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What’s on Your Radar? Thoughts on CableLabs Summer Conference 2014

Published on 12 Aug 2014

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The telecom landscape has changed. CableLabs is no longer about cable TV, but rather telecommunications, broadband, and IP services — information and entertainment all in one. Perched at the almost 10,000 ft. Colorado mountains, this event has global impact not only in terms of its unique geography, but also in terms of how digital content will be delivered to the public in the future.

Under the leadership of Phil McKinney, CableLabs has expanded what used to be a US-centric organization into a global one, which now boasts membership from all corners of the world. The events used to be predominantly cable, triple-play: video, voice, and data, but that has changed as well. It’s now about all IP services. It’s about the ease of accessing the content a subscriber wants, where and when they want it, and on whatever device they want it delivered to.

Needless to say, this year the focus was on three priorities: service infrastructure, services, and security.

Service Infrastructure:

How are we doing with the much-ballyhooed DOCSIS 3.1, the gigabit service network? Are we on track? Is the industry ready for it? These were just a few questions operator CEOs asked at CableLabs. Clearly, the industry realizes that its future hinges upon the capacity of what DOCSIS 3.1 promises to deliver.

Services:

Consumers want easy ubiquitous access to information and entertainment. That ease of single-click access, simple authentication, and fast support when needed — at home, in the car, at the stadium, in the subway, or in the air. WiFi is high in the minds of service providers lately, as well as mobile access to Internet to keep up with on-the-go lifestyles.

Security:

From innovative eHealth portals to traditional banking transactions, the adoption and use of the Internet only benefits the public if information and data transmitted through the network is secure. Provisioning of services has much to do with security, and increasingly more so as new services continue to move online.

Operators have to concern themselves with these issues amid a progressively competitive environment, where content providers, regulators, and new entrants are all jostling for their own interests. Yes, cable guys are concerned and keeping a watchful eye on what Google Fiber is doing. Yes, cable guys are also watching what consumer electronics manufacturers are doing. They even have to be wary of direct-to-consumer content providers, who are bypassing the facility-based network operators. And of course, OTT content providers, like Netflix, are constantly on the radar of the cable guys.

Phil McKinney, CEO of CableLabs, kicked off the Summer Conference by asking the audience to remind him, “What should be on my radar? What should we be doing that we are not doing?” The same question was asked of Comcast CTO Tony Werner, “What’s on your radar?” You can tell the mood of this industry confab is sober. Cable has come a long way fending off the competition of broadcasters, satellite TV, Telcos, and OTT providers, but what else should we be concerned with? Or better yet, what preemptive step can we take to ensure cable will survive and thrive in the all IP world ahead?

So, what’s on your radar? Whether you are a content provider, a network operator, or a technology enabler, how are you prepared to survive and thrive in the all IP world that changes by the minute? Andy Grove, the former CEO and founder of Intel, once famously said, “Only the paranoid survive.” Maybe a dose of paranoia is what’s needed in order to stay relevant and perhaps dominate in what you do. This is the sense I got from this year’s trek to the cable mecca.