Pipeline Profile: Ralph Brown

Title: Chief technology officer, CableLabs

Broadband background: Brown is CableLabs’ CTO. Previously, he served as senior vice president of the Broadband Access Department within CableLabs, which is responsible for DOCSIS and CableHome specification development and certification programs. Prior to CableLabs, he worked for Excite@Home and Time Warner Cable in broadband interactive television.

In April, you launched a PacketCable 2.0 Applications Lab. Can you give us a quick update and a look ahead?

Per the press release, Ericsson was the first vendor to place an IMS core in the Applications Lab, with Cedar Point providing a voice application server. Several other vendors have begun providing equipment for the lab as well. With this facility, CableLabs will provide a unique environment enabling the development and interoperability testing of cross platform applications spanning VoIP, broadband IP, digital video and potentially wireless. Clearly, the first set of applications will be in the traditional voice arena, but we anticipate a broad variety of new applications to be developed and demonstrated shortly. MSOs can then easily and quickly deploy the most promising services that arise from the Applications Lab.

Two of your engineers discuss PacketCable 2.0 and security in our June issue. Is this a decisive benefit of 2.0?

The PacketCable 2.0 security mechanisms provide benefits for both cable operators and consumers alike. For the operator, the authentication and integrity provisions deliver protection against unauthorized use and attacks against the network. For consumers, the confidentiality provisions guard privacy by providing an encrypted communications path.

Is business services one area where you see operators leveraging PacketCable 2.0’s SIP components?

PacketCable 2.0 provides a flexible toolkit with which operators can simultaneously deliver a wide variety of residential and business services. In the business services arena, PacketCable 2.0 SIP support is great for applications such as SIP trunking for IP-PBXs and IP Centrex services. Longer term, it could also be used to provide high-end wireless services, such as fixed-mobile convergence, and other leading edge capabilities, such as presence enabled communications.

Turning to DOCSIS 3.0, how is cert wave 56 lining up?

This will be determined by vendor readiness; however, CableLabs will be ready to test the DOCSIS 3.0 products that show up in CW 56. The DOCSIS 3.0 Interops will give the vendors an opportunity to prove out their products in advance of this.

What are the advantages of a tiered 3.0 test program?

It is important to remind everyone that the phases for DOCSIS 3.0 qualification apply only to the CMTS and are really just temporary waivers on full compliance. All CMTS vendors must ultimately submit fully compliant DOCSIS 3.0 product to retain their DOCSIS 3.0 qualification. The advantages are that the CPE can be fully certified for DOCSIS 3.0 and deployed in advance of rolling out services that require DOCSIS 3.0 capabilities.

How do you see the availability of OpenCable Unidirectional Receivers within PCs impacting the industry’s technical operations?

It is unclear at this point, as only a limited number have been deployed.

Has the industry moved from platform to applications development cycle for OCAP?

In short, yes. There was an OCAP developer’s conference held at the Cable Show in Las Vegas, and Sun’s JavaOne conference had a DTV day dedicated to application development on OCAP for DTVs. We have also seen a great deal of interest and participation in the OpenCable Interop events held here at CableLabs.

Can DOCSIS 3.0 help turn broadband security business (another CableNET category) into a viable offering?

The broadband security business is not dependent on DOCSIS 3.0 for deployment. To the extent that greater broadband speeds might be required, DOCSIS 3.0 provides an ideal platform.

We haven’t heard much about CableHome lately. Should cable be working more closely with the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)?

Cable has been working with DLNA for quite some time. CableLabs is a member of DLNA and a member of the UPnP Forum Steering Committee (UPnP is the foundation technology for DLNA). Time Warner Cable is also a member of DLNA, and Comcast is a Promoter Member. The focus for home networking has shifted away from data services to multi-media services and consequently away from CableHome to OpenCable.

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