Technology Vision

Beyond Speed: The New Eras of Broadband Innovation

CableLabs' Technology Vision: Eras of Broadband Innovation

CableLabs
CableLabs

Jun 6, 2024

Key Points

  • CableLabs’ Technology Vision outlines three eras of broadband innovation: speed, experience and adaptivity.
  • Tailored, seamless and adaptive experiences of the future will require industry collaboration and ecosystem interoperability.

Still trying to attract customers based on ever-increasing gigabit speeds? That may not be enough to gain a competitive advantage in today’s broadband industry. We’re entering a new era — one in which the market prioritizes seamless connectivity over technical metrics.

Users want technology that will work everywhere all the time, with no disruptions. It doesn’t matter to them if an operator can deliver 100 gigabits per second if their connection drops at a pivotal moment.

The broadband industry has reached a tipping point at which additional gains in speed no longer offer substantial improvements to customer experiences that they used to. As quality of service (QoS) has improved over time, user expectations have also evolved. Users spend more and more time online, and they want higher-quality experiences and predictable delivery that won’t glitch or drop as they go about their day, whether they’re at home, on the go or anywhere in between.

In other words, users don’t want to think about their networks. They just want them to work, wherever they happen to be.

To achieve this outcome, the industry needs a network that can anticipate and adapt to users’ needs in real time as they move between networks and applications. Ultimately, the goal is ubiquitous, context-aware connectivity that fades into the background.

How do we get there? First, let’s take a look at the three eras of broadband innovation outlined in CableLabs’ Technology Vision: speed, experience and adaptivity.

CableLabs Technology Vision: Eras of Broadband Innovation
(Click graphic to enlarge)

Where We Started: The Speed Era

The early days of broadband innovation focused on metrics. Speed was the moving target for DOCSIS®️ 1.0 and DOCSIS 3.1 technologies, and the aim was to improve metrics that were visible to consumers. Companies touted faster and faster speeds as a competitive differentiator, and today we can deliver 10 gigabits per second, with even greater speed increases on the horizon.

While it is foundational to the future of the industry, speed has reached a saturation point. It has ceded its place as the primary driver of usage and is now an expectation, not a differentiator. Faster speeds are certainly likely in the future, but the focus has shifted to delivering explicit value in terms of experience.

Where We Are: The Experience Era

Broadband usage has reached an inflection point, with users requiring such services in nearly every aspect of their lives. They expect their networks to be not only reliable — and reliably fast — but also to transform the way they live, work, learn and play by enabling optimal experiences throughout all of their online interactions. Seamless connectivity has become the new target for the online experience.

Realizing these customer expectations will require advances in smart devices and telemetry, seamless connections across networks, and context-aware user and device interactions. Operators will also need to have a comprehensive understanding of network performance and how it impacts application experiences.

DOCSIS 4.0 technology moves us closer to seamless user experiences with its capability for delivering symmetrical multi-gigabit speeds while supporting high reliability, high security and low latency. Although network technology innovations have expanded user experience measures beyond speed, true seamless connectivity remains elusive.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the seamless connectivity problem. In addition to the performance of their individual networks, providers must also consider:

  • How to optimize the hand-off as customers move from one network to another
  • How various user applications and devices impact the user experience
  • How to meet the increasing demand for tailored experiences that anticipate needs before a disruption occurs
  • How to deliver uninterrupted experiences as users move through various environments

Online experiences in an environment such as a hotel, for example, are currently dependent on that hotel’s Wi-Fi. This means the connection could be glitchy or service may be disrupted, leaving customers frustrated and their expectations unmet. The goal in the experience era is to ensure a Wi-Fi experience that matches those expectations no matter where the user is.

The problem is that measuring a user’s actual experience isn’t easy. We have limited intelligent network metrics today that help us predict what the experience will be, and there’s still significant work to be done in this area.

Still, we’ve seen some promising developments in correlating metrics with experiential outcomes.

In recent work conducted by CableLabs, we’ve explored the potential of correlating application Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to network KPIs. Through our work on Quality by Design (QbD), we can leverage the customer’s lived application experience to identify network impairments and take action on those issues before the user’s experience degrades. This could alleviate frustrating customer experiences and eliminate many unnecessary customer service interactions that result from not understanding the user’s experience in real time.

Where We’re Headed: The Adaptive Era

Ultimately, the emphasis on user experience will segue into an adaptive era that leverages self-configuration, sensing components for understanding environmental factors and predictive algorithms that anticipate future events to ensure uninterrupted experiences. Networks of the future will be smarter, more capable and less visible, essentially fading into the background.

To achieve this result, industry stakeholders will need to work together toward continued increases in capacity, significant enhancements in reliability and network intelligence, and increased network understanding to facilitate proactive responses. Focus areas in the adaptive era will include:

  • Full Automation and Digital Network Twins — As more smart components are built into technology, we’ll gain access to telemetry that isn’t on the network today. The data will help us understand network performance in greater detail and build automation into the network.
  • Full Self-Healing — The network will identify failures or weak points and automatically re-route data or allocate resources to maintain functionality.
  • Self-Configuration — We have some self-configuration technology today, but it’s still fairly primitive. In the adaptive era, learning algorithms will be built in, fully responsive and able to configure themselves to the environment and the way users interact.
  • Unconstrained Network Capabilities — Customers will be able to access their services from anywhere with Network as a Service (NaaS). Achieving this goal will require partnerships across providers and networks to create common understanding.
  • Pervasive Sensing — The ability to sense fiber components, Wi-Fi, construction and other events will empower predictive adaptability and proactive responses.
  • Self-Optimizing — By constantly analyzing performance metrics and user requirements, networks of the future will be able to optimize resource allocation, routing paths and other parameters for best performance.

The infrastructure to create these kinds of experiences is still in the early stages of development. However, we’re starting to see broadband innovations that incorporate adaptive elements. Examples include:

  • Automated Profile Management Changes — Built-in mechanisms detect a problem in a section of the network and shift the traffic to a different range inside that frequency.
  • Smart Home Technology — Smart home devices, such as thermostats and lighting systems, use sensors to understand environmental factors. They can then adjust settings accordingly, providing a more comfortable and energy-efficient living space.
  • Environmental Sensing — Using various sensors and algorithms, networks can sense environmental events (e.g., seismic activity, nearby construction, etc.) and alert first responders or respond to avoid an outage.

What’s Next for the Industry?

Delivering true seamless connectivity — and enabling truly optimal application experiences — won’t happen overnight. To get there, we’ll need to work together as an industry to solve complex system-level issues and develop common platforms for interoperability.

As a whole, the industry must transition from its focus on improving network metrics such as speed. Operators must prioritize delivering tailored, seamless and adaptive experiences built on interoperability. Doing so will require common interfaces to support interoperability, integrated definitions and data structures, as well as collaboration across providers and networks.

The CableLabs Technology Vision seeks to move the industry forward by helping our members provide superior customer experiences everywhere and aligning the industry on a concise model for building adaptive networks through:

  • Seamless Connectivity
  • Network Platform Evolution
  • Pervasive Intelligence, Security and Privacy

To design and implement the technologies and operational models of the future, operators will need to develop a common understanding that transforms the vision of the adaptive era into a reality for every customer. Together, we can deliver network solutions that are flexible, reliable and capable of enabling new services and improved user experiences.

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Strategy

Analysis Weighs Upgrade Options for Achieving Symmetric Gigabit Services

Network Upgrade Total Cost of Ownership

Todd Bryan
Principal Strategist

May 14, 2024

Key Points

  • DOCSIS 4.0 technology has arrived, giving operators another network upgrade choice to consider.
  • CableLabs can provide key analyses to create a full economic picture of different upgrade options, including total-cost-of-ownership modeling based on members’ existing network inputs and upgrade paths.

The era of DOCSIS®️ 4.0 networks has arrived, and the technology is providing a cost-effective upgrade option and competitive choice for cable operators on their path to symmetric multi-gigabit services.

Considering this, CableLabs has conducted a comprehensive analysis of the financial implications associated with deploying and operating different access network technologies. More specifically, our analysis examines the total cost of ownership (TCO) for different upgrade paths for DOCSIS 3.1 low-split on hybrid fiber coax (HFC) access networks — including both DOCSIS over HFC and passive optical networking (PON) over fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) upgrade options.

In short, we find merits for both. The full results of our extensive analysis are outlined in a CableLabs strategy brief, available exclusively for CableLabs members. Members can register for an account here.

A Robust Analysis

It’s a good time for industry operators to consider different upgrade options, but it’s necessary for them to step back and look at the bigger picture when it comes to cost. Of course, it’s not as simple as tallying up the costs of construction and new equipment, or only adding up power and maintenance costs.

Our calculations, which we’ve continually refined over the past several years, include all these considerations and much more, making this analysis as comprehensive as possible — and more thorough than most public estimates.

Using real-world, anonymized data from CableLabs members, our robust calculations create a single metric to effectively compare access network options.

A Flexible Model

Our analysis doesn’t provide a one-size-fits-all answer for operators considering an upgrade, but it can help inform their decisions when combined with financial objectives, existing network structure and the competitive landscape. This model will continue to evolve, and we’ll explore additional cost-related network upgrade issues in future strategy briefs.

Are you a CableLabs member operator curious to know what our analysis would reveal about your company’s upgrade options? We invite you to reach out and let us customize our analysis to your company’s needs. Read our strategy brief, "Economic Comparison of HFC and FTTH Access Networks," and connect with us for a walk-through of our findings.

For more about revenue impacts related to upgrade options, I recommend the Bandwidth Usage, Market Monitor and Discrete Choice Modeling reports — all available to CableLabs members.

Click the button below to register for a CableLabs account and gain access to the strategy brief.

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DOCSIS

A Busy DOCSIS 4.0 Interop Event Sets a New Downstream Speed Record

DOCSIS 4.0 Interop Labs Event at CableLabs

Doug Jones
Principal Architect

May 2, 2024

Key Points

  • The latest DOCSIS® 4.0 Interop•Labs event involved new suppliers bringing new products, showcasing the depth and breadth of the DOCSIS ecosystem.
  • Multi-vendor interoperability testing at the event allowed us to achieve a downstream speed of over 9 Gbps through a DOCSIS 4.0 modem — a new speed record.
  • Interops keep getting busier, highlighting the continued importance of interoperability across the industry.

CableLabs and Kyrio hosted a combined DOCSIS 4.0 technology and Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) Interop•Labs event April 15–18 at our headquarters in Louisville, Colorado. Combining the interops for these technologies drives home the fact that interoperability across all the system components is a high priority for the industry.

And once again, the operators and suppliers in attendance made this event the most successful interop to date — and the busiest. We even achieved a downstream speed of over 9 Gbps through a DOCSIS 4.0 cable modem!

At this Interop•Labs event, the focus again was on interoperability. The featured exercises involved DOCSIS 4.0 cable modems and Remote PHY equipment, including virtualized cores and Remote PHY Devices (RPDs) that support DOCSIS 4.0 technology. During the week, the mixing and matching of systems and components demonstrated multi-supplier interoperability across the DOCSIS 4.0 ecosystem.

Record-Setting Number of Devices

The event included new suppliers who brought new products, showcasing the depth and breadth of the DOCSIS ecosystem. We set a record for the highest number of DOCSIS 4.0 cable modems and the most RPDs involved in a single interop! Operators also attended to observe demonstrations, interact with suppliers and talk about their own DOCSIS 4.0 technology plans.

As you can probably guess, it was the busiest interop yet. With all the equipment, suppliers and operators on site, it was standing room only in the interop lab — not a bad problem to have. The sheer number of attendees meant we had to move quickly through test scenarios.

Casa Systems, CommScope and Harmonic brought DOCSIS 4.0 cores to the interop, and Calian, Casa Systems, CommScope, DCT-DELTA, Harmonic and Vecima Networks brought RPDs that offered a mix of DOCSIS 3.1 and DOCSIS 4.0 technologies. Arcadyan, Askey, Hitron Technologies, MaxLinear, Sagemcom, Ubee Interactive and Vantiva showcased DOCSIS 4.0 cable modems. Rohde & Schwarz brought its DOCSIS 4.0 test and measurement system, and Microchip Technology participated with its clock and timing system.

Testing scenarios involved using a virtual core from one supplier, an RPD from another supplier and multiple DOCSIS 4.0 modems from various suppliers. The products were mixed and matched to verify interoperability scenarios and speeds through the system. As before, DOCSIS 3.1 and DOCSIS 4.0 equipment were mixed to demonstrate cross-compatibility of existing and new technology. The test equipment suppliers used these setups to verify their solutions.

DOCSIS Interop Labs Event

An Interop•Labs event combined both DOCSIS 4.0 and Distributed Access Architecture technologies in interoperability testing scenarios.

9 Gbps Downstream Speed Unlocked

Multi-vendor interoperability testing is how we achieved a downstream speed of over 9 Gbps. This speed record shows several things: First, the products are nearing feature-complete status and are now being optimized for the speeds that DOCSIS 4.0 technology will bring to market.

Second, DOCSIS 4.0 technology will compete effectively with 10 gigabit passive optical network (PON) solutions that max out at about 8.5 Gbps downstream. DOCSIS 4.0 technology won’t only surpass that speed but will also provide more throughput to the neighborhood than what is possible with 10 gigabit PON. And lastly, these speeds are available over existing coaxial cable already serving tens of millions of customers around the globe.

It's About Network Cohesion

The number of suppliers and products in the industry continues to rise, and CableLabs’ Interop•Labs events bring all of the components of a DOCSIS 4.0 network solution together. With each interop, we’re successfully mixing and matching products from various suppliers and demonstrating interoperability across the interfaces defined in CableLabs’ specification.

In addition, together we’re achieving the multi-gigabit speeds and other advanced capabilities of DOCSIS 4.0 technology such as security, low latency and proactive network maintenance. Other parts of the DOCSIS 4.0 ecosystem are also becoming available, including hybrid fiber coax (HFC) network equipment such as amplifiers, taps and passives.

It’s exciting work, and we’re always looking forward to the new developments and takeaways that come out of events like these. Catch up on past interops and click the button below to stay up to date on future DOCSIS technology interop events.

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Wireless

Wi-Fi: The Unsung Hero of Broadband

Wi-Fi Networks and Broadband

Luther Smith
Distinguished Technologist and Director of Wireless

Apr 30, 2024

Key Points

  • More Wi-Fi networks are being deployed to meet the growing need for better broadband connections.
  • WFA Passpoint and WBA OpenRoaming have helped expand the public Wi-Fi network footprint.

We hear a lot about 5G/6G mobile and 10G cable these days, but another technology is also helping lead the pack to much less fanfare. It’s a technology that’s as essential as the public utilities you rely on every day. In fact, you’re most likely using it to read this blog post.

Just as you expect your electric, water, sewer or natural gas services to be available without interruption, you likely also depend on your Wi-Fi to be working all the time.

Regardless of the service you use to access the internet (i.e., coax, fiber, wireless, satellite), Wi-Fi is the typical connection to that service. When was the last time you connected a wire to your laptop or had a great experience using your mobile device over the mobile network while inside your home or workplace? The fact is, most of us make use of Wi-Fi when we’re indoors.

Why Wi-Fi? Why Now?

With the introduction of Wi-Fi 6/6E, Wi-Fi 7 and Ultra High Reliability (Future Wi-Fi 8), Wi-Fi is growing to meet and even exceed the growing need for fast, reliable and lower latency broadband connections. It is available basically everywhere you go — work, school, shopping and even while in transit — allowing you to be connected over a high-speed network just about anywhere.

There is an argument that Wi-Fi is not usable or available outside of the home or work. This is rapidly changing as operators, venues, transportation services and even municipalities deploy Wi-Fi networks. It’s true that mobile networks have greater outdoor coverage, but many of the applications in use only require low bandwidth, which is not the case with Wi-Fi.

Evolving Wi-Fi Network Applications

In the car, kids often watch video or play games, which are likely carried over mobile. But now many newer cars on the road have a Wi-Fi hotspot built in. The automotive industry is shifting from mobile connections to Wi-Fi as makers update their onboard software options. Autonomous vehicles and robotics are making use of Wi-Fi, too.

Many mobile carriers are moving to Wi-Fi offload to reduce costs and help meet the demands of broadband traffic. Wi-Fi access points (APs) are now at a price point that almost every home has at least one AP or Wi-Fi extender, with many homes having more than one. In work environments, businesses can quickly deploy a Wi-Fi network on their own or with a third party.

Frameworks for a Wider Wi-Fi Network Footprint

With the addition of WFA Passpoint and WBA OpenRoaming™, the public Wi-Fi network footprint continues to expand. Passpoint allows internet service providers (ISPs) to offer a seamless Wi-Fi connection experience like the mobile connection experience. Passpoint is now included in 3GPP specifications as the named function to assist with mobile devices connecting to Wi-Fi network. OpenRoaming enables access network providers (ANPs) to offer Wi-Fi services to users regardless of their home ISP. This allows providers the ability to offer more locations where subscribers can access Wi-Fi networks. Identity providers (IdPs), such as Google, Samsung and Meta, can also make use of OpenRoaming Wi-Fi network access for their subscribers.

We expect our home utilities to function reliably every day, and now Wi-Fi has become an essential service, supporting our daily activities such as living, learning, working and, of course, playing. For more on Wi-Fi 6/6E, Wi-Fi 7 and Wi-Fi 8, stay up to date here on the CableLabs blog.

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Technology Vision

  An Inside Look at CableLabs’ New Technology Vision 

CableLabs Technology Vision

CableLabs
CableLabs

Apr 24, 2024

Key Points

  • The Tech Vision aims to drive alignment and scale for the broadband industry and to foster a healthy vendor ecosystem.
  • A framework of core areas focuses on defining network capabilities that are flexible, reliable and can deliver quality services and user experiences.

Last month at CableLabs Winter Conference, we unveiled a new way forward for CableLabs’ technology strategy — a transformative roadmap designed to support our member and vendor community through innovation and technology development in the coming years.

Mark Bridges, CableLabs’ Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, recently sat down with David Debrecht, Vice President of Wireless Technologies, to talk more about this new Technology Vision. Check out the video below to learn more about the strategy and how it evolved from conversations with our member CTOs about what’s important to them.

Thinking About Connectivity Differently

The Technology Vision serves as a framework to help align the industry around key industry issues for CableLabs members and operators. By leveraging what CableLabs does best, we can help provide alignment and scale for the industry and direct our efforts toward developing a healthy vendor ecosystem. Involving our members from the get-go has allowed us to refine the Tech Vision framework to focus on areas that will have the most impact for them and give them a competitive edge.

“It’s all about connectivity,” Bridges explains. “People don’t care how they’re connecting. They don’t think about the access network. They don’t think about the underlying technologies like we do. We’re best positioned to be that first point of connection for people.”

The CableLabs Technology Vision defines three future-focused themesSeamless Connectivity, Network Platform Evolution and Pervasive Intelligence, Security & Privacy — that encompass the scope of broadband technologies. The goal is to provide a concise model for building adaptive networks and set up a framework of core areas focused on defining network capabilities that are flexible, reliable and able to deliver quality services and user experiences.

In the video, Bridges highlights some of the initiatives CableLabs is already deeply involved in to support this vision, including Network as a Service (NaaS), fiber services and mobile innovations designed to move us closer to seamless connectivity. These areas are mainstays in CableLabs’ technology portfolio, allowing us to drive innovation and advancement while keeping costs low.

Creating an Adaptive Network

What’s ahead for the industry in the near future? Bridges points to a “convergence of connectivity” that enables operators to offer seamless services across different network and device types.

As AI evolves and more intelligent devices enter the market, we’re already seeing increases in network usage. These innovations raise critical questions as we look to the future: How will traffic utilization patterns change? What impacts will we see for reliability and capacity needs?

Bridges envisions a network that is more reliable, more capable and, in a sense, less visible. It’s a network, he says, that “fades into the background. You connect and do the things that you want to do and you don’t have to think about it.”

Do you want to be a part of shaping that future? Our working groups bring CableLabs members and vendors together to make meaningful contributions that advance the industry as a whole. Reach out to us to learn how you can participate in this work and help make an impact.

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Wireless

MWC 2024 Buzz Signals Continuing Momentum for 5G and Other Mobile Technologies

Mobile World Congress MWC 2024

Mark Poletti
Director, Wireless Network Technologies

Apr 4, 2024

Key Points

  • Hot topics at MWC 2024 in Barcelona included 5G, Network as a Service (NaaS), AI, Open RAN and more.
  • Although there were fewer announcements about disruptive, new 5G technologies than in recent years, activity during MWC suggested overall forward movement is continuing in the development of 5G solutions.

Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the flagship conference for the mobile industry, where vendors and mobile operators showcase new products, technologies and solutions. The buzz at the annual trade show translates to the pulse of the mobile industry and offers a sneak peek at its direction.

This year at MWC Barcelona, more than 100,000 participants attended from 200-plus countries, and more than 2,700 small and large vendors and operators were on exhibit across eight halls. The level of activity at the event was on par with pre-pandemic levels.

Here are a few general observations and themes from this year’s MWC.

‘Show Me the Money’

Every year, there is huge anticipation for announcements about disruptive technologies or new solutions in the mobile industry. This year, the impact of new developments and disruptive 5G solutions was muted compared with years past — somewhat expected, as operators are still undergoing 4G-to-5G network transitions, awaiting releases to complete their fully featured 5G networks.

Operators who haven’t yet seen the expected monetization from their 5G build-outs are cautious about upcoming investments toward continuing the rollout of the network. Overall, a limited number of solutions showcased at the show could be categorized as “money-making” for operators.

However, the news wasn’t all negative! Vendors and operators demonstrating Network as a Service (NaaS) solutions were pretty common. CableLabs even presented a demonstration illustrating potential applications of NaaS on the fixed network.

In addition, the event partner co-located with the MWC — “4 Years From Now” (4YFN) — had its largest-ever showing, with start-up and venture-capital companies coming together to showcase the state of what’s possible with 5G networks. This was a very popular part of the show.

AI Will Enhance Efficiencies in 5G

Artificial intelligence (AI) was a common theme among 5G vendors and operators demonstrating efficiencies in 5G service delivery, throughput, operations and performance. However, nothing was truly disruptive.

The AI solutions were focused on operator-specific network improvements to squeeze out 5G network performance, using AI to improve their return on investment (ROI) in place of spending on additional 5G network rollout.

In addition, AI was generally tailored to vendor-operator partnerships for specific 5G network improvements and use cases using prototype solutions still under development. Overall, the role of AI in 5G networks was a hot topic, but there were no clear answers to questions about how the technology might ultimately impact the industry.

Network Virtualization and Disaggregation Continues to Advance

Network operators and vendors continue to disaggregate network components and virtualize network functions as shown by many advanced solutions on exhibit for the 5G core and RAN. This includes both operator-based on-premises virtualization along with cloud-based services from third-party service providers. This shows the continuing network evolution toward virtualization, providing new services, reducing costs and enhancing operational efficiencies.

6G Still in Early Stages

There was little 6G activity. Most of the 6G activity was centered around test equipment to help enable and develop ideas and proof of concepts. With 5G still being deployed and a few years from its full features, it seems that 6G is in the early stages of ideation in the academic, vendor development and standards community.

Open RAN Continues to Gain Momentum

Open RAN vendors showcased further evolution of disaggregated and virtualized RAN solutions, featuring more capabilities and more availability of common uses that include macro cells, small cells, fixed-wireless access (FWA) and private networks. Improved functionality included higher-level MIMO RU solutions such as 32×32 and 64×64 MIMO in the mid-band.

There was also advancement in RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) and Service Management and Orchestration (SMO) platforms, with various Open RAN partnerships showcasing capabilities closer to commercial operation. Again, in many cases, these advances were specific to operator and vendor partnerships, so Open RAN via the O-RAN Alliance has a ways to go before realizing its final vision.

Other Hot Topics

Other topics discussed at the show included the following:

  • The Internet of Things (IOT) remains a potential key trend for 5G networks. Vendors and operators alike showcased many use cases and product solutions.
  • The use of non-terrestrial networks (NTNs) for mobile communications is starting to make progress. Advances in satellite technology are making the technology a viable option for traditional voice communications in unserved rural areas and as a backup alternative during network outages.
  • Energy efficiency and sustainability continue to be top of mind for operators. Most vendors are providing solutions to help drive down energy consumption and improve long-term sustainability.

All in all, the buzz at MWC was relatively quiet with no major announcements or industry disruptions related to these and other mobile technologies. However, considering the large attendance, the conference was filled with lots of activity and steady forward movement in 5G development. This could bode well for the industry as it continues with its 5G rollout.

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Wireless

Enriched Wi-Fi Performance Through Wi-Fi Multimedia

Wi-Fi Multimedia

Luther Smith
Distinguished Technologist and Director of Wireless

Mar 28, 2024

Key Points

  • A collaboration between CableLabs and Meta found that Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) could improve the performance of voice/video calling applications when it is enabled on an access point.
  • Given the positive results from the testing, operators might consider using WMM to ensure the necessary throughput, low latency and managed jitter for time-sensitive applications such as these.
  • The details of the testing and results are included in a technical report available for download below.

Network service providers and application developers both work to provide their users with the best possible quality of experience (QoE) for their respective services. Although many segments of the service/application layer of end-to-end networks are out of the operator’s control, the segments between the user’s device and the internet are not.

One such critical and consistent segment within the home network is Wi-Fi — the preferred and most commonly used network access technology in the home. This last link has become synonymous with the overall internet. Ensuring the best throughput and latency of these services/applications will reflect on the user’s experience and therefore determine how good or bad the internet service is.

Not all applications have similar traffic needs with regard to throughput, latency and jitter. One such category of applications is Real Time Communication (RTC), examples of which include voice/video calling applications such as Messenger and online meeting applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. To ensure necessary throughput, low latency and managed jitter for RTCs, providers might consider the use of the Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) feature.

Wi-Fi Multimedia in Test Scenarios

WMM has four categories of traffic: Voice (VO), Video (VI), Best Effort (BE) and Background (BG). Traffic within each of the categories is given different priorities. Without WMM enabled, all traffic is treated equally, meaning that web browsing and email exchange, for example, are treated the same as time-sensitive applications such as RTCs.

A collaboration between CableLabs and Meta examined the WMM feature to determine the potential for overall improvements to an RTC application. The results of this testing showed that — with WMM enabled on the access point (AP) — RTC applications had improved quality of video and audio, even with varying traffic-load conditions on the Wi-Fi network. In addition to weathering changing traffic loads, RTC quality was maintained as the RTC device moved over varying distances from the AP.

Testing involved emulating a single-family dwelling using three locations. At each location, the RTC client was placed close to the AP (near), midway from the AP (mid) and at the AP’s serving edge (far). Test scenarios consisted of two types of contention traffic: The first introduced typical traffic as seen in a home setting, representing the use of various home applications, and the second fully loaded the Wi-Fi network with simulated traffic. Throughout the testing, the RTC device was shifted to different static distances from the AP (near, mid, far) and QoE was measured in every case. Testing also included a sweeping test case in which the RTC client was moved from near, mid and far locations (in relation to the AP) and then returned to the near location simulating a person moving within the home (sweep). Tests were conducted in the 2.4 GHz band using a 20 MHz channel, as well as the 5 GHz band using an 80 MHz channel.

The results showed that, with WMM enabled, RTC applications experienced improved performance compared with RTC applications not using WMM. This outcome was consistent over all testing: static at near, mid and far locations, and while moving the device from near to edge and back.

Reporting on WMM Testing Results

The details of the testing and results are available in a technical report, “Impacts of WMM on Wi-Fi — Study of Real-Time Communication Quality and WMM.” CableLabs is eager to take these positive lab results and test them in the field to prove the benefits of WMM in real-world environments. After downloading and reviewing the test reports and results, members are encouraged to contact me if they are interested in participating in trials to prove the benefits in a real-world environment.

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Technology Vision

Connectivity Without Limits: CableLabs Unveils Transformative Technology Vision

CableLabs Tech Vision

Mark Bridges
Senior Vice President & Chief Technical Officer

Mar 27, 2024

Key Points

  • CableLabs’ Technology Vision is a strategic roadmap to support the broadband industry through innovation and technology development over the next decade.
  • It is designed to foster a healthy, competitive ecosystem, enabling seamless connectivity services that provide differentiation for CableLabs’ member operators.
  • The Tech Vision also will drive industry alignment and unmatched scale for our members and the vendor community.

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, connectivity is more essential than it ever has been before. It’s as much a part of our lives as the air we breathe. It’s all around us — the lifeblood of nearly every facet of our digital lives. And it puts the broadband industry at the forefront of some of the most promising innovations that will guide us into a future of ever-expanding potential.

That’s why we’re excited to unveil a fresh strategy for CableLabs and the work we do on behalf of the industry: the CableLabs Technology Vision.

Bolstered by three future-focused pillars, this Tech Vision serves as a roadmap for advancing innovation and technology development over the next decade. It aims to foster alignment and create unmatched scale for the industry — building a healthier, more competitive ecosystem for CableLabs’ member operators and the vendor community.

CableLabs’ Tech Vision supports a new era of connectivity, propelling the evolution of the network from one primarily focused on speed to one that adapts to the needs of users and devices in real time. By setting a target for ubiquitous, context-aware connectivity and an adaptive, intelligent network, this vision will create new opportunities for better, more seamless online experiences.

CableLabs Tech Vision Network Eras

Key Themes of the CableLabs Technology Vision

In our Tech Vision, CableLabs prioritizes a trio of key themes that encompass the scope of this technology innovation. Together, these areas offer a concise model for discussing how our technology innovations relate in our work within the industry to build an adaptive network.

Seamless Connectivity

Seamless Connectivity is the first of these key themes. It’s connectivity wherever a user is, on whatever device they’re using, on whichever network they happen to be tapping into — all without them needing to give it a second thought. It enables connectivity without concern for the access network or how a user is moving across the network. Because it’s context-aware, the network stands ready to adapt services to match the needs of the user’s interactions, operating quietly behind the scenes to ensure a consistently smooth and secure online experience. Seamless Connectivity enables:

  • Enhanced user experiences that make connectivity possible anywhere, on any device
  • Unparalleled in-home experiences
  • Context-aware user and device interactions
  • Fixed-mobile convergence such as capabilities for seamless subscriber session and traffic steering

Network Platform Evolution

The path toward a secure, seamless user experience lies in evolving our network platforms. It’s this critical aspect of our Tech Vision — the key theme of Network Platform Evolution — that will pave the way for innovations that create the most efficient network architectures. These architectures will offer unprecedented optionality and unmatched flexibility for CableLabs’ member operators, allowing them to deliver the truly seamless connectivity experiences their customers demand. At a glance, Network Platform Evolution offers opportunities for:

  • Network scalability and ecosystem development
  • End-to-end automation
  • Access network evolution and convergence
  • Fiber transition and optionality
  • Next-generation network capabilities based on AI and new computing architectures

Pervasive Intelligence, Security & Privacy

Secure and trustworthy foundations are paramount in today’s connected world. That’s where our final theme — Pervasive Intelligence, Security & Privacy — comes in. Simply put, it’s intelligence at every point in the network. It ensures high performance, reliability, security and privacy for all users and devices in any connectivity context, allowing users to connect with confidence and peace of mind in any environment. This theme enables:

  • Smart, dynamic networks that leverage APIs, telemetry and AI technologies
  • Post-quantum security, user-centric privacy and zero trust
  • Capabilities to make networks more energy-efficient and sustainable, pointing to sustainability as a first principle
  • Integration of intelligent devices and automation, telemetry and monitoring platforms throughout the network to achieve higher levels of reliability and performance

Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

Collaboration has been a cornerstone of CableLabs’ mission since our start in 1988. Together with our members, the vendor community and other industry stakeholders, we have fueled innovations in connectivity. By renewing our focus with this new Tech Vision, CableLabs aims to create transparency and hone our focus to more efficiently support these partners. We'll continue to help define standards and specifications to ensure greater compatibility, interoperability and progress for all of us in the ecosystem.

We work closely with our member teams, vendor companies and other standards bodies to ensure maximum scale and interoperability for the broadband industry. Some of those key industry organizations include ITU-T, IEEE, IETF, WBA, WFA, BBF, TIP, GSMA, CAMARA, 3GPP and others. We are always looking to engage on behalf of our members to foster industry collaboration.

Advancing the Industry, Advancing Society

The CableLabs Technology Vision is a roadmap for the future of connectivity, setting a course for a more intuitive, efficient and secure online experience for everyone. It will shape the network to adapt to user needs and unlock new possibilities for operators and their customers.

But it’s more than a framework. It’s our future.

Through this work, CableLabs is driving innovation and empowering our members to take part in a vibrant, collaborative ecosystem. Our work will pave the way to a more connected, intelligent and secure tomorrow. As demand grows for more robust digital experiences, this vision lays the foundation for a future where our networks are more adaptive, intelligent and secure — a tomorrow where connectivity is ubiquitous.

We welcome our member and vendor community to join us in realizing this potential for our industry. Connect with us using the button below to collaborate with us on this journey.

By embracing this vision and working together, we can unlock a world of possibilities. Our Tech Vision will allow operators and their customers — as well as society as a whole — to navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape with confidence and ease. Together, we’re shaping the future, one connection at a time.

COLLABORATE WITH US

Fiber

Common Provisioning and Management of PON: A New Working Group Launches

Common Provisioning and Management of PON

Jon Schnoor
Principal Architect, Wired Technologies

Mar 21, 2024

Key Points

  • In keeping with CableLabs’ focus on optical fiber solutions, we have announced two new working groups to support the cable industry’s deployment of optical technologies.
  • The near-term focus for this effort will be for ITU PON and 25GS-PON, however the work will be applicable to other next-gen PON flavors.
  • Vendor neutrality through device interoperability is a key objective of the activity.

Consistent with the strategy outlined in a recent blog, CableLabs has recently launched two new working groups related to fiber to the premises (FTTP). Information on one of the working groups — Optical Operations and Maintenance — can be found here. The subject is this blog is the provisioning and management of passive optical networking (PON) in cable access networks.

As the cable industry has begun to deploy multiple gigabit service, there’s a growing current of enthusiasm and interest for the efficient deployment, management and maintenance of those access networks. Furthermore, the speed at which technology is moving is impressive and expensive. It can be difficult for cable operators to keep pace with these advancements, which require a matrix of expertise and decision-making.

PON is one of the technologies that keeps marching forward. CableLabs has been developing PON-based specifications for over a decade, and we’re continuing in that vein to help operators lower barriers for deploying and operating fiber networks.

Common Provisioning and Management of PON

Common Provisioning and Management of PON is another working group that CableLabs recently launched. This group will focus on provisioning and management solutions for PON technologies. With the support of operators and vendor partners, CableLabs previously developed specifications to support DOCSIS Provisioning of EPON (DPoE). The new working group will be laser-focused on 10G Symmetrical PON (XGS-PON), with applicability to 25GS-PON and higher-speed next-generation ITU PON technologies.

To develop a common provisioning framework, this group will be tackling several assignments that will support the provisioning and adjacent solutions needed for various deployment requirements. All this work will be folded into the target objectives. These will include (but are not limited to) complete provisioning of XGS-PON, common service and device configurations, and vendor neutrality.

What the Work Entails

So, how will we accomplish these objectives? Through various operator presentations and vendor proposals, we’ve determined that our near-term work plans will include the following:

  • Identifying operator use cases.
  • Analyzing existing cable modem configuration files to support a DOCSIS translation layer.
  • Building an ONU Management Control Interface (OMCI) cable profile to support the use cases.

Operator use cases. Operator use cases will include residential and commercial service offerings — for example, identifying triple-play services (e.g., HSD, voice, video), backhaul and other necessary services. This identification will be the easy part, considering the fact that we must include many of the service offerings that operators deploy today.

DOCSIS translation layer. You’re probably asking yourself, “Why is DOCSIS in this list of activities?” Some cable operators would like to leverage their existing DOCSIS back office to support the provisioning of non-DOCSIS technologies. Think DPoE, which CableLabs released in 2011. For those operators that want to leverage their DOCSIS back-office investment, DOCSIS configuration files will be analyzed to better understand those use cases. The configuration will include Type Length Value (TLV) parameters and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Management Information Base (MIB) objects to satisfy the use cases. This configuration can then be translated to OMCI Managed Elements (MEs) to configure and manage the ONU.

OMCI cable profile. PON technologies based on the International Telecommunication Union’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) use OMCI to configure and manage an ONU. Although the G.988 standard contains a large set of managed entities (MEs), this working group will determine what’s necessary for cable ONU configuration and management. As such, this effort will build an OMCI “cable profile” that will support a common set of managed elements. These MEs may be grouped together or adjusted to include the appropriate configuration required for the various identified use cases. The OMCI cable profile would be a superset of all MEs across the list of uses cases but a subset of the entire G.988 Recommendation. The OMCI cable profile can be used to support both the DOCSIS and non-DOCSIS back-office infrastructure, and in this respect improve the interoperability of OLTs and ONU in any case.

Interoperable Solutions

In its entirety, this work will create a complete process to provision and manage XGS-PON (and future ITU PON flavors) in a cable access network. It will allow vendors to incorporate interoperable solutions in their product portfolios that operators can then leverage with their service offerings.

JOIN OUR WORKING GROUPS

Policy

The Case for Additional Unlicensed Spectrum

The Case for Additional Unlicensed Spectrum

Mark Walker
Vice President, Technology Policy

David Debrecht
Vice President, Wireless Technologies

Jacob Malone
Principal Strategist & Director, User Behavior & Economics

Mar 19, 2024

Key Points

  • Wi-Fi provides internet connectivity for the vast majority of devices and applications, in terms of both the number of connections and total data carried.  
  • To keep pace with performance increases of internet services and with the growing performance demands of critical devices and applications, U.S. and global governments must continue to allocate additional unlicensed spectrum toward the advancement of Wi-Fi performance. 

Today and for the foreseeable future, Wi-Fi is the technology most devices and applications use to connect to the internet. As technology advances, those devices and applications will require more data to deliver high-quality experiences for increasingly immersive, compute-intensive applications. To further support the emergence of high-fidelity video conferencing, cloud gaming, virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) and other immersive applications, widespread availability of 10 gigabit and 25 gigabit internet services is just over the horizon.

The real-time nature of these cutting-edge applications will require even faster and higher-performing Wi-Fi, with greater throughput, lower latency and better reliability. Also, because consumers primarily rely on Wi-Fi to connect to the internet — demonstrated by 10 times the amount of data going over Wi-Fi compared with mobile networks and the roughly 80 percent of data from mobile devices going over Wi-Fi — consumers now expect wall-to-wall Wi-Fi coverage in their homes, businesses and wherever they are (e.g., airports, coffee shops, civic centers). More unlicensed spectrum is key to ensuring that Wi-Fi performance keeps pace with consumer expectations and needs.

Identifying and allocating additional unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi is critical to ensuring the ready distribution of increasingly capable internet services throughout the home and enterprise. Such efforts will enable the increased performance of today’s and tomorrow’s critical applications in terms of coverage, throughput, latency and reliability, and will support new Wi-Fi features and functionality. In opening the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi and other unlicensed use in 2020, the FCC took a necessary step toward enhancing the performance and capabilities of Wi-Fi and ensuring the future growth of broadband. However, opening 6 GHz isn’t a one-and-done solution. Additional unlicensed spectrum is needed to enable continued Wi-Fi performance enhancements to stay ahead of both the increasing performance of broadband networks and the growing performance requirements of devices and applications.

Background

Since its inception, Wi-Fi has been designed to use spectrum efficiently and to co-exist with other spectrum users. Wi-Fi uses a contention-based protocol and seeks to transmit data opportunistically in short bursts, when the frequency channel is available, enabling coexistence with other users. Moreover, Wi-Fi devices use a half-duplex access protocol (transmitting and receiving on the same channel) to further economize on available frequency channels.

In 1997, IEEE released the first 802.11 standard, which is the basis for Wi-Fi. From that humble beginning, we’ve seen the adoption of Wi-Fi explode. Today, there are more than 21 billion Wi-Fi devices in use globally. Initially, Wi-Fi used the 2.4 GHz band and provided a data rate of up to 2 Mbps. Over time, Wi-Fi devices began using the 5 GHz band and larger channel sizes to drive increased data rates. With Wi-Fi 6E and the incorporation of channel sizes up to 160 MHz, Wi-Fi devices can support data rates over 1 Gbps.

With the opening of the 6 GHz band (5.925–7.125 GHz), the FCC enabled for the first time 320-MHz Wi-Fi channels. Doing so required the FCC to craft an innovative three-part sharing framework to enable coexistence with the incumbent licensees:

  • Low Power Indoor (LPI) requires the use of a contention-based protocol, permits only indoor access points (APs), restricts those APs to a power spectral density limit of 5 dBm/MHz and total power limit of 30 dBm EIRP on a 320-MHz channel, and is available across the entire 6 GHz band.
  • Standard Power, enabled by Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC), allows outdoor access points and higher power, up to 36 dBm EIRP (or 23 dBm/MHz on 20 MHz channel), when under the control of an AFC system, and is only available in the UNII-5 (5.925–6.425 GHz) and UNII-7 (6.525–6.875 GHz) portions of the band.
  • Very Low Power (VLP) requires the use of a contention-based protocol and enables indoor and outdoor operations at an even lower power limit of -5 dBm/MHz and is only available in the UNII-5 and UNII-7 portions of the band.

The Wi-Fi Alliance officially released Wi-Fi 7 on January 8, 2024. With the available 320 MHz channels in 6 GHz, Wi-Fi can now deliver speeds over 10 Gbps (using four MIMO streams), helping to ensure that Wi-Fi keeps pace with advances in internet service speeds and increasing application requirements.

Driving the Need for Additional Unlicensed Spectrum

U.S. and other governments must continue to allocate additional spectrum for unlicensed use not only to keep pace with the growing demand for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies but also to remain ahead of the technology curve. Allocating additional unlicensed spectrum will fully enable and maximize the benefits of emerging applications and functionality, which will translate to an expected $5 trillion in annual global economic value by 2025. The drivers of necessary additional unlicensed spectrum are discussed below.

Increasingly capable broadband services and growing consumer demand for more connected devices, higher throughput, lower latency and increased reliability. History has made clear that total data usage and bandwidth requirements will only grow in coming years and most of that data will be carried over Wi-Fi, as noted above. This growth will be enabled by the ubiquitous availability of increasingly capable broadband services: 10 gigabit and beyond (e.g., DOCSIS 4.0, 10G-EPON, XGS-PON, 25G-PON). To this end, the U.S. government is investing well over $40 billion to deploy highly capable fiber-based networks. Data and bandwidth usage growth will also be driven by more connected devices and increased use of real-time and data-intensive applications such as new interactive VR/AR experiences. We’ve seen the average number of connected devices per home grow from 13 in 2021 to 17 in Q3 2023 — an increase of over 30 percent in less than two years and a trend we expect to continue. We also continue to see average fixed broadband residential data usage increase — currently, on average, over 640 GB per month. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption and use of video conferencing and other cloud-based tools. As the FCC has explained, “video conferencing has grown from a niche product to a central pillar of our communications infrastructure.” Because consumers no longer connect devices using an ethernet cable, but rather rely on Wi-Fi to connect to the internet, the government must also continue to make additional unlicensed spectrum available to ensure the government’s investment in broadband deployment actually reaches end-devices and enables the critical applications of today and tomorrow.

Supporting new features and functionality of Wi-Fi 7 and beyond. Additional unlicensed spectrum is also needed to make room for the coming features and functionality of Wi-Fi 7 and beyond. The release of Wi-Fi 7 introduced new features and functionality; of note, Wi-Fi 7 now includes support for 320 MHz channels and Multi-Link Operation (MLO). Both features enable higher throughput and lower latency through the use of wider channels and multiple channels — features not available in prior generations of Wi-Fi. Moreover, IEEE is already working on 802.11bn, the standard that will underpin Wi-Fi 8. The emerging focus is on Ultra High Reliability (UHR) where additional spectrum becomes even more critical to meet performance goals in light of potential channel contention from high-density client environments, adjacent Wi-Fi networks or other unlicensed use.

The technical limitations enabling the 6 GHz innovative sharing framework. The FCC’s innovative unlicensed sharing framework in 6 GHz is a huge success, protecting mission-critical incumbents and allowing for expanded Wi-Fi use at the same time. Moreover, this sharing framework eliminated the need to relocate incumbents, enabling the rapid realization of the benefits of this additional unlicensed spectrum to consumers and enterprise users alike.

To ensure safe coexistence, the FCC established a detailed unlicensed spectrum sharing framework, including Low Power Indoor-only (LPI) restrictions across the band and more recently Very Low Power (VLP) restrictions and database-controlled (by an AFC database) standard-power capabilities available in certain parts of the band, as detailed above. To accommodate these restrictions, Wi-Fi requires more bandwidth to deliver high speeds and employs more spectrum-intensive techniques, such as mesh networking, to achieve the needed coverage. For example, mesh networking requires additional overhead to backhaul and coordinate the mesh traffic, reducing the overall data-carrying capacity of the available channels. One approach to avoid mesh networking is to use a higher-power channel. However, under the current FCC rules, Wi-Fi can access, at most, only one standard-power 320 MHz wide channel through an AFC system.

Between the power limits and other regulatory restrictions placed on LPI and VLP operations and the limited availability of standard power channels under an AFC, the 1,200 MHz available for unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band is unable to provide the needed coverage, throughput, capacity and latency performance that will be expected and required by consumers and enterprise users in the near future. Additional unlicensed spectrum will allow consumers and enterprise users to more fully benefit from Wi-Fi 7’s new features, enabling better user experiences.

It’s Up to Government

Taking all these drivers into account and considering the value that unlicensed spectrum will continue to deliver to global economies, the United States and other governments around the world should waste no time identifying meaningful additional unlicensed spectrum, particularly given that any additional unlicensed spectrum will likely have similar regulatory technical limits as 6 GHz unlicensed use.

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