Pragash Pillai, Theresa Simons and Anthony Bowling all came up big winners at this year’s Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers Emerging Technologies conference, each taking home with them awards marking their contributions to their companies and to the industry at large.
If it wasn’t for a call from Charter Communications, Pillai, winner of the 2003 Young Engineer of the Year Award, might be making digital history in his home country of Malaysia instead of the United States.
The award-sponsored by Pace Micro Technology, SCTE and CED sister publication Multichannel News—recognizes the achievements and contributions made to the cable telecommunications industry by engineers under the age of 30.
Pillai, 29, was honored based on his contributions to the design of Charter’s ambitious digital cable distribution network.
Pillai, a 1999 graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia with an electrical engineering degree emphasizing power and RF design, says he always knew his career would follow the telecommunications path. But the question was whether it was going to be with a cable operator or with a telco, and in which part of the world he would end up plying his trade.
“I just finished school in August (1999) and thought, ‘If I don’t get anything, I’ll go home and find a job’,” Pillai recalls. “I was ready to leave the country when I got a call from Charter.”
Pillai took the call and got the job, a post that placed him at the forefront of Charter’s bold digital plans.
For Theresa Simons, the winner of this year’s Polaris Award, her negotiation skills and technical talents played a big part in the forging of Comcast‘s East Coast fiber backbone. The Polaris Award, sponsored by CommScope and CED, recognizes an SCTE engineer for excellence in the development or use of optical fiber.
Simons, a cable veteran who got her start with Teleprompter of New Port Beach in 1978 and spent most of her career with Comcast Cable Communications, is presently an engineering consultant with Communications Construction Group, a West Chester, Pa.-based construction and planning contractor that is looking to expand into maintenance and installation.
As Comcast’s Special Projects Manager and Director of Network Planning, Simons primarily focused on fiber interconnects.
Connecting Philadelphia and Baltimore, a job that took about two years, was Simon’s “first big build.”
“I think Comcast had a vision of interconnecting everything probably before it was cool to do so,” Simons reflects.
Forging the fiber interconnects and obtaining the proper permits to do so was an important step in helping Comcast deliver a robust signal-an advantage that enabled the MSO to build fiber directly into off-air studios and link that content digitally to the headend without relying on antennas or satellites.
On top of that, the practice enabled Comcast “to eliminate or consolidate headends and transport all of our signals around on a ring,” says Simons.
While Simons’ job is to make the right connections, the job of Anthony Bowling, this year’s Star of Integrity Award winner, was to piece together a massive broadband puzzle at AT&T Broadband. That MSO (now part of Comcast) was faced with assembling complementary, yet disparate, HFC architectures following its earlier acquisition of MediaOne.
The Star of Integrity award, sponsored by C-COR.net, CED and Multichannel News’ Broadband Week, recognizes individuals who have displayed exceptional innovation in the deployment of emerging technology over hybrid fiber/coax networks.
While serving as Vice President of Broadband Engineering for AT&T Broadband, Bowling evaluated new technologies and directed the MSO’s HFC architecture as well as the testing and qualifications of the components that made up the company’s networks. As such, Bowling—who has since become vice president of engineering for Comcast in Atlanta—and his colleagues were tasked with integrating varied network designs and building a transport network capable of delivering a trio of voice, video and data services.
Bowling, who was employed by MediaOne before its merger with AT&T Broadband, was charged with mapping together the combined company’s disparate architectures, a grand unification of broadband proportions.
“Looking back over the past 12 months, I think the biggest challenge was trying to get everything somewhat integrated into the markets,” Bowling says. That integration was designed so that each AT&T Broadband market understood where to go to obtain test reports and to ensure that the vendors were well versed in the MSO’s specifications and how those specifications were driving the company’s broadband networks.
“We had two architectures in a sense-the TCI architecture and the MediaOne architecture,” he notes. In addition to finding commonalities between them, Bowling had to figure out what to pull out of the network, determine what to obsolete and how to get everyone on the right track and moving forward.