Broadband Linkup: Cable-Tec Attendees Have Been ‘Out of Control Amazed’ with Network NoiseHawk

Broadband Linkup

Cable-Tec Attendees Have Been ‘Out of Control Amazed’ with Network NoiseHawk

“SCTE is the best way to present our product, because they can really use it, play with it, move the source of noise and see how it changes.”

Chris Boring, VP, Sales and Marketing

Foad Towfiq
CEO, Promptlink Communications

Chris Boring, VP, Sales and Marketing

Chris Boring
VP, Sales and Marketing, Promptlink Communications

For veteran tradeshow attendees, sometimes it’s difficult to inspire a real wow-worthy moment on the show floor. On today’s episode of Broadband Linkup by Promptlink Communications, host Sean Heath caught up with Promptlink Communications’ Foad Towfiq and Chris Boring at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2019 in New Orleans to discuss the launch of Network NoiseHawk and share impressions from the pre-eminent cable telecommunications event.

SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2019 has become the standard for the latest technology rollouts. This year, Promptlink Communications rolled out its Network NoiseHawk, a patent-pending algorithm to analyze data, accurately pinpoint network noise, and easily display it on a map for cable operators and their technicians to quickly correct noise issues.

Towfiq and Boring say the reception has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic for Network NoiseHawk.

“They’re just out of control amazed,” Boring said, who has been attending this staple of Cable TV tradeshows for 20 years and hasn’t seen anything like it.

For Promptlink Communication’s on-site demo, they set up a cable plant environment with live equipment and live modems, and analysed the plant with their software.

“We have noise generators set up in different points in the network, so customers can move the noise around,” Boring said. “When they move the noise, our tool can pinpoint exactly where that noise is.”

00:00:01

Daniel Litwin: You’re listening to Broadband Linkup, your source for broadband industry info with Promptlink Communications.

00:00:12

Sean Heath: Live from SCTE in New Orleans, it’s Broadband Linkup by Promptlink. I’m your host, Sean Heath, and very excited for this live presentation and an opportunity to talk to two of my favorite people in the industry. That of course is the Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Promptlink Communications, Chris Boring, and the CEO for Promptlink, Foad Towfiq. Chris, how are you today?

00:00:38

Chris Boring: Hey, Sean. We’re doing great, sitting on the floor of the SCTE Cable-Tec. All kinds of crazy stuff happening around us and it’s been a crazy and exciting week.

00:00:49

Sean Heath: Hey, Foad. How’s it going?

00:00:51

Foad Towfiq: Fine. Thanks. Happy to be talking to you.

00:00:54

Sean Heath: I’ll tell you, I can just hear some energy going on back there. I know it’s only 10 o’clock, well, 11 o’clock, right? But it’s the last day of the show. I mean, are you sad? Are you ready to wrap it up? How’s that? You know what? Let’s start off. How has the show gone so far?

00:01:15

Chris Boring: Go for it, Foad.

00:01:16

Foad Towfiq: It’s a great show and we’re enjoying it very much.

00:01:19

Chris Boring: More than. He’s being a little humble here. So it’s been an amazing show. We’ve been to these for so many years and you get people when they come by and they’re interested and maybe they want to talk a little bit about business. But this year, we have this Network NoiseHawk demo here and this is the only time. We were just talking about this where people come and then they come back and bring their boss and then they come back and they bring their boss’s boss and then they come back and they bring the CTO and then they say, “Okay, when do we get to do this?”

00:01:51

Foad Towfiq: Yeah, and they want to schedule a trial.

00:01:54

Chris Boring: Schedule a trial, get it live in their system. Sean, it’s just beyond our wildest dreams. That’s been great.

00:02:01

Sean Heath: Well, Chris when you and I last talked, you actually laid out some of the plan and then I had an opportunity to talk to Foad and he talked about the plan. You’ve performed a real-time proof of technology. Go ahead into a little more depth about the response you’re getting from people when they’re seeing that live, actual, true-to-life demo of NoiseHawk.

00:02:25

Chris Boring: Well, the demo is set up so there’s literally a miniature section of cable plant here. We brought it to the show with the live equipment, live modems, and we linked it into our software and what we’re doing is there are different points in the network that we have a noise generator and the customers come and they moved the noise around. Now when they move the noise around, the tool shows them exactly literally to the point, pinpointed as we say, where that noise is and then we disconnect it, the noise goes away, they all, “Yeah, noise is gone.” We connect it up somewhere else, they see it move on the map and it looks just like if these were customers out in the field and they are just out of control amazed.

00:03:18

Foad Towfiq: These are the equipment. I was going to say that these are the equipment that they use in their own field and in their own cable plant. So they’re very familiar with it.

00:03:34

Chris Boring: Yeah. They look at it recognize everything and they say, “Oh, yeah, that’s what it looks like.”

00:03:37

Foad Towfiq: The platform modems, they are using exactly the same. So we brought like fairly different kinds of modems that are widely used in the field.

00:03:48

Sean Heath: The way you’re presenting this is a little out of the ordinary. It’s not normal for a real time, real world test to be presented on a show for because there are so many things that can go wrong. A lot of exhibitors aren’t confident enough in their product to put it to that kind of real-world stress pass. I think it was a genius move by you guys. Are you getting some weird looks from people who think maybe you’re fudging some of the performance or you’re like the wizard behind the curtain of Oz?

00:04:17

Chris Boring: Oh, yeah, definitely getting some of that and it’s definitely a risk, but we have an amazing team here. Foad came up with the idea and really the algorithms of how to do it, our engineers, Anton Shtikhlaytner and [inaudible 00:04:33] are both here at the show. They are the wizards behind the curtain not when our software goes crazy, but when the equipment that we brought somehow goes a little crazy. So it’s definitely a brave move and people do look at us, first of all, more like we’re a little crazy for trying it, but then yeah, there’s some question, but that’s why we did it this way so they can see that it actually works in my plan.

00:04:57

Foad Towfiq: Yeah. This is the best way to present our product because they can really use it, play with it, move if they saw some noise, and see how it changes and so they like it.

00:05:10

Chris Boring: Yeah.

00:05:11

Sean Heath: Well, as I had an opportunity to talk to both of you in previous weeks, you both express just how excited and confident you were to have this sort of secret that you were going to be able to unveil. That’s a really great feeling to be able to hit the floor of a show and know that you’ve got something no one else has. That’s part of the evolution, I think, of tradeshow production value. These shows, they have to evolve and you’re doing something that’s ahead of the curve. I’m curious. You’ve both done this show so many times, what other evolutions have you seen or how is the show different today generally than it was Chris when you were there in say, I don’t know, like 2001?

00:06:01

Chris Boring: Well, Foad and I have both been in these shows for many years.

00:06:05

Foad Towfiq: At least 25 years.

00:06:06

Chris Boring: Yeah. And you know, it’s interesting, there’s there are ebb and flows to different things and one thing I’ve noticed lately, there probably aren’t as many people here at the show with the people that are here where in the past probably because of travel budget. So there were technicians and a lot of the lower level guys, which is great but here what you see I think more than anything, and Foad, tell me if you see the same thing, is you have quantity or quality over quantity. You have the decision makers here. We have the CTO. We had a CTO of multiple companies here looking at this where in the past you may not have gotten that once your tech is coming by, seeing what kind of goodies we have to give away.

00:06:50

Foad Towfiq: And also many technical professionals.

00:06:52

Chris Boring: Yeah. And there’s a real quality to that because they understand what we’re showing when it’s a CTO here. They really understand how much of a breakthrough it is.

00:07:02

Foad Towfiq: We have talked in the past about how the number of shows is diminishing, but the quality and the content of those shows is just you better bring your A-game when you come to SCTE. This is not the minor leagues.

00:07:16

Chris Boring: Yeah. Without a doubt that’s true and we see that through other people here at the show as well.

00:07:21

Foad Towfiq: That is absolutely right. Yes.

00:07:23

Sean Heath: And I think that’s a good thing because that keeps you on your toes. I always thought that having 12 tradeshows for the same industry in one calendar year in the continental United States was too many. I always thought that such a scattershot approach. I understand the concept of fishing with a net instead of fishing with a hook. But if you’ve got the best lure in the tackle box, you don’t need a net.

00:07:49

Chris Boring: Yeah, absolutely.

00:07:51

Foad Towfiq: That’s right. SCTE has been always a technical show from the beginning and this continues to be like that. There are seminars, there are classes and sessions, people come for those and mostly the technical people, technical professionals including the top management, the CTO and directors and then the top engineers. So this is the only show that I really like to go because besides presenting our tool to the high-level technical people is to establish new relationships, to gain insight about what’s going on, in our industry for the future.

00:08:35

Chris Boring: Absolutely.

00:08:36

Foad Towfiq: And so this is absolutely great for us, not only presenting our products, to see which direction we’re going and having this exchange of information is just amazing.

00:08:49

Chris Boring: Yeah. And besides the great, you know, “Okay, it’s great that we can show our products to the CTOs,” but more than that, we can sit and talk to them and get insight into what’s coming and what their real pain points and needs are. The noise is kind of, I won’t say it’s low-hanging fruit because it’s been so challenging for the last 15 years for somebody to figure this out, but other things that are happening in the industry, we sit down with these guys and talk and you find out really what direction you should be going in order to really stay ahead of the game and meet their needs. And that’s really what our company’s all about. Yeah, we’re a business, but it’s really about helping customers and finding a way to do what we can, maybe sometimes to our own desk detriment to help the customers get what they need and keep everyone happy.

00:09:39

Sean Heath: You mentioned low-hanging fruit. To go with that analogy, I would just say it’s very easy to find a coconut on the ground, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to open. Just because noise is a low-hanging fruit, that does not mean it was an easy problem for Promptlink to solve and yet you’ve done that. So I know that days at tradeshows are so crazy long. You don’t have just time to stand around and lean on things. You’re always working on the next conversation. You’re always building that next relationship. But have you had an opportunity to see anything at the show that grab your attention?

00:10:19

Foad Towfiq: We’re so busy. We’re sitting here. We’re busy.

00:10:24

Chris Boring: Well, I spent a little time walking around this morning and yesterday really before things started and there are some interesting things. I don’t know that I’ve seen so many groundbreaking things, but more and more we see some of these big pushes, which you’ve all heard about. You heard about 5G on the wireless side. On the cable side, we walk around and everyone’s talking about 10G, right? So it’s always outdoing a little. They’re doing in 5G. We’re going to do 10G.

00:11:00

Foad Towfiq: That’s a given.

00:11:01

Chris Boring: Yeah. And then you see people, you know, just this technology that you kind of heard about for a while that was just in the planning stages, it’s always cool here because you walk around and you start seeing that it’s actually being implemented. So you look at this distributed architecture that is pushing the networks out instead of this one big centralized head end that pushing things out closer to the customers and sort of making smaller bites to manage. You see that actually happening now. So we walk out and people are doing it and they’re talking about it and they’re talking to us and saying, “Oh, man, your tools are going to be great when we do this as well because we have the same issues to deal with.”

And so we’ve seen a lot of that. I saw that when I was walking around. But I haven’t seen anything, you know, where you just go, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing.”

00:11:56

Sean Heath: One thing I always liked about tradeshows is it always felt like an opportunity to see an idea that everybody was already thinking about and see that someone actually made that idea physically real. That was always a really cool moment for me in the show, to see a concept that we’ve been talking about for five years and somebody finally did it.

00:12:18

Chris Boring: Exactly. Yup. Yup. And that’s what we’re starting to see more and more here.

00:12:23

Sean Heath: It’s funny. I asked that question. Have you seen anything at the show? And Foad’s first response was, “There are other people at the show?”

00:12:32

Chris Boring: Yeah. We’ve been stuck deep with customers pretty much all the time every day. So it’s been tough to get out and see the show. I had to go before it opened.

00:12:42

Sean Heath: This is the final day and I bet you’re going to be just as busy today as you’ve been every day at this show.

00:12:49

Chris Boring: Yeah. Absolutely. We already had some folks come by today that have come by for about the fourth time, you know, bringing people higher and higher up the food chain to see the tool and we expect that today. We have some customer meeting scheduled for today, but usually the last day is more exhibitor’s day where you get to go and talk to other folks and talk about working together with some other folks and understand what they have as far as tools. I think we’re going to spend some time and maybe go out and do that. What do you think, Foad?

00:13:21

Foad Towfiq: Yeah. If we could get some chance, but I think that was remarkable here. Many people who visited our booth came back with their colleagues and even in one of the conversations, someone had a question about noise and the people who had visited us yesterday had… you need to go and talk to these guys.

00:13:43

Chris Boring: Yeah. We had some folks from Cox Cable who have been talking to us over the show and they were sitting in the seminar and it was a seminar on PNM, which is Proactive Network Maintenance, which is a set of tools that we support in our system, but then somebody raised their hand and said, “Well, that’s all great. But what do you do when there’s noise?” And the next thing you know, they’re bringing those guys over to the booth. That was funny.

00:14:07

Sean Heath:    One of the things that I always loved about tradeshows is the opportunity to not scope out the competition but the opportunity to figure out where you are in comparison, and I don’t know necessarily that… I mean, this show was probably just a confirmation of what you already suspected that you’re pretty much leading the pack.

00:14:32

Chris Boring:   Certainly, I’d say for noise and what we’re doing there, I think forward-thinking that Foad and team have shown has definitely proven out here.

00:14:44

Sean Heath:    But because I know the way you guys work at Promptlink, that’s not something that you’re not planning on relaxing anytime soon because you also see the progress that other companies are making and you know that, well today’s Thursday, guess what, when we get back in the office, we got to get back to work because we got to start working on the next thing. What is the next thing? Have you seen anything at the show that made you think, “Oh, that might be the next big thing”?

00:15:10

Foad Towfiq:   Technology is changing and we need to be there to adapt to the new changes.

00:15:16

Chris Boring:   Yeah. So these things like when I was talking about distributed architecture and other things they call Fiber Deep, you know what it means for us is that the core network itself changes. So we have to look at this and say, “Okay, in three years, here’s where it’s going to be. How do we make sure that the tool is just as effective and just as valued in that environment as it is today?” And we’ve only been talking really about noise but we also are showing our test systems here, which is another side of our business and some of the things that happened during the show was the release of the new or the agreement on the standard for the new DOCSIS, which is the cable industry’s standard for data transmission. DOCSIS 4 is approved. So now we have to go back and we look at all of our systems, look at our monitoring, look at our provisioning, look at our testing systems, and say, “Okay, we have to be ready because DOCSIS 4 is coming and wireless AX,” right, is another one that’s going to have to… it’s already in a roadmap, but we know it’s starting to appear actually in customers’ homes so we have to be ready to deploy for that as well.

00:16:27

Sean Heath:    Chris, I think I might have had a problem in my headphone because it sounded like you said everybody agreed on something.

00:16:36

Chris Boring:   I know. Well, they hadn’t and that there was a big internal feud in the industry about which direction to take. So the DOCSIS 4 seminar and meeting and whatever board meeting that they had here at the show supposedly will see as you say but should have resolved the disagreements.

00:16:56

Sean Heath:    That’s pretty surprising to be completely honest. Is there anything else about this year’s show that you think would surprise people who would normally have attended this show but they didn’t?

00:17:08

Foad Towfiq:   Well, basically all of our products are kind of unique.

00:17:11

Chris Boring:   Yeah. I think in our booth a lot of people have certainly looked at it and said, “Wow, I’ve never seen any of this before from you guys. You’ve always been here for testing stuff.”

00:17:20

Foad Towfiq:   Yeah. This platform is unique for people in this field because we are testing Wi-Fi in a very efficient way.

00:17:28

Chris Boring:   Yeah. Yeah. And maybe talk about the shielding that we do Foad and how that affects the testing because Wi-Fi is huge right now.

00:17:38

Foad Towfiq:   Yes. We have a technology. We have developed a small faraday cage for using the Wi-Fi setting because the high volume testing of Wi-Fi devices is a big challenge because all these Wi-Fi signal and interference and channel saturation causes problem.

00:18:04

Chris Boring:   Yeah. Sean, we talked about it I think on one of our other podcasts but the sheer number of, even here at the show when I was getting set up for the podcast and I turn my laptop on, I saw probably 400 SSIDs here in the air. And imagine trying to determine if your device can do good Wi-Fi performance when there’s 400 SSIDs. So we have our tester here. We don’t care. We do shut the doors and run our tests and they’ve ran for three days and they have not differed one bit.

00:18:34

Foad Towfiq:   So the people in this field they recognize it.

00:18:38

Sean Heath:    That is pretty funny that the testing you’re doing to demonstrate your protocols for dealing with noise, you actually have to deal with noise in order to set up the testing environment. That’s pretty funny.

00:18:50

Chris Boring:   Yeah. And on top of that, we’re giving away noise-canceling headphones for our golf today. So that is definitely the theme. So for anybody still walking around the show, they can come by and try our little game and get a chance to win some noise-canceling headphones.

00:19:06

Sean Heath:    Now for anyone who’s listening right now, how long are you going to be there today?

00:19:10

Chris Boring:   We’re here till one o’clock. The show runs till one. So there’s plenty of time to come and putt some balls and see what we have to show here as well.

00:19:18

Sean Heath:    So you’re wrapping up SCTE and then I would imagine that and you said at one o’clock I would imagine by 2:30, you’re probably already thinking about the next show. What is the next show?

00:19:31

Chris Boring:   You know, we have shows in Latin America that we do that it probably going to be the next ones that we’ll see.

00:19:37

Foad Towfiq:  Andina Link.

00:19:38

Chris Boring:   Like Andina Link. There are some other shows that we might do that we haven’t done before like [inaudible 00:19:43], which is coming up. So we’re looking at those, but I think one thing that we’ve taken away from the show, we’re going to be pretty busy because we have so many of these major trials that are going to be starting in the next couple of months. But we’ll have to make room for shows.

00:20:01

Sean Heath:    I know how much both of you hate being bored. So congratulations.

00:20:06

Chris Boring:   That’s right. Chris Boring hates being bored.

00:20:11

Sean Heath:    That’s for sure. As we wrap up today, I have to ask Chris, you and I mentioned that you had some food items you wanted to make sure you got when you were in New Orleans. Have you in fact gotten your beignets?

00:20:22

Chris Boring:   Funny you should say that, Sean. So last night we have quite a few people who are here that have never been to New Orleans. So we took them through the French quarter, made our way to Café Du Monde, sat down and had a nice… it was pretty hot even at 10 o’clock at night it was 85, so we did not have hot coffee, but we had some nice iced coffee and beignet. And we brought extras.

00:20:48

Sean Heath:    My question to Foad is, did Chris drag you to get beignets? But I’m assuming that Foad was a part of that celebration as well and it was a celebration. You’ve had a really good show.

00:20:57

Foad Towfiq:   That’s right. That’s right. It is a celebration.

00:21:00

Chris Boring:   And yes, we did drag him.

00:21:01

Foad Towfiq:   Yes.

00:21:04

Chris Boring:   We dragged him to the club.

00:21:04

Sean Heath:    Yeah. You didn’t have to pull too hard.

00:21:06

Chris Boring:   Well, not too hard, but we dragged him. He said no and then we got to the jazz club and played him some music and he heard it and then he said, “Okay.”

00:21:14

Sean Heath:    Nice.

00:21:15

Foad Towfiq:   Jazz has a spirit here, the noise.

00:21:17

Sean Heath:   So excited that I had a chance to talk to you and I know how crazy tradeshow day is especially the last day and just so proud and honored to have a chance to talk to you guys live from the floor of SCTE Cable-Tec 2019. So absolutely excited to have an opportunity today on Broadband Linkup by Promptlink to talk with David Boring. He’s the vice president.

00:21:43

Chris Boring:   Who’s David?

00:21:44

Sean Heath:    Sorry. I was thinking… I’m thinking… here’s the thing. I know, it’s David Mosquera and you talked about the South American show and I feel bad that I left him out. And so I’m going through my notes, I’m thinking, “David? How come David didn’t show up?” It’s Chris Boring. David might be boring as part of his nature, but that’s not his last name. It’s Chris Boring, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Promptlink Communications, and Foad Towfiq, the CEO of Promptlink Communications. Now this has been live, but you have an opportunity. Once we’re finished here, if you absolutely need to hear this again, and why wouldn’t you, you can download this at Apple Podcast, Spotify, anyway that you consume your podcast, you can go and download this and enjoy it at your leisure. You can also go to Promptlink.com, go to the media library. You’ll be able to find a link to it in there. I just want to take a moment to say thank you so much Chris and Foad for taking the time today. I do know how insane your schedules are and I’m always honored to have a chance to talk to either of you. I hope you have a safe rest of the afternoon, a safe trip home, and of course as always, I look forward to talking to you again soon.

00:22:54

Foad Towfiq:   Thank you. This has been our pleasure.

00:22:57

Chris Boring:   Thanks, Sean. We had a blast. As always, you are the best. Have a great rest of your day.

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