explained that in the pay TV business, it was indeed possible for ARPU to increase over time, a concept that was completely alien to the client concerned.

In this anecdote lies an illustration of why the Vodafone/KDG deal may not be the only alliance we will see between mobile and cable. Mobile operators are sitting on increasingly fat distribution networks driving the industry more and more into the realm of video and entertainment distribution. For the mobile players, entertainment means an opportunity to get a bite of that mysterious upward ARPU flow.

At the same time, cable and pay TV operators not only see broadband as key to their offer, but are looking to provide entertainment services on the move to multiple devices. Suddenly, alliances that some years back looked like questionable partnerships to add quad-play to the cable service portfolio take on a whole new rationale. Mobile is one of the key planks in the future of multichannel entertainment, broadband provision and, of course, telephony: the cable Holy Trinity.

2/ The Content Distribution Network (CDN) will become the next area of focus for cable investment and acquisition.

Here’s another one that has been on my predictions list for some time, but I believe that another area not only of investment but of potential strategic merger activity will be cable operators and CDN infrastructure owners. Cable operators have always been in the business of investing in and owning infrastructure. Now the CDN is crucial to successfully scaling entertainment delivery in the OTT space. By investing in or acquiring CDN infrastructure, cable operators have the opportunity not only to maintain their central role as entertainment pipe providers, but also to establish a new business-to-business revenue segment offering channel and content partners CDN services. To me, a natural fit for the industry.

3/ ‘Quint-play’ by adding Wi-Fi and out-of-home access to entertainment content will be the norm.

By now you can hopefully see a pattern. If mobile alliances become common and CDN investment becomes the norm, then as cable operators look to move beyond triple and quad-play, the out-of-home entertainment network will become the fifth service in the cable arsenal. Wi-Fi access is already available from a number of cable providers, but this will evolve to embrace a full provision OTT service offering that reflects the best of the cable content offer and encompasses broadband and mobile services on the move. This will mean that…

4/ Super-fast broadband will no longer be enough to differentiate the cable proposition, and content will again be thrust to the fore: cable’s position as broadband pipe provider will make content investments and alliances important again.

All of this means that control of content, something the industry has backed away from in recent years with content division divestments, will again be pushed to the fore as a means of service differentiation. Fast broadband has been a major driver for growth in the cable industry over the last decade and an essential part of the triple-play proposition. To date, cable has been highly competitive, winning the price-to-speed battle hands down across Europe.

Now though, as broadband is seen as a way to access full-service entertainment content (indeed some of the first widely available 4K HD will be distributed over broadband rather than via traditional broadcast means), cable operators will differentiate their broadband offers on the content access and services that they bundle. That could mean that money that is no longer being spent on linear channel operations is diverted to OTT content propositions. But, of course, one source of content alliances and immediate differentiation are the existing OTT providers like Netflix, meaning….

5/ OTT providers will be seen as friend, not foe.

OK, so this can’t really be a prediction anymore as it’s already happening through the deals that Netflix is inking with the likes of Virgin Media and Com Hem, but it’s important to re-iterate because these deals unify all five of the predictions made here. Let’s summarise:

  • Cable is moving beyond triple-play…
  • Mobile operations that also embrace Wi-Fi are looking like attractive partners as data and entertainment on the go become core…
  • CDN investments will be needed to fully participate in both the future of entertainment delivery and the future of entertainment service provision…
  • To differentiate bundled services in the future, the content proposition will be key, and this content proposition will increasingly be about OTT…
  • Meaning, OTT content will be essential to the overall bundle. Of course, this doesn’t mean only third-party OTT providers like Netflix, but cable-curated services too. Today though, existing OTT propositions with a well-established name represent a quick win for cable operators.

So there you have it. My top predictions for 2014, and beyond… at least near-term ‘beyond’. But in the fast-moving entertainment industry, predicting any further out quickly enters the realms of Science Fiction: cable operators offering neural implants for entertainment and communication? Ask me again in a few years.

Exclusive Q&As with Vassilis Seferidis of Samsung Electronics

Vassilis Seferidis of Samsung Electronics

vVassilis Seferidis is Director of Business Development for Samsung Electronics responsible for driving revenue growth and strategic development of Samsung’s Consumer Electronics business in Europe. Vassilis has more than 20 years experience in the Consumer Electronics industry mainly in Strategic Business Planning and Product Management roles.

Vassilis will be speaking at the Cable Congress 2014 event taking place in Amsterdam on 12-14March 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?

Vassilis Seferidis: It seems that 2014 is the year that Ultra High Definition (UHD) is the main focus of all TV manufacturers. Samsung is leading this wave with the introduction of a wide range of UHD products including flat and curved UHD TVs. Two enabling technologies have been instrumental in making the UHD TVs possible in 2014: The new HEVC compression standard and the new version of the HDMI interface (HDMI 2.0).

Another significant technology development is the maturity of the connected TV platforms which offer now a wide range of premium over-the-top (OTT) services. In the context of the cable industry, Smart TVs enable the virtualisation of the set-top-box (STB) by delivering pay-TV services directly onto the Smart TVs without any external hardware components (STB, CI+ CAMs, etc). This results in a better user experience while reducing the CAPEX and OPEX for the operator.

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

VS: In 2014 several manufacturers introduced NFC-enabled TV-sets. Today there are only a handful of applications that use this capability so there is a risk that the NFC feature can be overlooked by users unless services providers and developers come up with exciting new applications to utilise this technology.

Another technology advancement which generates quite a lot of excitement worldwide is that of wearable electronics. However, it seems to have a little impact on the TV industry at least in the short term!

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

VS: Cable is an unparallel provider of high speed broadband and television services. Key to its future success is the expansion of its broadband network in terms of speed and reach which will enable new products and multi-location/ multi-device services. However, in the long term, the only way for Cable to sustainably differentiate itself from its competitors is by enhancing its overall consumer experience both in terms of content delivery and customer service.

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

VS: Cable is facing today many diverse technology choices which in many occasions have created a “FoMo effect” (i.e. Fear-of-Missing-Out). In the last year for example we have seen large investments in many and varied technologies which, although credible in their own right, make little sense as pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle. Therefore, the highest priority for a cable operator today should be to formulate a consistent technology strategy by deciding where they want to be in 5/10 years time and then working backwards define the stepping stones required to achieving those goals.

Technology in this industry moves at an incredible place. 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?

VS: I believe that Smart Home and Internet-of-Things (IoT) would be the next buzz words that would become every-day terms in the next 2-3 years. The progress in this area is really fast with all major players investing heavily for a piece of the action. Thankfully, these are technologies where the cable industry can play an important role in both the technology development and the commercial deployment of products and services.

How does an organization like Samsung Electronics embed tech innovation into its culture?

VS: Recognising the importance of innovation in the fast changing and highly competitive market today Samsung has endorsed a global program for infusing innovation to the company’s culture. The programme has the executive management endorsement and targets all three areas of the innovation process: (1) Creating new ideas (2) Implementing new ideas to technologies and (3) Commercialising technologies into new products, solutions or services. In simple terms the program aims to empower and encourage the employees to come up with new ideas, foster their creativity and recognise and reward their efforts.

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