CableLabs: Canoe Doings, Phone Plans

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Denver — I had a chance to visit CableLabs yesterday while in the Mile High City this week. So what’s new? 

The first thing we noticed on the way in: There was an all-day meeting in progress on Canoe, the still-secret project exploring interactive-advertising standards, according to a sign-in table in the lobby — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

It seems the purpose of the meeting was to review the information collected from CableLabs’ RFI, which elicited a response from dozens of vendors. But CableLabs is still not ready to talk specifics on this project, which is supposed to make it feasible to place interactive cable TV ads on a broad scale. A few reps from Time Warner Cable, Cox and Charter had yet to pick up their nametags by 2 p.m.

Another active CableLabs project — one they’re happy to discuss — is PacketCable 2.0. This architecture is designed to use the core elements from 3GPP’s IMS specification for "blending" voice, video and data services. 

So far, CableLabs has defined two applications for PacketCable 2.0, according to Eric Rosenfeld, director of PacketCable. The first, Residential SIP Telephony, simply replicates the IP-based telephony in the new architecture. The second one is cellular integration, which uses the IMS spec’s Voice Call Continuity capability to hand off a call for someone talking on a dual Wi-Fi/cellular phone — theoretically, without interruption — between the cable voice servers and the cellular infrastructure.

Now, a new area CableLabs is sketching out is Business SIP Services. This would provide features found in corporate telephone switches, like extension dialing, conference calling, and call park/pickup. The goal is to allow a cable operator to offer these services to small and midsize businesses in a standard way. Rosenfeld said he expects CableLabs to release documentation on this front next year.

Other notes from the visit:

  • MSOs are currently deploying OCAP (a.k.a. the OpenCable Platform) version I16, according to So Vang, CableLabs’ VP of advanced media platforms. He also said CableLabs is still considering offering a reference implementation of the OCAP stack, but it has not made a decision to move forward on that. "We don’t want to be in the business of delivering OCAP stacks," Vang noted.
  • DOCSIS 3.0 equipment is currently undergoing certification testing as part of certification wave 56. CableLabs expects to have results in early December.
  • Hanging on the wall in a vacant office on the 2nd floor: A camouflage vest with "CE Flak Jacket" stitched onto the front. Could it be the consumer electronics industry is literally taking up arms to get cable to do things their way?
  • Some additional notes about PacketCable 2.0: Rosenfeld provided an update on the status of the spec. IMS release 7, which was frozen to new functionality in June 2007, includes several features that CableLabs requested in order to support cable architectures. One of the main ones was as support for network-address translation (NAT) gateways. NATs are a nagging issue for wired networks, but not wireless ones, which is why the IMS spec didn’t initially include that kind of feature. IMS release 7 also incorporates enhancements to support Caller ID. According to Rosenfeld, the next iteration of IMS — release 8, due perhaps near the end of next year – should further align with what cable wants from the specification, including security features for authenticating cable telephony adapters. By the way, the CPE under the PacketCable 2.0 nomenclature is called "embedded digital voice adapters," or eDVAs, not eMTAs (embedded multimedia terminal adapters) as with PacketCable 1.x.

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