John Ulm ’78 honored as Significant Sig

Sigma Chi Fraternity announced the selection of John Ulm ’78 as a Significant Sig, Class of 2021 on March 1, 2021.  Brother Ulm was recognized for his pioneering work in the field of broadband communications.

John is a technologist that has been instrumental in the development of broadband cable modem technology over the last three decades. In 1991, he began his broadband journey as an original member of a startup named LANcity that pioneered the very first cable modems. John was an architect, lead digital HW designer and ASIC designer for those first modems. He was instrumental in the development of the Media Access Control (MAC) algorithms that enabled network devices to efficiently communicate at ultra-high speeds over 10’s and even 100’s of miles. This was key to enabling megabit per second internet speeds that fundamentally changed its course.

John became very involved with cable modem standards efforts, first leading a group with the IEEE 802 networking group. LANcity got acquired by Nortel which put the team in a joint venture called ARRIS Interactive. In 1996, the LANcity work got selected by cable operators and CableLabs to be the starting basis for the Data Over Cable System Interface Specifications (DOCSIS). John was primary author for the original 1.0 MAC specification. The DOCSIS standards allowed cable modem technology to blossom and take off. All cable modems today use the them, and there has been over a billion DOCSIS devices shipped over the last two decades.

Next, John spearheaded the CableLabs’ DOCSIS 1.1 Quality of Service (QoS) specifications that allowed cable operators to support carrier-grade voice services. This enabled them to compete directly with Telco operators and ushered in the era of the “Triple Play” services – voice, video + data, that made broadband a great success.

In 2003, while working for YAS Corp, John helped develop MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) home networking technology used to deliver high speed internet reliably around the home.

In 2006, John joined the CTO team at Motorola Broadband group which was subsequently acquired by ARRIS and then CommScope; where he continued his industry leading broadband work. Today, John is an Engineering Fellow for CommScope CTO Network Solutions group, investigating Advanced Technologies for Broadband Systems. He is currently working on the 8th generation cable modem technology (i.e. 2 @ LANcity, 6 with DOCSIS). This new technology looks to break the 10 Gbps barrier and open up a new world of applications. That is 1,000 times faster than those 1st generation cable modems.

John’s research into broadband network capacity usage and modeling has made him an industry expert in the field. The recent Coronavirus pandemic lockdown has caused a gigantic broadband bandwidth surge where John has been called on to guide the industry. Somewhat prophetically, the LANcity vision in the early ‘90s was to create “Ethernet Everywhere” that would enable people to work and learn at home. The pandemic has shown that this vision for broadband has truly come to pass.  

For all his work over the last three decades, John was inducted into the Cable TV Pioneers in 2019 as part of the DOCSIS Inaugural class.

A member of the Delta Psi chapter, John graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a BSEE ’78 and MSEE ’79. Over the years, John has published and presented in excess of 100 papers and webinars. He has 15+ patents to his name with more in the pipeline.

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