Keeping up with CableLabs’ 1st 4K Live Production
As we sat down with CableLabs pres/CEO Phil McKinney at the Cable Show, one thing became abundantly clear: CableLabs had nothing to do with rebranding DOCSIS 3.1 as “Gigasphere.” In fact, McKinney joked that any attempt to get an organization of 175 “geeks” to devise a product name likely would have guaranteed another acronym. As most know by now, the DOCSIS 3.1 branding process was led by NCTA and CTAM, with NCTA holding the trademark. Aside from DOCSIS 3.1 (don’t expect the engineers to start calling it “Gigasphere”), cable’s WiFi focus has shifted largely to security thanks to a new specification dubbed Passpoint, which allows for easier sign-ins through automatic authentication and a secure connection between hotspot networks and mobile devices. WiFi security accounted for much discussion at the Cable Show, with MSOs including Comcast looking to offer enhanced security using tools like Service Set Identifier (SSIDs) as they continue to expand WiFi hotspots throughout the country. McKinney said CableLabs is also working to improve WiFi in the home and in communities. CableLabs members like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox have started deploying WiFi access points in business districts as well as wireless gateways in subs’ homes that can be used to power neighborhood hotspots. As Internet traffic rapidly increases, ISPs face pressure to lower costs while increasing capacity. That’s why another big initiative at CableLabs is Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV), McKinney said. Because the 2 technologies can evolve as software-based cloud applications, they can enable service providers to accelerate new service deployments, lower costs and decrease provisioning time, he said. The group expects the combined technologies to significantly reduce operating and capital expenditures by 2018 while increasing revenue. When it comes to 4K, McKinney said it will be a couple years before large-scale adoption takes off. The challenge is consumers can’t really see the benefits of 4K unless they get a huge screen. Content providers, meanwhile, aren’t quite ready to deliver 4K content to 4K TVs. “It’s a chicken and egg problem,” he said, noting that more 4K content should become available as operators extend their 4K trials and rollouts.