How is change management the key to successful cable infrastructure modernization?
The winds of change are blowing for the Cable/MSO Industry. And it’s all happening faster than anyone thought. Last month, cable industry gurus met in Denver for Light Reading’s 11th annual Cable Next Gen Technologies and Services conference, and it was clear embracing change is critical to meeting the end-user’s needs.
Subscribers are changing
We’ve heard a lot about the impact of streaming services and cord cutting. But it was clear from discussions at the show that consumers are not abandoning cable, they are changing their consumption habits. They are now buying fast and reliable internet services, and lots of it. Consumers just can’t get enough of connected devices and the Smart Home is only smart when connected to the internet.
Here is a big change, the internet is now the epicenter of a cable operators network, not video delivery. According to Leichtman Research Group, cable rules U.S. broadband more than ever, with subscribers up 2.7 million in the last quarter of 2017. That’s 64.4% of the total market for internet services.
Today’s consumer has grown up with choice
Cable is listening to their customers and changing how TV services are presented to map to how people want to watch. Whether it’s watching football in the winter, or Game of Thrones for only one season, cable is open to changing how they structure their offerings and technology to deliver choice and make search and discovery easier. One thing that hasn’t changed is cable’s ability to offer a single bill. Aggregated billing has tremendous value for subscribers, so if cable can reframe TV to offer choice and viewing options, viewers will come back.
Internet is now the epicenter of a cable operators network, not video delivery. According to Leichtman Research Group, cable rules U.S. broadband more than ever, with subscribers up 2.7 million in the last quarter of 2017.
Technology is changing
Rethinking cable was the message of change delivered by keynote Dennis Stevens, SVP, Product Development & Strategic Programs, Shaw Communications. He offered IoT monitoring as an example of how an operator can utilize technology investments and get ahead of change by offering new services. Smart cities, connected healthcare, e-learning, fixed wireless, mobile backhaul and 5G are all marketplace changes that advantage an owner of access infrastructure, like cable operators.
Cable is investing in their network infrastructure to address these changing customer needs and effectively compete in the marketplace. There was still some debate on technology choice, but most agreed that modernizing the access network with fiber is a requirement.
Planning for these modernization efforts are underway, nearly all cable operator respondents to a recent S&P Global market intelligence study said they plan to deploy distributed access architecture (DAA), with 51% beginning in 2018. The top business drivers for investments were not surprising: it is part of a deep fiber strategy and it helps resolve facilities challenges and customer demand for more bandwidth.
Here is where cable/MSOs have a unique value: ownership of the last mile. And, investments in new access architectures like Fiber Deep will add new value to that last mile and deliver greater capacity and quality of service. By driving fiber deeper, cable operators can improve performance.
“Access plant is an essential part of the cable operator’s business,” said Ciena’s Wayne Hickey. “The industry sees the value and has made a commitment to bringing fiber to the neighborhood.”
My favorite quote of the conference was from Tee Harton of Cox who said, “From an access engineering perspective, it’s a great time to be alive. We are in a great position. Our customers want more and better service, and we now have the technology to give them what they want.”
The industry is thoughtfully rolling out new technology, iterating on the innovation, changing assumptions and tweeking as they learn. Getting new technology into the field where they can test changes that they can’t replicate in a lab ensures that they know what will happen and how to respond when the system is turned on.
Nobody likes having the cable guy standing in their living room. Automation allows operators to fix challenges before the customer calls. It also allows them to respond faster to outages, fixing some challenges from a central call center. Automation was seen as a positive change for professionals who build and run networks. For it will allow network engineers to spend more time running the network vs fixing problems.
Operations must change
Technology change is also a disruptive cycle for the cable workforce, subscribers, or anyone trying to navigate thru a utility work zone. Several speakers noted that end-to-end planning is the key to success of any transition. So operators are looking at their fiber investment cycle from a subscriber’s perspective, rethinking the entire operations and customer experience. From training outside plant engineers and installers to new service delivery.
To make the transition to fiber plant effective, cable is retraining, upskilling and educating the workforce with different types of skills. SCTE, the professional association for the advancement of technology, standards and workforce education, is doing their bit to help bring the cable industry workforce up to speed. Steve Harris, SCTE said, “Since 2012 we have been filling the fiber knowledge gap and preparing the cable workforce by offering new training and certification.”
Cable is focused on the future, making investments in people, processes and infrastructure. This change will help them to match their capabilities to a new generation of users.
Understanding the customer experience from order entry, provisioning and billing to field technology enablement and operations, it critical. Then building a plan that thinks through the entire workflow, with ready responses for the worst-case scenario, will smooth the change.
“Being great means you are always looking to improve,” said keynote speaker Charlotte Field, Senior Vice President, Application Platform Operations, Network Operations Charter Communications.
Cable is focused on the future, making investments in people, processes and infrastructure. This change will help them to match their capabilities to a new generation of users. They will do this not by fighting the market but by embracing change and being ready to adapt. A new perspective on managing change came from outside of the cable industry. In a fireside chat, Janet Leahy, executive producer and writer for television said, “Live on the edge of failure. If your stomach is churning it’s a good thing.”
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