The Edge

CableLabs takes aim at network and service convergence

Now that many cable operators around the globe are also wireless network operators in some form or fashion, CableLabs has embarked on several projects and initiatives focused on network and service convergence.

Following the formation of two groups – The Convergence Council and the Mobile Convergence Committee – CableLabs is taking aim at multitenancy at the edge and the convergence of both hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) and 5G networks. The initial focus is on the melding of network stacks into a common, collocated platform.

"Because more than half of the CableLabs members are both mobile and cable system operators, we think this unique insight into operations of both network types will be a catalyst for driving convergence requirements," Carmela Stuart, director of the future infrastructure group at CableLabs, explained on the Light Reading podcast.

Much of that work is detailed in a new white paper (PDF): Best Practices for Deploying 5G into a Shared Environment. And while the initial focus involves 5G vendors, CableLabs expects to run a similar exercise with HFC component vendors, and particularly with suppliers of virtual CCAPs (converged cable access platforms), Stuart explained.

Focus on interoperability, ties to the '10G' initiative

Among the broader goals, CableLabs is looking to produce a foundation for all convergence-type activities, including interoperability of cloud native network stack components from different vendors, and to explore potential recommended changes to 3GPP specs and other third-party standards designed to facilitate network convergence.

This work also ties into "10G," an industry initiative focused on 10-Gig speeds, low-latency and enhanced security over multiple types of access networks, including HFC, fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) and wireless. Stuart also discusses how CableLabs' relatively new 10G Lab is playing a role in these convergence efforts, including work around deployment cloud native 5G cores, virtual RANs and virtual CCAPs on the same platform. The 10G Lab is also involved in initiatives such as the US Department of Defense (DoD) and NTIA 5G Challenge, and the cable industry's own 10G Challenge.

"We're working with the vendors to facilitate the ultimate goal of being able to mix and match vendor components that share hardware … and are deployed and managed by a common software management layer and emphasize the portability of these systems across different Kubernetes container management platforms."

Here's a snapshot of topics covered in this podcast:

  • How the role of CableLabs is evolving to focus on network and service convergence (1:12)
  • How CableLabs is working specifically toward the convergence of 5G and HFC at the edge of the network (3:00)
  • What security issues need to be ironed out as network operators attempt to collocate different vendor apps on the same Kubernetes cluster. (4:30)
  • An outline of convergence goals that are being pursued by CableLabs and its members. (6:20)
  • An overview of the aims of a relatively new "10G" lab that's focused on interactivity and the testing out of various use cases involving cloud native 5G cores, virtual RANs and virtual CCAPs. (9:30)
  • How and why open source is playing a role in these network convergence projects. (11:00)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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