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Cable to Telecom: Can't We All Get Along?

Nxtcomm

LAS VEGAS -- There was a time when telecom companies just delivered phone service and cable companies just delivered cable television. That's not the case anymore with cable companies selling phone services and telecoms selling TV.

In a keynote session here at the NXTcomm conference, Richard Green, president and CEO of CableLabs, asked the telecom industry to join with the cable industry in some interoperability initiatives to help everyone grow.

"We're all in the same business now," Green told the audience. "Open platforms in the access network are critical to attracting content."

CableLabs is a consortium of U.S. cable operators that helps to define standards for the cable industry. One of the standards that CableLabs has been involved with recently is the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 3 specification for high-speed cable modems.

"These new modems will provide speeds of 160 megabits per second (Mb/sec) downstream and 120Mb/sec upstream," Green said.

The current DOCSIS 2 standard provides a maximum of 43Mb/sec downstream and 30Mb/sec upstream. Green noted that the faster cable network systems based on DOCSIS 3 will be called wideband by cable operators.

He added that Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) plans to make wideband available to up to 20 percent of its customers by the end of the year.

According to Green, the U.S. cable system covers 92 percent of American homes, so broadband over cable has been a tremendous opportunity for the cable business.

"Twelve years ago Internet access was mostly dial-up," Green noted. "I believe we helped lead the way to a competitive market for broadband among DSL and cable vendors."

While competition is a good thing, so, too, is cooperation. That's what the OpenCable Applications Platform (OCAP) effort now known as Tru2way is all about.

According to Green, cable operators have operated on separate networks for years, and Tru2way helps solve this problem.

As a middleware abstraction product, Tru2way interfaces with different cable networks and permits developers to share a framework for their applications, he said.

From a practical point of view, Tru2way is being deployed in HD receivers enabling the integration of the set-top box with the TV.

"For us as an industry it will help us to abstract the differences between operators," Green said. "I also think it will spur innovation from content developers."

Tru2way also sits at what Green described as the natural intersection between cable and telecom.

"Tru2way's purpose is to provide a universal interface for interactive services that could be used by anyone," Green said.

"If we could agree between our industries to use it we would simplify application transportation and content delivery."