Cable Tech

CableLabs starts to connect on network convergence

CABLE NEXT-GEN TECHNOLOGIES & STRATEGIES – DOCSIS 4.0 gets a lot of buzz for representing what's next for the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network, but interweaving HFC into all-fiber and wireless networks and migrating to an access-agnostic, converged network is a critical piece of the industry's evolutionary path forward.

That was a primary theme expressed Wednesday by Mariam Sorond, SVP and chief research and development officer at CableLabs, a keynoter for the first day of the Light Reading-hosted two-day, virtual event: Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies.

The evolution of the network will occur through convergence, providing service providers with the ability to manage and choose how services are delivered based on multiple factors, including capacity, resiliency, security and latency, said Sorond, who served as chief wireless architect and VP of technology development at Dish Network before joining CableLabs about a year ago.

But the urge to converge those networks is also being driven by a mix of business drivers, including increased usage, which requires an evolutionary step on costs, dynamic service capabilities and bundles and a new level of agility from service providers. It also requires the ongoing "untethering" of both consumers and enterprises as they take fuller advantage of multiple wireless technologies.

But whether that agnostic access future involves DOCSIS 4.0, PON, 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and (someday) 6G, network virtualization, they are all "key … for what's happening in convergence," Sorond stressed.

"Every technology has a role to play," she said. "Silo'ing things is the worst thing you can do."

That thinking is also emerging as "cable" operators become bigger players in mobile and wireless and continue to deploy other forms of wired networks, including PON-based platforms, on a still-targeted basis. Some are pursuing mobile and wireless by deploying Wi-Fi, striking MVNO deals and/or investing in fixed wireless companies and technologies, and several CableLabs members around the globe are also MNOs (mobile network operators) in their own right.

Building a cohesive framework
To help support a blending of those disparate network types, CableLabs is focusing on how to define a cohesive framework for this converged access architecture by linking multiple elements, including the aforementioned access networks and transport components, a cloud-native, common hardware platform, and a converged operations system that can underpin them all.

CableLabs, Sorond said, is peering through a "broad lens" to define these network convergence frameworks and work is underway to move ahead with proof-of-concepts and tech trials.

Reaching these goals will be an evolutionary, step-by-step process.

"This will definitely be done in phases," Sorond said, noting that some elements, such as the convergence of billing platforms, is underway now. However, the time necessary to achieve ultimate network convergence "will be years."

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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