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Bright Future Ahead for SCTE and Cable Standards

4/14/2002 8:00 PM Eastern

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers has been the standards setting arm of the cable industry since receiving American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recognition in 1995. Many important standards and milestones were achieved over the next five years. But during the past 12 months, the face of cable industry standards has changed dramatically, with the rate of change accelerating at warp speed.

Now that we have had time to catch our breath we feel it is important to look back at the fundamental changes that have just occurred.

EXPANSION AND MEMBERSHIP

The expansion of standards resources and involvement required a new standards member category and an accompanying dues structure.

At the beginning of 2001 there were eight SCTE Standards members — the top six MSOs, National Cable & Telecommunication Association, and Cable Television Laboratories Inc. Through an intense information distribution and education process the number of SCTE Standards member organizations has risen to 110.

These member organizations now represent a broad industry cross-section of operators, vendors and associations, including the Canadian Cable Television Association and the American Cable Association.

And in January of last year, the SCTE hired Stephen Oksala to be its first vice president of standards.

The SCTE's expansion of standards directly led to increased activity and improved processes.

By the end of 2001, SCTE had 52 approved standards compared with 12 at the end of 2000. Likewise, 30 SCTE standards were approved by ANSI at the end of last year compared with seven approved at the end of the previous year.

The number of both SCTE-approved standards and ANSI-approved standards not only exceeded any prior year, they exceeded the cumulative total from all prior years! Important standards such as those covering Internet Protocol telephony over cable were part of this group.

IMPROVED PROCESSES

Improved and streamlined processes supported these record levels of activities. The SCTE Standards Web site (www.scte.org/standards) was enhanced, aided by an important series of e-mail reflectors. A new online project register and numbering system were added. And for the first time all SCTE-approved standards are available as free downloads from the Web site.

To encourage economies of scale in production we want SCTE approved standards to be adopted across the widest worldwide spectrum possible. The organization also reached an agreement to transfer the maintenance of Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications (DOCSIS) 1.0 from CableLabs to SCTE.

Up until this past year, the SCTE's standards footprint was primarily North America. But with the international expertise and support of Richard Green and CableLabs, the SCTE has expanded its reach abroad. Selected SCTE standards are now submitted to Study Group 9 of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). For the first time, the SCTE is a member of IEC TC 100, an international standards group covering cable and consumer electronics.

SCTE has also signed a cooperation agreement with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, an important European standards entity.

Recent visitors to our Philadelphia-area offices for standards discussions have included representatives from Japan Cable Labs and the SARFT of China. Broadband Solutions of Korea also visited and recently enrolled as an SCTE Standards member while here.

Finally, SCTE has just finished the creation of an International Standards Advisory Committee to oversee cable's interests in this area.

As part of the ANSI reaccreditation process, SCTE was required to submit all of its standards processes and procedures for open review. Although challenged by several groups representing other industries, the SCTE standards program received full ANSI reaccreditation.

The ANSI reaccreditation, new and improved standards processes and recognition by the ITU and ETSI have all lifted cable's credibility in the standards world. This was supported by the December election of Stephen Oksala to vice chairman of ANSI.

FUTURE OUTLOOK

Many important milestones have been reached. And now the future holds the promise of even more exciting standards opportunities.

The entire digital/broadband/convergence world remains in flux. New agendas, such as home networking, move closer to reality. And cable's interests still need to be constantly articulated and protected.

With a strong and growing SCTE Standards membership, committed standards committee participants, support from an industry wide coalition, alignment with NCTA and CableLabs and a committed SCTE board and staff, 2002 and beyond promise to be productive and historic times for cable standards.

 

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April