CableLabs Proceeds on Multimedia

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Boulder, Colo.— Spurred by cable operators' interest in handling increased data traffic loads related to gaming, music, movies and video telephony, Cable Television Laboratories Inc. is moving ahead with work on PacketCable Multimedia.

A release of the specification — designed to give operators tools to provide dynamic quality-of-service — is planned for the second quarter. Dynamic QOS guarantees bandwidth for consumers who use modems for gaming, or for music and movie downloads.

"There is a growing interest in using PacketCable to manage delivery of other services. QOS will be a key differentiator for cable," said Glenn Russell, director of PacketCable at CableLabs. "We need mechanisms to provide bandwidth to authorized customers only. The key is the open interface with the cable-modem termination system."

Operators could provide dedicated bandwidth, for a fee, for broadband gaming, music, movie or video telephony services, Russell said. The content would run through a cable operator's existing cable-modem termination system, with a couple of tweaks.

Policy server role

An operator would potentially buy a policy server to route requests through the network. That server would sit along side the CMTS.

The operator could buy separate servers to host gaming or music content, for instance.

A user with a subscription to an Xbox-based online gaming service and a cable modem could ping a cable operator's gaming server to play a game against a crosstown friend. The gaming server would ping the policy server, which would check to see if both parties are authorized to play the game.

Once verification is established, the policy server would direct the CMTS to set up the session and rout the gaming activity. Operators could host content servers on their networks, or link to servers on the Internet, Russell said.

Waves on the way

In other news, CableLabs said it will undertake three PacketCable certification waves this year.

Testing is underway for wave 25 and ends April 10. Testing for wave 26 begins May 12 and ends July 24. Testing for wave 27 begins Sept. 2 and ends Nov. 13

Wave 25 will test multimedia terminal adapters, CMTSs and call-management services. Waves 26 and 27 will test the same components, plus media gateways and media gateway controllers.

In wave 24, completed late last year, Arris Group Inc. and Toshiba Corp. received certification for embedded MTAs.

Cisco Systems Inc. and Terayon Communication Systems Inc. received CMTS approvals in wave 24.

Also at the CableLabs media briefing, Mike Hayashi, senior vice president of advanced engineering and subscriber technology at Time Warner Cable, said the MSO recorded a record 150,000 VOD sessions in a two-day period in Manhattan, which temporarily hobbled the New York City system.

Some of the transactional VOD content was available for a free preview for a period of time, which led to the system overload, he said.

Hayashi said that as on-demand program lineups expand, Time Warner is finding it needs more storage for VOD than was first thought. "We need to be working on asset propagation," he added.

Hayashi also plans to work toward VOD pump interoperability between multiple server vendors. "We've made quite a bit of progress there, but there are a lot of headaches to make sure that all work," he said.

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