The threat from over-the-top providers, and the shift of the US telecoms market towards convergence and cloud platforms, has driven the cablecos to become far more technologically innovative. They are expanding into wireless connectivity and also into virtualization, with their R&D arm, CableLabs, becoming active in previously unfamiliar standards efforts like 3GPP and ETSI.
With the latter, CableLabs is working on many projects connected to two key ETSI initiatives, NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) and MEC (Multi-Access Edge Computing). From July this year, ETSI has been rolling out its planned series of five standards to define how virtual network functions (VNFs) should be configured for ease of deployment and management. A key contributor has been Don Clarke, co-author of of the original ETSI NFV white paper when he was at UK telco BT, and now – significantly – principal architect of network technologies at CableLabs.
He believes fully standardized NFV processes will enable and accelerate the creation of many new services, especially at the edge, where cablecos will come into their own. “If you’ve got an edge platform that runs carrier-grade functions in a standardized way … that’s all very boring, really, but necessary,” Clarke told LightReading. “But what about the things that might generate new revenues and new core things that would be run on the same platform? So once we’ve dimensioned the platform for network connectivity … now we say: What resources are needed to run some really cool things? Like augmented reality processing or something to do with connected cars that has to run at the edge of the network. And those things could be cloud-native and coexist on the same platforms. Now we start to get into whole new realms of innovation.”