On Episode 7 of The Connectivity Matters Podcast we spoke to Peter Vandenengel, the VP Broadband Solutions in North America for SAGEMCOM. He shared his insights on the way tech is developing in the broadband space, including the way companies like SAGEMCOM are developing new solutions to meet a variety of rising needs. Read on to hear what he had to say.
What do you see as the big technology evolutions within the broadband space?
If you’re looking at it from a home network perspective, there’s obviously WiFi seven just around the corner, which brings great advancements in speed and brings 320 megahertz channels. It also brings multilink operations, which allows you to use all the radios in a given gateway to provide throughput in the home. A lot of the operators are skipping over WiFi six E because it was sort of in between six and seven, so they’re getting ready for Wi-Fi seven instead. That’s the next big thing that we’re going to start seeing in 2024.
A lot of the operators, whether they’re a cableco or a telco, are looking for speeds above 10 gig. On fibre today you can get up to 10 gig for telco, but now we’re looking at some operators who are developing at 25 gig, and most of them are looking towards 2026-2027 for 50 gig services. The way cycles work means that we have to start planning for that now. That’s what’s coming next from a technology point of view; more speed to the home, and then better ways to use that speed with WiFi seven in the home.
We’re still feeling challenges throughout the market to deliver current products. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the market with the economy slowing down and a recession looming. I think next year we’ll be hunkered down, then in 2024 we’re going to see the adoption of these new technologies in a big way.
When you’re developing a new solution, what’s your general approach to doing that?
You have to be open-minded and you have to be a bit of a hunter. I try to go in looking for what the customer wants, even if that means asking them dumb questions. You’re just continually probing and understanding the way the market is thinking. The way the industry typically works for CPE is by coming up with a generic product, then you work with your telecom providers to create a generic platform that doesn’t necessarily meet any one person’s or one company’s needs. From there you can build and customise and adjust as required. Customers will come up with their list of requirements, but you have to make a bit of a bet on what that generic product is at the beginning, so that you have the flexibility to move forward.
My advice is to make sure you’re networking a lot and asking a lot of questions. I mentioned the word ‘hunter’, and that’s really what you’ve got to do. You have to go out there, sniffing around, to really figure out what people are thinking. In that initial meeting they’ll tell you what they’re thinking, but it might take a couple more meetings to really understand their business and the problems they are trying to solve. It requires a constant curiosity and willingness to get things wrong early, so that you can figure out the right path quickly.
How would you go about tailoring those solutions for different clients?
That goes back to the goal of doing things efficiently. In the networking space, the margin for hardware isn’t huge, so you have to be very efficient in the way you develop your generic products and maintain your flexibility to adapt it to customers. Obviously we don’t want to shortchange a customer, so if our platform or our reference platform doesn’t meet their needs, we want to make sure that we can adapt it. That means working with a great team of engineers, coming up with designs that could be flexible on the fly, with some modifications that can be changed at the factory. It’s really just about being as open as possible with the team doing the actual development.
When I take on those customer requirements, I’m digesting it, feeding it to the r&d folks, listening to them on what’s going to work and what’s not going to work and then being the bridge between the development team and the customer. That is never easy, because if a developer is not face to face with a customer, they can say no or just brush you off, because they don’t have to face the wrath of the customer. But for a product manager like me, I’m developing relationships with both sides. I can ask the questions that get engineers thinking in different ways, which could help them find flexible solutions that meet the customer’s needs.
To learn more about developing new broadband solutions, tune into Episode 7 of The Connectivity Matters Podcast here.
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