We are on the brink of an era of ubiquitous and hyper-fast broadband, laying the foundation for a fully digital existence only hinted at in futuristic TV shows and movies. This next frontier will spur innovation, dramatically impact consumers and businesses, and continue to reshape the value proposition that MSOs and service providers offer to their customers.
At ATX, we call this wave of digital connectivity the Gigabit Generation. It was a topic that took front and center recently at SCTE-ISBE Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta.
Against this backdrop, it's imperative that service providers inject new agility into their networks that enable them to grow and expand more flexibly than in the past, accommodating future demand. This includes evolving from a centralized architecture to one that distributes many of the functions, like Physical- and MAC-layer functions -- now located in headends or hubs -- to the far reaches of their networks.
Moving to a distributed access architecture (DAA) also relieves headend congestion related to frequent service group segmenting of the past. It also sets the stage for the virtualization of functions remaining in the headend, which provides cable operators with the opportunity to eventually move to a data center model through the replacement of purpose-built equipment with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) servers.
Various forms of distributed architectures, including Remote PHY/MAC, are already being implemented. So are deep-fiber initiatives using both analog and digital optics. Although the ink is still drying on the point-to-point coherent optics specification released by CableLabs in July, it won't be long before service providers begin to leverage coherent optical solutions designed for the access portion of their networks.
This is an exciting time for service providers, who saw new innovation at Cable-Tec Expo that enables them to affordably and flexibly increase the rate at which they can expand the capacity of their networks to keep up with today's and tomorrow's market demand.
As ubiquitous gigabit-or-faster broadband service, aided by the maturity of big data and artificial intelligence (AI), becomes a reality, a variety of industries will reap the benefits.
The transportation industry and public transit already benefit from the power of high-speed connectivity. However, new efforts are underway in several big cities to collect and analyze data, on the fly, that can be leveraged to optimize the public transportation experience for thousands of commuters. Consider, for example, the ability of a transit authority to track bus routes to see which are being under-utilized or overused at a specific time of day and then adjust service accordingly.
Similarly, imagine a smart traffic light system that takes continuous measurement of the flow of traffic and constantly feeds that information into big data and AI systems that automatically make changes to streamline traffic flow.
While it may be premature to suggest big data and big broadband can predict the next major earthquake before it strikes or plot the exact path of the next hurricane, advances in connectivity can support significant enhancements in predictive analysis. Natural catastrophes are often preceded by a plethora of early indicators -- many of which are subtle, almost imperceptible. But in a field where every second counts, the ability to feed more sensors and data through hyper-large data pipes gives scientists a way to not only detect and measure thousands of these seemingly unconnected events, but also decipher patterns and correlations that would otherwise go undetected.
As smart health becomes a reality, it will become commonplace for consumers of every age and background to use sensors and other wearables to relay a constant stream of vitals to their healthcare providers, enabling more forward-thinking digital diagnostics. The ability to detect anomalies, such as dangerous drops in blood sugar levels, will allow medical professionals to take corrective action long before the patient is in any danger.
And soon, patients will be able to create more immersive and precise consultations with healthcare professionals from their homes. Virtual doctors' offices could be set up at drug stores or other locations, relying on highly immersive video conferencing to create an as-if-you-were-there relationship between doctor and patient.
The ability to interconnect billions of intelligent devices to gigabit-or-faster pipes will soon be a widespread reality. As we look forward to the Gigabit Generation, cable operators and other service providers will deliver the connectivity catalyst behind widespread transformation across healthcare, education, transportation, geopolitics, entertainment and many more sectors. Today is the moment they need to enhance their networks -- and adopt an agile network model -- to enable this generational transformation.
— Charlie Vogt, President and CEO, ATX Networks