By Craig Leddy
Industry conferences typically provide opportunities for speakers to hype new products, make bold projections and rattle their sabers at competitors. So it was a bit surprising that a recent Light Reading conference on cable business services was rather subdued, with a notable lack of hutzpah that had punctuated the conference in recent years.
Cable providers have been embracing The Next Big Things, including SD-WAN, virtualization and IoT. But products in those areas require longer lead times and they present operational challenges. While the next-generation opportunities are getting sorted out, cable is focusing on connectivity and apps that “ride off the central nervous system,” as Christian Nascimento, vice president of product management for Comcast Business, put it.
Revenue from business services continues to grow for cable providers, but the annual rate of growth has been declining in recent years largely due to a saturated market for broadband access. Cable providers are seeking to leverage their current strengths with SMBs and key verticals by adding products that are organic to their primary services, which also could spawn more opportunities with midmarket companies and enterprises. New applications are adding customer capabilities to broadband, voice and television.
Television? Yes. During the Light Reading conference Nascimento touted Comcast’s X1 for Business, including a version for the hospitality market that uses its popular X1 voice-controlled video platform for cable TV, on-demand movies, applications and hotel services. Reflecting the adage that everything old is new again, Comcast Business has introduced a GameOn service for the hospitality market that enables patrons to engage with live sporting events, a concept that originally was introduced in bars more than 30 years ago.
Giving a facelift to good ‘ol cable television doesn’t mean that cable providers are stuck in the past. Among other Comcast enhancements to its product lines — “elegant solutions,” as Nascimento called them — are SecurityEdge, a cloud-based cybersecurity protection; SmartOffice, including camera monitoring; LTE Backup, to prevent mobile outages; and WiFi Pro, to manage Wi-Fi service and collect analytics.
|Channel Partners’ “Cable Connection” column focuses on cable provider developments in business services and channel-partner relationships.|
At the higher end, several providers are offering SD-WAN. Comcast has been pushing its ActiveCore virtual platform that supports its SD-WAN product, which it’s been selling for more than two-and-a-half years.
In early 2019 Spectrum Enterprise launched its Managed SD-WAN running on its edge compute platform, including virtual security that the company will be upselling to customers, said Satya Parimi, group vice president, enterprise data and smart cities, Spectrum Enterprise. Cox Business has made its first SD-WAN deployment and expects more this year, according to Brian Rose, senior director, product development, Cox Business.
While cable is making headway with SD-WAN, implementing the platforms poses challenges. At Spectrum Enterprise, Parimi said the company has been working hard to provide the right level of capacity and scaling; address costs and licensing with partners; provide service assurance; and give customers a quick onboarding process. It requires changes in processes and personnel training, he noted.
Many business customers have been slow to embrace SD-WAN. Carrier-managed SD-WAN accounts for less than …