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Cable Tech

CableLabs takes on role of convergence catalyst

With cable operators and other service providers clearly playing in the wired and wireless worlds and seeking ways to stitch them together, CableLabs has initiated two projects involving execs at both service providers and vendors to drive further collaboration and scale around network and service convergence.

The Convergence Council is an advisory board, largely comprised of suppliers and connectivity vendors, tasked with identifying convergence use cases that can spark development, convergence-focused business models, and "building scenarios for industry consensus."

Meanwhile, the Mobile Convergence Committee (MCC), a group made up of various cable and mobile operators around the world, aims to develop industry requirements for networks focused on the convergence architecture and its specifications.

"We felt it was very necessary to do something comprehensive like this and have these groups collaborate and talk to each other," Mariam Sorond, CableLabs' chief research and development officer, explained. "There's a need, and there's a maturity level on technology."

There is growing industry maturity around virtualized, cloud-native networks and open networks, including open RAN, she noted.

"The concept's been around, but now it's getting to the point where folks are deploying these types of networks," said Sorond, who served as chief wireless architect and VP of technology development at Dish Network before joining CableLabs in August 2019.

Here is the makeup of those two groups in the early going:

The Mobile Convergence Committee (MCC)

  • Craig Cowden, Charter Communications
  • Tom Nagel, Comcast
  • Tony Krueck, Cox Communications
  • Iyad Tarazi, Federated Wireless
  • Xavier Rocoplan, Millicom
  • Luciano Ramos, Rogers Communications
  • Brian O'Shaughnessy, Shaw Communications
  • Elmar Grasser, Sunrise/Liberty Global
  • Nadia Benabdallah, Vodafone
  • Eben Albertyn, VodafoneZiggo

The Convergence Council

  • Caroline Chan, VP & GM, Network Business Incubator Division, Intel
  • Dan Rabinovitsj, VP, Telco Strategy; and Manish Singh, Connectivity Technologies & Ecosystem, Facebook
  • Len Dauphinee, CTO, Broadband Products, MaxLinear
  • John Baker, SVP, Business Development, Mavenir
  • John Chapman, CTO, Broadband Technologies & Fellow, Cisco
  • Robert Soni, Head, Architecture & Technology, Nokia-Bell Labs,
  • Sachin Katti, Assistant Professor, Wireless Technology, Stanford University
  • Shawn Hakl, VP, 5G Strategy, Microsoft
  • Shlomo Rakib, Founder & President, Cohere
  • Stephen Alexander, CTO, Ciena
  • Taher Behbehani, SVP & GM, mobile B2B, Samsung
  • Tom Cloonan, CTO, Cable Solutions, CommScope

The MCC is taking shape as the "cable" industry continues to evolve. Many CableLabs members are already mobile network operators (MNOs) in their own right or are hybrids in the sense that they offer mobile services through MVNO agreements but are also starting to build mobile networks in targeted areas using licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

Sorond stressed that the MCC is open to service providers that fall outside CableLabs' orbit. "In order for this to be successful, we'd like it to have a broader participation than just the CableLabs members," she said.

CableLabs expects the MCC, currently comprised of ten execs, to expand to 14 in the coming months.

Initiatives at the 'incubation phase'

Meetings of the groups are already underway during this "incubation phase," Sorond said.

In the short term, the groups will explore finding common ground around areas that need to be focused on. Longer term, the aim is the define architectures and requirements that can crate scale around convergence.

Sorond acknowledges that industries have built and will continue to build specifications and standards focused on convergence, noting that CableLabs, for one, has contributed work to some convergence-facing specs at the 3GPP.

"But this initiative is quite different. I don't think it's been done in this way before, to bring the industry together like this," Sorond said. "There needs to be a broader level of finding common ground and driving scale [and] creating solutions that provide differentiation and products that can be designed around them."

Converging on use cases

She also sees some parallels with how 5G evolved. Beyond massive connectivity requirements and low-latencies, those behind 5G also sought to develop and spawn tangible use cases such as enterprise and industrial IoT.

"That's what we need to do with convergence. That's what convergence is going to do," Sorond said. "It's going to unleash these set of new use cases and new differentiation aspects and new things that are really going to revolutionize the industry."

However, the tangible results that come out of these organization and initiatives remain to be defined.

"We didn't go into this with any preconceived notion that CableLabs is going to do all the specifications. We went into this [as] the catalyst in the industry," Sorond said. "And we're going to figure out where, if we need specs, where it would be done. We don't want to reinvent wheels. Are there existing bodies? Should we create new bodies? Should we create new labs?"

Those are among the questions the new council and committee will be tasked to figure out, she added.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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