Title: Comcast VP Engineering, Standards and Industry Affairs
Broadband Background: Kennamer has more than 20 years of experience in the cable industry and in 2004 was named chairman of the SCTE Engineering Committee. At Comcast he has been a key player in negotiations between the cable and consumer electronics industries on plug-and-play, or CableReady, devices. This profile was excerpted from the forthcoming issue of CT’s Communications Executive, an annual compilation of interviews with technology leaders.
What role does the SCTE Engineering Committee play in the industry?
The Engineering Committee oversees the standards program, working closely with the SCTE professional staff, Steve Oksala and his team. The standards program is, of course, ANSI (American National Standards Institute) accredited. One of the roles of the SCTE Engineering Committee is to ensure that the proper processes are followed as new work is started and moves through the balloting process and finally become standards. The committee also approves recommendations for new standards work to move into the standards process.
For example, an individual subcommittee within the Engineering Committee’s structure may bring a proposal—and this happens all the time—and say here’s the work that we would like to undertake that we think will lead to a standard that will benefit the cable industry. The Engineering Committee will approve those, or in some cases, will go back and say, ‘Tell us some more about what you’re trying to do here before we give you approval to go work on it.’
Is there any confusion here between the roles of SCTE and CableLabs?
Every once and a while we hear somebody make reference to a CableLabs standard, but as you know, CableLabs does not set standards. They are the research and development consortium for the cable industry, and as such they create specifications for product and services that we will ultimately be deploying, such as specifications for DOCSIS or OCAP. Many of those specifications are then submitted to the SCTE or then to the ITU (International Telecommunications Union).
But the standards that come out of CableLabs specifications represent only some 20-odd percent of the standards that are developed within the SCTE. Most of the standards actually originate within the Committee’s half-dozen working groups, based on work that has gone into the subcommittee by a member. That may be from an MSO, it may be from a vendor, and it may well be from CableLabs, because CableLabs has people who sit on most of those committees.
One-way, digital CableReady (DCR) TV sets have appeared, but what else remains to be done on the two-way negotiations front?
The negotiations continue, and I really can’t talk about that. But I can say that there are over 500 verified one-way, plug-and-play sets. The cable industry is supporting those with CableCards. And we are also working with a few consumer electronics companies that decided to take the lead and get products out that run OCAP and are fully, two-way compatible. We hope very much that more such manufacturers and products come along. There’s no impediment to a company signing the PHILA (POD-Host Interface License Agreement) and OCAP agreement at CableLabs and going forward and producing products in the market from which we all benefit.
Downloadable conditional access systems (DCAS) clearly work in the lab. Any comments on when it may appear in the field?
I’m not close enough to it, in terms of my day to day work, to talk about it beyond what’s already out there. But from my discussions with the CE industry and all those other things I do with my time, I can say that certainly Comcast and the cable industry as a whole remains 100 percent committed to the concept of DCAS.
With Comcast’s increasingly converged network, it’s hard to ask about a video strategy in a traditional sense. You’ve got VOD, a video-rich Internet portal, and now the prospect of mobile video. Anything to add?
I would just emphasize the importance of the fact that we are moving quickly into digital, and we’re trying to move customer into the digital world to enable all of the things, and more, that we’ve been talking about.