MEF Loves MSOs
Not that the forum is in the habit of turning away potential members. ("The Ethernet Force is not strong enough with this one!") But with numerous MSOs and cable equipment vendors joining up lately -- including Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) -- the MEF wanted to confirm officially that it believes carrier Ethernet is relevant to the cable world, too.
The occasion was the Dec. 4 announcement that Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) had become the 100th member to join the MEF, which boasts a roster of large carriers and equipment providers worldwide. (See Arris Joins MEF.) To celebrate, the MEF got all its media friends together on a conference call to hear cable-industry executives talk about the wonders of Ethernet.
As Ethernet gains more carrier-class attributes, such as reliability and high availability, service providers are becoming increasingly eager to offer Ethernet services. "Ethernet is becoming a common denominator for business services," said MEF president Nan Chen on the call.
The MEF's role has been to define those services and certify both the equipment vendors and carriers involved, creating a common lingo -- and, hopefully, some interoperability -- throughout the industry. Certification has become a must around the Ethernet camp, a factor that garnered the MEF a Leading Lights award in 2005. (See 2005 Leading Lights: Where Are They Now?)
Time Warner senior VP Ken Fitzpatrick noted on the call that MSOs already use Ethernet -- it's in video-on-demand architectures, for instance -- but cable providers want to use Ethernet to tap the business world, too.
Small and medium-sized businesses, which typically require slower line speeds, are a particularly attractive market for cable. Vertical Systems Group forecasts the market for services of less than 10 Mbit/s to be $5 billion for the period from 2006 to 2010 -- only one fifth of the total market, but the fastest growing segment, said Louise Wasilewski, vice president of business development at Narad Networks Inc. (See Sub-10 Mbit/s Boosts Ethernet.)
Among the open questions is how well Docsis standards, administered by Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) , will get along with carrier Ethernet standards. "CableLabs is reviewing the Docsis standards to see what changes, if any, are required to bring them into line with carrier Ethernet specifications," Wasilewski said, adding that the MEF expects to have a "much closer working relationship" with CableLabs in 2007.
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading