One of the many rewarding aspects of technology is that it provides a place to take time, think hard, and make recognizable progress—which seems particularly enticing now, compared to the many unknowns facing the people of our industry who sort out regulatory and financial issues.
My assignment for this column was to outline the strategic priorities for CableLabs in 2003. The easy answer is that everything on our plate is a strategic priority. The realistic answer is that 2003, like 2002, will require all of us to focus intensely on the balance between resources and deliverables.
Revenue generation a priority
Our industry remains pressured by the financial community to advance technologically, by building revenue-bearing services that add generously to cash reserves, while spending as little capital as possible. Like it or not, that’s where we are. Of course, the good news is, this industry knows how to do more with less. Such is the nature of the entrepreneurialism that built the cable business.
It’s hard for me to rank our bigger projects—CableHome (TM), DOCSIS (TM), Go2Broadband SM, OpenCable (TM), PacketCable (TM) —against each other, in terms of strategic priority. In many cases, they inter-relate, as do the services that run upon them.
For that reason, 2003 will mark the first full year of converged equipment certification, both to streamline the process and to simplify the process for our vendor community. We’ll host three major certification waves, and nine smaller waves. That way, if a supplier brings in, say, a multimedia terminal adapter (MTA) that’s inherently based on DOCSIS 1.1, and includes a CableHome implementation, the three required certification processes are handled sequentially, in the same wave.
OpenCable and its software corollary, OCAP (TM) (OpenCable Applications Platform), will almost certainly take a higher profile in 2003. Internally, we’re getting ready for an anticipated environment that will bundle digital set-top functionality into consumer devices, probably starting with televisions.
While it presents a challenge technically and in the regulatory environment, the promulgation of combination TV/set-top devices holds considerable, positive implications for cable. Over time, for example, access to a digital cable signal, as an embedded element in a consumer device, reaches into more rooms of more homes—perhaps even the homes of customers who traditionally resisted premium services, because they didn’t want a set-top box.
PacketCable also will enjoy a higher profile in 2003, as equipment certifications and qualifications really start to increase, and as many of our MSO members ready their systems for voice-over-IP. These sorts of deployments necessarily follow the upgrade from DOCSIS 1.0 to DOCSIS 1.1, which began accelerating in the autumn of 2002.
Watch for significant improvements to our Go2Broadband project, too. This year, Charter, Insight, and Mediacom lent their marketable homes databases to the effort, making the U.S. profile for broadband Internet availability nearly ubiquitous. Next year, we’ll widen the effort to strengthen the cable industry’s toolkit against subscriber churn.
And here I am, almost out of room, and I haven’t gotten to the advances we’ve made in OCAP—14 responses to our RFP, as a starter—and CableHome, our home networking effort already poised for certification testing.
Like I said: There’s plenty to do, especially in technology. The trick is to stay focused, allocate resources wisely, and to continue to make measurable progress.
–Dr. Richard R. Green is president and chief executive officer of CableLabs. Email him at [email protected].