Today’s cable industry is a far cry from what it was twenty years ago when the Internet was in its infancy, the cloud did not exist, and mobile devices were not in everyone’s pocket. Slowly at first, and then with an almost voracious momentum, sophisticated networks have grown up to support the rapid transfer of data and information that feed our financial, educational, social, and entertainment infrastructures.
For many consumers and small businesses around the world, it is a cable network, built on the foundational efforts of an independent entrepreneur, that delivers the services linking them to the ever expanding global web—services that today we routinely take for granted: high speed broadband Internet, WiFi, high quality video (pay TV), and increasingly, the infrastructure for connected devices to communicate with each other—“the Internet of things.”
None of this happened by magic. It was the hard work of many individuals across many companies, standards bodies and research organizations that created the cable service infrastructure we have today. And hard work continues—focused on building out a cable infrastructure for a next generation of services targeting the needs of a global market. CableLabs has been at the core of these efforts from the start.
In 1988, cable operators came together and created CableLabs, a non-profit research and development consortium with cable operators as members. CableLabs then established a collaborative and standardized process to deliver products to market quickly and at lower price points. This effort focused on the development of open interface specifications for cable technologies based on the collaboration of cable operators, independent vendors and standards organizations—essentially a pool of thousands of individuals providing innovative input to the work performed at CableLabs. This collaboration has proven to be extremely fruitful.
The prime example is the development of specifications for the delivery of broadband data services over the cable (hybrid fiber coax) network. These specifications, and the resulting broadband service deployment, have evolved over the years to today’s recently released next generation specifications that support multi-gigabit per second broadband service delivery, at lower cost per bit, higher capacity and improved energy efficiency.
Although broadband services gain the limelight, there is much more coming out of CableLabs. Few people have been aware that over the last twelve years CableLabs has successfully managed the cable industry’s public key infrastructure, which involves embedding digital certificates into devices to provide the basis for data confidentiality, content integrity and hardware authentication. This effort has been so successful that CableLabs in November of 2012 announced the launch of NetworkFX, Inc, the first subsidiary of CableLabs. NetworkFX focuses on the distribution to the industry at large of secure digital certificates for a wide variety of devices and platforms, helping provide consumers with a more secure online experience.
Looking forward, CableLabs is now engaged in a range of efforts to improve the delivery, quality and security of cable services including WiFi, 4K/UHDTV and home device interoperability to name just a few. In the area of WiFi alone CableLabs is engaged with members, vendors and standards groups to improve security, ease of connectivity and pervasive availability.
Perhaps most importantly, over the last two years, CableLabs has accelerated its efforts to identify and incubate innovations that enable cable operators to be the providers of choice in the markets they serve. To sum up our mission: “CableLabs inspires what’s next for cable.”
(Phil McKinney is president and CEO at CableLabs).