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Comcast notches 10G milestone with a trial of 1.25-Gig symmetrical speeds in Florida

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Comcast is out of the 10G starter blocks with a trial in Florida that features symmetrical speeds of 1.26 Gbps on a live production HFC network.

The trial, which took place in a Comcast employee’s home in Jacksonville, Florida, was the fruition of Comcast’s ongoing work over the past several years on virtualzing its network and kicking the tires on virtual cable modem termination systems (vCMTS) and the cable industry’s digital access architecture (DAA) initiative.

While Comcast has long been out front with its vCMTS efforts, Thursday was the first time it disclosed the location for one of its vCMTS deployments. Comcast has deployed DAA throughout the area, and said additional trials would take place in more homes across Florida in the coming weeks.

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The employee trial in Jacksonville was notable because it blended numerous elements of where the cable industry is headed in terms of symmetrical 10G speeds down the road.

“The great strength of our network technology is that we will have the ability to scale these next-generation speeds to tens of millions of homes in the future without digging up yards, or starting massive construction projects,” said Tony Werner, president of technology, product, Xperience at Comcast Cable, in a statement. “This technology provides a path to meeting the needs of the future and making multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds a reality for everyone, not just a select few.”

RELATED: At SCTE-ISBE Cable-Tec Expo, Comcast’s Werner and Zelesko talk virtualization, culture and the edge

Elad Nafshi

According to Elad Nafshi, senior vice President of next-generation Access technologies at Comcast Cable, Comcast used a “high split” for its trial to create headroom on the upstream to a range of 5 MHz to 204 MHz.

Comcast used remote PHY (RPHY) nodes from Harmonic that connected to a node+0 fiber deep architecture. Node+0 allows cable operators to eliminate amplifiers between the node and a home if they chose to do so.

RELATED: Heynen: Mediacom’s 10G smart home shows future speeds aren’t so far away

At the end of last month, Mediacom showcased its 10G Smart Home in Ames, Iowa, which also used DAA with remote PHY devices from both CommScope and Casa Systems.

“What makes this kind of unique is, first of all, this is relying on a platform that is now scaled and scaled quite broadly,” Nafshi said. “So this is a fully virtualized CMTS with a software-defined network, leading to next generation digital RPHY nodes. Feeding, in this case, a node+0 fiber deep deployment.”

For Comcast in particular, and the cable industry in general, the trial was a culmination of driving fiber deeper into neighborhoods, building the virtualization and software-defined network, working with Harmonic on the vCMTs deployments, building the cloud tools, and getting on board remote PHY and DAA early on.

“When you talk about really optimizing the customer experience from a delivery standpoint—reliability, and speed in this case—it’s really how all the pieces come together,” Nafshi said. “It’s not just the virtual CMTS, which we’re by far the leader. It’s not just the adoption of DAA in our RPHY nodes, which again, we’re by far the leader. It’s the combination of all of these.”

Comcast’s Jacksonville trial is one step up on the 10G evolutionary ladder. Vendors are hard at work on developing new silicon and hardware for 10G. In an interview Wednesday with FierceTelecom, CommScope’s Tom Cloonan, CTO for broadband networks, said 10G was a multi-year journey to reach the symmetrical 10G speeds in the 2023-2025 timeframe. With the DOCSIS 4.0 specs completed in April, Cloonan said there could downstream operations up to 1.8 GHz as early as next year.

The current crop of DOCSIS 3.1 modems can only get to a mid-split, but Nafshi said the next generation of modems will reach the needed high split.

In the meantime, Nafshi said there’s still plenty of work to do to operationalize and broaden the 10G landscape.

“You need meters that are able to extend to the high end spectrum,” he said. “You need a lot of operationalization on how do you do leakage detection?

“We’ve got all the platform plumbing working. When you extend to a customer, you need to make sure that you have all the operational tools and support that are required to really scale this up, and that’s what we’re working on.”

RELATED: Will 10G be a long and winding road for cable? Depends

Comcast’s announcement comes ahead of next week’s virtual -SCTE/ISBE Cable-Tec Expo where 10G will be one of the hot topics

“I know that there are a lot of people that’ll be talking about this stuff,” Nafshi said. “But really, the difference here is that this platform that’s feeding this trial is also feeding many large subscribers in parallel. This is not a proof of concept, it’s not demoing.

“This is really the culmination of a great amount of work that’s been going on over the last two to three years to really bring this vision of virtualization and DAA to live subscribers. We’re reaping the benefit of that investment now.”

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Metal is an old story, allocate upto 33% to new gig economy stocks: Ajay Srivastava

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A Sebi discussion paper for independent directors has come up. If that is adopted, the whole midcap space becomes really fantastic for investors to go in, says Ajay Srivastava, CEO, Dimensions Corporate Finance.

Let us work with the assumption that this year will be better on the health front. Is there merit in buying a travel company, a tourism company or a hotel company with the assumption that the pent-up demand would be unleashed in the next three to six to nine months?
Worldwide, the hotel industry gives the poorest reward to the investors. They do not give returns to investors for whatever reasons, asset intensity is high and the cost is very high. For small bursts of time, when they become mispriced as an asset, you can make money and there is such an opportunity today. There are two reasons for that –leisure travel as well as the postponed marriage season which is going to come around. India has a very large market driven by marriages and that is what is going to make big money for the hotel and allied industries in the next 12 months.

A huge amount of money is going to be made but the key is to get out after the next year’s results are out because by then you would have ridden this thing. Hotels are a wonderful play today. Almost zero new capacity is coming up in the market. If the marriage season kicks in, there is going to be a huge upside for the hotel stocks. It is an absolutely wonderful play but it is a one-year play. It is not a five-year play. It has nothing to do with your plans for your retirement fund or children’s education. You have to get in here knowing that you will exit the stock after 12 or 15 months.

The second point, a Sebi discussion paper for independent directors has come up. If that is adopted, the whole midcap space becomes really fantastic for investors to go in because it is going to change the way Indian companies are governed. Investors will find a lot more comfort with B and C categories companies. We have seen mishaps, not only in B and C category companies, but even in Vedanta, an A category company. How did the independent board give a loan to the parent company? Under the new guidelines, those very directors would be removed from the board and a clean set of independent directors would come on the board of a company like Vedanta.

If this paper gets adopted, big buying will happen in midcap stocks without any governance overhang. More than economic fundamentals, governance fundamentals and problems have plagued 90% of the Indian market.

What about metals, building stocks, ancillary plays?
Almost 30% of our holdings are in those segments and I have only one word – buy, buy and buy. These cycles last for years, maybe even a decade. There may be corrections. It is not going to be a one-way street. But these cycles come in 10 years and then they go after and then you get off the track for 10 years. It has just started at this point of time. If India says we want to grow at 7%, 8% or whatever the number is, the kind of requirement of materials is going to be humongous. All these metal companies, by and large, have addressed the debt problems. It is a clear case of buy. So metal companies — ferrous and non-ferrous, building product companies which are tiles, paints, are good. Most important, the big players in real estate have now come into India and they are under radar. Now it is a more organised market.

I think the first 10-15% of re-rating has happened, the balance 75% to 80% re-rating is still to come over a period of time. You got to be patient but that is the way to be; park your money and be there.

Lastly, an absolutely wonderful dividend is coming from these companies because the parents of some of the companies like Vedanta, Hindustan Zinc need the money. In steel companies, there are lots of free cash flows, lots of dividends; none of them are doing large capex and the money has started flowing in. In the first 12 months, they have seen the free cash flows becoming positive. It is a long cycle, be patient and the only answer is buy, do not sell these sectors.

What kind of names are you looking at within real estate and ancillary plays? Anything that you are quite bullish on in terms of the broader market?
India has become a land of stories. Who would have thought that I would buy a fashion wear company? Last month we started that. Metal is an old story. You wait for a correction. But the newest stories are coming out every day, the new listings are coming out. A QIP is happening in things like

where we hold shares at this point of time. The new gig economy is where you got to focus. Whether it is newer IPOs or the older companies in the new gig economy that is where you got to focus. Companies are pivoting. One needs to go whole hog here. India is underinvested in this sector by and large. We do not have too many IT companies. We do not have Netflix. We do not have Roku or anything of the kind.

So forget the old economy stocks. They will do okay. Cement yes. It is good for institutions, I am not a great buyer. Go for the new gig economy because you are going to make money there because these are entrepreneurs who are willing to raise capital, have no debt and do M&As. This year there will be a number of IPOs.

You better be in these companies. Allocate say 33% to the new gig economy companies. That is what I want to do and stick to that plan. A lot of them are unknown. It is very limited visibility for most of these companies, which is quite strange because they are the big value creators. The new gig economy stocks are where you got to focus. As for the metal story, we have got enough on our plate. We do not want to buy more at this point of time. Odd stories do keep coming or as I said who would have thought I would have bought a fashion wear company.

We also want to hear about the unheard of names of these new gig economy companies?
Unheard is a wrong word but most people don’t know about these stocks. We have been holding IndiaMart for a long time. This guy is not on the front pages, but he just raised this QIP at Rs 8,600 but is still largely ignored in the market. Then there is OnMobile, it went down to Rs 26, Rs 30 a share. The founder was a pioneer in the mobile phone products in the country. It is a good profitable company going a begging and now it has gone up to Rs 100 or so. There is Affle which has got strong AI capabilities in telephone and mobile phone industry and it has gone a begging. JustDial was the only profitable new gig company and its valuation was Rs 2,500 crore! It is absolutely ridiculous given what the assets were on the ground. It has gone up a little bit.

I am not saying buy any of these stocks but since you asked, all these stocks were there. But we focussed too much on the old economy. The economy is changing, the world is changing, let us give credence to the new economy, take your money and park it there. We believe one-third of the listed companies in India will be absolutely gone in the next five years. We can share the list with you, we have got a list made internally, 33% of the companies will be bankrupt and delisted in the next five years from BSE. It is about 800 companies.

Get out of them and get into the new companies, healthcare companies, IT companies. It is a new world out there. It is so exciting I cannot believe it. I do not want to be old. I want to restart my life now.



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Egypt wants to register millions of gig workers for state insurance, aid

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CAIRO: Egypt will start registering millions of gig workers in order to offer them health insurance and emergency state aid during the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a particularly heavy toll on the nation’s ad-hoc employees, officials said.

There are at least 14 million gig workers in Egypt, and while some workers and campaigners welcomed the government’s drive, others warned that many workers could be reluctant to sign up – fearing tax and social security payment demands.

The government said it plans to identify and support two million gig workers in the country of 100 million people by the end of this year, labour ministry spokesman Haitham Saad El-Din said on Saturday.

“It is part of a government plan to give assistance to this segment of the society which has been majorly affected by the pandemic,” he said, adding that officials were focusing first on identifying casual construction labourers.

Gig workers who have their employment status registered on their national identity cards under a new “irregular employment” category will be given free social security insurance and be eligible for state welfare programmes.

Egypt’s state-run insurance plan includes life insurance and disability cover, as well as covering healthcare costs.

The announcement is the latest in a series of government measures aimed at shielding vulnerable groups from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Soon after the coronavirus outbreak began, it launched a programme that supports irregular workers with monthly aid, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for financial support to be boosted when a second virus wave took hold.

State welfare spending surged 36% in the first half of the current fiscal year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said recently.

On the books

Some daily labourers hailed the registration drive as a positive step, saying it would help bring them into the formal economy and recognise their economic contribution.

“Millions of Egyptians have been affected by this pandemic but it’s really good that the government is not leaving us behind,” said Farouk Mahmoud, 35, a temporary worker from the city of Sohag.

Still, while the latest data puts the number of gig workers at 14 million, the real number may be much higher – making registering them a daunting administrative task, said Bassant Fahmi, a member of parliament’s economic affairs committee.

Some workers may also be wary about being on the books.

“Many of them may fear being asked afterwards to pay taxes or insurance. That could mean a lot of gig workers avoiding being identified by the government,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But besides any misgivings about being under the government’s radar, many gig workers in Egypt are more concerned about the dearth of permanent job opportunities – especially for young people – and the health of the wider economy.

“It isn’t crucial for me to have a job on my ID,” said Abanoub Lotfi, a 26-year-old driver for ride-hailing service Uber, who has a degree in commerce.

“What really matters is that the government offers me a stable job that suits my academic background and helps me afford my needs and those of my family.” – Thomson Reuters Foundation



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Self-employed, gig workers still waiting on PPP rules for bigger loans

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Virojt Changyencham | Moment | Getty Images

The self-employed and gig workers are anxiously waiting for the Small Business Association to update guidelines to its Paycheck Protection Program, which could mean bigger loans for the group.

The Biden administration announced last week changes to how the SBA will calculate forgivable loans for sole proprietors and other small businesses without any employees. The updated formula — which will likely lead to larger loan amounts for non-employer firms, including sole proprietors and independent contractors — will be announced this week.

It’s still unclear when in the week the SBA will update its guidelines, meaning that those who would benefit from the change should still wait to submit their applications for the program.

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“Loans submitted prior to the official rule changes are subject to the rules in effect at the time of application,” said Carol Wilkerson, an SBA spokesperson.

That’s led to frustration for some who want to take advantage of the two-week priority application window for the smallest businesses that went into effect on Feb. 24 and ends the second week of March. Of course, sole proprietors will still be able to apply for PPP loans until the program deadline at the end of the month; they just won’t get priority treatment once the 14-day exclusivity window closes.

For now, lenders are working to help borrowers prepare what they can to be ready for the updated guidelines.

“We’ve always taken the approach of, ‘Hey, we don’t have all the answers, but let’s proceed as far as we can without the answers,'” said Ed Barry, CEO of Capital Bank, based in Rockville, Maryland.

Barry added that the bank is also working to build awareness among small businesses that may not realize that they’re now eligible for a PPP loan.

What is known about the formula change so far

For firms with employees, maximum PPP loans are 2.5 times average monthly payroll costs, per the SBA. As a stand-in for payroll costs for solo workers, the SBA used net profit information from tax returns, even though payroll and profit are different measures.

In addition, the net profit line includes deductions, which reduced or eliminated profit numbers for some, yielding small loans or making them ineligible for the program.

The updated formula will instead use gross income as a stand-in for payroll costs, a larger number than net income, meaning many firms will get more money in forgivable loans.

Loans submitted prior to the official rule changes are subject to the rules in effect at the time of application.

Carol Wilkerson

SBA spokesperson

“It’s a tremendous change,” said Keith Hall, president and CEO of the National Association for the Self-Employed.

The change is important, as sole proprietorships are the most common business structure in the U.S. The IRS says there are some 41 million self-employed people in the country and, in 2018, more than 27 million had filed a return with an IRS 1040 Schedule C form for sole proprietors, according the agency.

Many of these businesses have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. About 70% of such firms with no employees are owned by women and people of color, and 95% of Black-owned and 91% of Latino-owned firms are sole proprietorships, according to SBA data.

But so far, very little forgivable funding from the SBA has gone to sole proprietorships — according to a recent survey from NASE, nearly two-thirds of its members said they didn’t get any money from the program.

Much of that was due to confusion in the early days of the program around eligibility and forgiveness, which are hopefully clearer today, Hall said.

“Many of the reasons that those small-business owners did not either apply or get approved for a PPP loan — I think many of those barriers have been removed,” he said.

Questions remain

To be sure, other changes to the PPP program that the Biden administration announced last week do go into effect today, March 1 — some student loan borrowers, legal non-residents and those with certain criminal records are now eligible to apply for forgivable loans.

Still, there are further questions for sole proprietors around the timing of applications, especially for those who already got a loan approved but would get more under the new formula. So far, there isn’t a process for amending a dispersed loan, or holding back an application that’s currently pending.

“All unknowns right now,” said Alex Cohen, CEO of Liberty SBF.

If you’re a small business with a story to share about PPP, email Carmen Reinicke at carmen.reinicke@nbcuni.com

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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