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Subject: IP: comment and reply on By Cringely -- Soon, It's Gonna Rain

  • From: David Farber <>
  • Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 19:25:51 -0500

>From: "Bob Frankston" <>
>To: <>
>The problem with Rainmaker and other technologies is that they are only
>valuable when the address the real limits. Running high speed on a
>segment of a network is interesting without addressing the architecture
>of the cable distribution system and all the devices connecting the
>segments. The real limiting factor is in the lack of (marketplace)
>incentives to use the technology as part of creating innovative
>It's like deploying fire hoses that can carry ten times the amount of
>water than is available from the pipes and then wondering why one can't
>get 100 times the amount of water by just deploying 10 such hoses.
>As the HDTV and ITV failures (or simple lack of deployment) have shown
>there doesn't seem to be enough additional revenue in delivering more.
>On the other hand if the architecture of the network gave the users the
>capacity to create their own services then we have something very
>interesting. But we already have the 10x improvements in technology, if
>not the 1,000,000x. The availability of connectivity is restrained by
>legacy business models, not by technology.
>More on this in
>Bob Frankston

and reply

Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 16:06:36 -0800
To: David Farber <>
From: Mark Laubach <>


I'd like to draw out what type of problem I'd like to have versus
the one that Bob has suggested.

Let me reference a couple groundwork issues. Firstly, is that there
is a very good description of the flexibility of cable operator's with
regards to their broadband infrastructure. This is all detailed in our
book: [plug!]
Basics are that one only need grow the infrastructure towards where there is
demand for connectivity and choice. However growing the infrastructure
requires some amount of Capex$ be spent. Secondly, what Rainmaker
brings to the table is not a big bump, rather the incremental deployment
of a new modulation technology that seamlessly supports existing services,
while at the same time provides digital choice capacity increase through
more efficient use of the cable RF spectrum. The key here is that any
new technology application needs to support a transition from existing
to new services. However, it must due so in a financially secure
fashion, which should imply a step-wise (incremental) cost impact
wish a scaled up financial return impact. You can read more about
this at

Rainmaker has a vision of "10Gbps to the side of the home over existing
cable" as well as the ability to provide "2x the digital choice
capacity at 1/3 the price" as well as "10x the subscriber side
data-capacity processing improvement for comparable cost to today".
You don't get to 10Gbps in one swell foop, you get there incrementally
and only where improved cash flow justifies the path. Also, we bring
a very flexible building block that supports cable's traditional
broadcast/multicast, programming as well as switched higher layer
services which will support both shared and custom/personal bandwidth
allocations. Much more flexible and cost effective for delivery of
"home choice" than any other approach.

I partially agree with Bob's statement: "availability of connectivity is
restrained by legacy business models, not by technology." I would rather
use a similar statement and say that availability of connectivity is
restrained by the cost effective transition from the legacy business model
to newer business model; technology choice plays a direct role in enabling
a successful transition. I would also draw references and metaphors to
"The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton M. Christensen. Connectivity providers
are always going to be restrained by legacy technical momentum built
up in the direction of the current model. What they need is a way to
lay cost effective technology groundwork for turning the financial ship
and then when ready, actually make the turn. Keeps entrepreneurship in
the hands of the operators rather than the bank's.

So, back to the initial "problem". If you had a $1 to spend on adding
extra connectivity capacity to your cable plant, would you spend it on:

1) more of the same existing technology, or

2) a new technology that expands/creates services seamlessly,
brings 2x digital choice increase for 1/3 the cost of 1)
brings 10x the subscriber side improvement for the cost of 1)
incrementally scales from 170Mbs to 10Gbps to the side of the home,
even though you didn't know what to do with all the choice
when you first started deploying it?

I would personally spend it on 2). It's a problem I would very much
like to put into the hands of providers.

Also, I don't want to get into a debate of HDTV, etc. I have noted that
the cable industry is beginning to look much more seriously at "subscription
VOD" and streaming IP services as being a necessary part of their future.
This all requires cost effective capacity increases for supporting more
customer choice.


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