CableLabs: The Road to Innovation


Paul Liao, president and CEO of CableLabs, recently spoke with Multichannel
technology editor Todd Spangler
about the consortium’s plans for the
year ahead. An edited transcript follows:

MCN: What projects are you currently focused on?

Paul Liao: We’re focused on three primary directions. One
is really helping the operators expand their capability to the
business and commercial markets. That’s the most rapidly
growing part of their business right now … It’s
a big business opportunity.

Another major focus is advanced advertising
and interactive services. EBIF [the
Enhanced Binary TV Interchange Format
specification] is finally a reality — it’s rolled
out to close to 30 million homes now … Th e
third area is, How do you take advantage of
Internet technologies to let cable operators
expand their scope of services?

MCN: Any specific goals for 2011?

PL: We’re looking at opening an office in the [San Francisco]
Bay Area. Our focus will probably be primarily on
working together with the companies and universities
that are out there, to really understand how CableLabs
can tap into the innovation in the Bay Area, especially
around interactive applications but also network technologies
that are being developed.

MCN: How would you describe cable’s progress on
IPv6 [the next-generation Internet address protocol]?

PL: I think the providers are really ahead of the curve.
They all have strategies to deal with the transition; their
equipment is IPv6 from the get-go. The issue is whether
the other parts of the ecosystem — such as the devices
side — are moving as quickly as required, given that we
will in fact run out of IPv4 [addresses] this year. If anything,
the industry needs to proselytize on this.

MCN: There’s been a lot of back and forth on the
Federal Communications Commisssion’s
AllVid proposal [to provide a common
video interface across all TV providers].
Does Tru2way [CableLabs’ interactive
middleware technology] still have a place
in that discussion?

PL: Tru2way is something that is misunderstood
in some sense. When CableLabs first
started working on Tru2way it was a technology
to go into set-top boxes so the guide would
look uniform across hardware suppliers … The
most interesting thing about this is, because Tru2way is
a programmable platform, it’s very easy to add IP to a settop
box. You’re going to see Tru2way play a big part in the
transition [by cable operators to IP video].

With regard to AllVid, what’s happened is, the IP
router has become the AllVid device. You can plug any
device into the router … and get the content no matter
where it’s coming from. The technology has gone
way past the regulatory thinking. The real question is
whether the FCC will recognize that the original end
goal for the navigation rules has happened.