CableLabs Primer Overview
Founded in 1988, Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs®) has as its vision to be the world's premier technology organization delivering innovation to the cable industry.
As its mission, the non-profit consortium seeks to collaborate with its cable operator members and their suppliers to efficiently evolve cable networks, services and operations. By so doing, CableLabs develops and promotes technologies that revolutionize the cable customer experience.Its strategy is to:
- Provide a central source of timely, evaluated information about technical developments of interest to the industry.
- Plan, perform, or fund R&D projects that align with the overall interests of the cable industry.
- Facilitate the transfer of relevant technology, and best practices for deploying new technology, to member companies, among member companies, and to providers to the industry.
- Provide services that promote interoperability and effectiveness of relevant technologies so that they are successfully deployed by member companies.
Membership in CableLabs is limited to cable system operators. With their direction CableLabs seeks to develop new common technologies that use standards-based interface specifications. This standards-based approach enables new suppliers to sell innovative products and services into the broadband cable marketplace.
Some of the most fundamental technologies that cable operators have deployed globally were facilitated by work performed in CableLabs. Through CableLabs, the cable industry spawned high-speed data, VoIP, and advertising and interactive video services, generating substantial demand for new products to support such services and substantial revenue for incumbent and new entrant manufacturers, alike.
And, by tapping into its network of inter-industry and cross-industry relationships, CableLabs is well positioned to unite parties with otherwise divergent interests around the development of applications and services of benefit to consumers and the cable industry at large.
The Board of Directors is comprised of CEOs from CableLabs' member companies. An Executive Committee of the Board serves as a steering group. There also is a member-appointed advisory group of technical and business executives called the Technical Advisory Committee that works with CableLabs staff on an ad hoc basis.
One aspect of CableLabs' role is to serve as an intra- and inter-industry facilitator in order to enable more efficient and effective business processes with and within the cable industry. CableLabs helps foster national technology and business footprints for cable operators. Its technical staff delivers innovative technical solutions in the form of specifications, test plans, test automation, reference implementations, SDKs, test tools, and other solutions for the industry.
CableLabs works closely with member companies to determine what kinds of functional requirements cable operators wish to enable in a set of interactive specifications. It then begins to work on creating specifications that enable those requirements.
Focus teams comprised of CableLabs staff, cable operators and suppliers work together to develop interface specifications and technical reports. Once interface specifications are mature and sufficiently stable to enable product development, these specifications are made available to the public on www.cablelabs.com. At that time, CableLabs encourage suppliers to come to CableLabs for interoperability testing, followed by formal certification/qualification testing.
The testing program provides a comprehensive environment in which there is multi-vendor interoperability testing as well as certification/qualification or verification testing against the requirements in the project's specifications. This process, managed by CableLabs' technical staff, evaluates how well the products meet the key elements of the specifications, enabling CableLabs to verify that interoperability exists across companies' product lines, and that they adhere to the specifications.
CableLabs has organized a royalty-free patent pool for essential intellectual property in most of its projects. These pools are open to any company that builds products in a particular project or initiative.
Upon successful completion of certification or qualification, vendor products/services are announced as either certified (residential premises gear) or qualified (products located in cable headends or elsewhere in the network). To date hundreds of products have achieved certification or qualification. A constantly updated list is available on www.cablelabs.com/certqual/lists/.
Access Network Technologies
DOCSIS®DOCSIS defines cable modem interface requirements. It also provides cable modem equipment suppliers with a fast, market-oriented testing method for pursuing DOCSIS compliance, and has resulted in high-speed modems being certified for retail sale. The current version of DOCSIS provides cable operators with a flexible way to significantly increase speeds to 100 Mbps and beyond. For more information, please visit www.cablelabs.com/cablemodem/.
PacketCable™PacketCable is a CableLabs-led initiative to develop interoperable interface specifications for delivering advanced, real-time multimedia services over two-way cable plant. Built on top of the highly successful DOCSIS® cable modem infrastructure (version 1.1 or greater), PacketCable networks use Internet protocol (IP) technology to enable a wide range of multimedia services, such as IP telephony, multimedia conferencing, interactive gaming, and general multimedia applications. Working with CableLabs' members and technology suppliers, the PacketCable project addresses issues such as device interoperability and specification compliance. For more information, please visit www.cablelabs.com/packetcable.
WirelessThe Wireless program mission is to enable a seamless and consistent subscriber experience on all devices for core cable services as well as new applications using the best available wireless network in or outside the home.
Advertising and Interactive Services
Advanced advertising is an increasingly important revenue opportunity for cable operators. CableLabs has consistently supported initiatives designed to further and quicken the development of technologies that will allow cable operators to seize the opportunity presented by advanced advertising. In this work, CableLabs has been working closely with Canoe Ventures, an industry joint venture whose founders are also CableLabs member companies. Advanced advertising activities have focused on developing the technology to support interactive, targeted and addressable advertising, including functionality such as voting and polling, request for information and ability to access ads stored as VOD assets. For more information, please visit www.cablelabs.com/advancedadvertising/.
CableLabs is creating opportunities for cable to re-invent voice by extending the PacketCable service architecture to support the needs of commercial customers. Business SIP Services and SIP Enterprise Connect efforts provide extensions to PacketCable™ 2.0, defining communication interface requirements for business telephone features and enterprise IP-PBX interconnection over broadband networks. The Business Ethernet projects within CableLabs are intended to enable cable operators to provide Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) compliant services through specifications development and certification. By working within the Metro Ethernet Forum and refining the operation of Business Services over DOCSIS®, CableLabs is ensuring the carrier-grade quality of Cable's Ethernet services.
Cable Information Services
Cable Information Services (CIS) provides secure industry-wide data and information services to help cable companies prosper. CIS addresses the inherent inefficiencies of exchanging information between multiple cable companies and multiple business partners. Working with cable company experts, CIS develops standard interfaces and provides platforms to enable information exchange. For more information, please visit www.cablelabs.com/projects/go2/.
Next Generation Architecture
CableLabs continuously looks forward to identify and develop key technologies that will help the industry to power the next generation of cable services. Currently, this effort involves working with members to evaluate architectural approaches for online content access, content delivery, and service convergence. Utilizing IP-based technologies, MSOs will be able to deliver content far beyond the television to serve the bevy of high-tech, personalized devices that consumers are increasingly using to access their entertainment, information, communications, and applications services.
The OpenCable™ project was initiated with the goal of helping the cable industry deploy interactive services and create competition in the host device marketplace. The OpenCable specifications include both hardware and software specifications. The hardware specifications describe a baseline host device configuration for accessing interactive services that are interoperable cable systems throughout the U.S., thus creating a retail solution for consumer electronics products for cable. The software specifications, coupled with the hardware specifications, solve the problem of proprietary operating system software, thereby creating a common platform for interactive television applications and services. For more information, please visit www.cablelabs.com/opencable.