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AI

Intelligence (It’s Artificial)

Clarke Stevens
Broadband Industry Professional

Feb 22, 2024

Key Points

  • In his CES 2024 report and an accompanying CableLabs webinar, broadband industry professional Clarke Stevens explores the role of AI in new innovations.
  • AI-powered technologies rely on strong network connectivity — opening up a world of opportunity for broadband operators.

If you attended CES in Las Vegas, you’re probably finally starting to emerge from your technology-overload coma and trying to make sense of it all. We’ve got you covered!

If you haven’t read it yet, check out my recap from the annual trade show: “Clarke’s CES 2024 Report: Are You Smarter Than Your Technology?” I hope it will get you thinking about some of the great technologies that were on display and even entertain you a bit.

In the event, however, that you’re prioritizing your real job over reading my (admittedly lengthy) report, we’ve still got you covered! CableLabs is sponsoring a webinar in which I’ll discuss the technologies and solutions I saw and give my analysis on how they’re relevant (or not) to the broadband industry and to consumers in general. If you’re a CableLabs member, register now for the webinar on March 6.

In the meantime, here’s a brief summary to whet your appetite.

AI Spreading Outward

The primary theme of the show was that intelligence is becoming artificial. You might believe you already know all about artificial intelligence (AI), but now the technology is becoming more pervasive, spreading to common electronics.

Consider, for example, the Flappie cat door, whose motion sensor and night-vision camera will keep an eye on your cat and prevent him from coming inside the house until he drops the mouse he’s captured. Other AI-powered tools enable you to also measure your vitals just by looking in a mirror or communicate with people in your own voice when you can’t speak like you used to.

Because products like these rely on strong network connectivity, broadband operators will be an innate part of their success with customers. The industry opportunity doesn’t end there. Somebody must install, provision and maintain these products. Operators have the technical staff, vehicle fleets and monthly billing relationship with customers that give us a distinct advantage in the pursuit of new business opportunities beyond simple connectivity.

AI also presents operators with the prospect of new, futuristic market opportunities. AI-assisted cameras in cities can identify vehicles, animals and people. They can spot vehicle congestion and reroute traffic, and even call police, ambulances or firefighters.

AI Focused Inward

Cable companies can also use AI to anticipate, repair and even proactively prevent problems in their own network infrastructure. The benefits include a more reliable network at a reduced cost, fascinating new revenue opportunities and an improved ability to meet high-demand needs and provide appropriate service levels. Our combination of proven networking technologies and private networks can be leveraged to provide continuous connectivity to support new business models or simply make existing businesses more efficient.

A sometimes-overlooked opportunity in our industry is to increase our customer base by engineering our solutions toward new kinds of customers. For example, AI-powered “glasses” for the blind can replicate some of the benefits of a guide dog (sadly, not love). Not only can they guide a person around obstacles, but they can also integrate GPS for navigation and even help identify items on a grocery shelf. Let’s see the dog do that!

Many companies today are focused on conducting their business with an eye toward sustainability. Electric vehicles of every kind are replacing fossil-fueled alternatives. Fancy “leather” goods are being manufactured from pineapple waste. Bioengineered house plants are being bred to work as efficient (and decorative) air filters.

And, as always, great people are a natural advantage for the cable industry. AI and the other emerging technologies featured at CES are allowing those people to be more efficient, productive and happy.

A Limitless Future

New technology is improving your health, your daily life and your bottom line. You owe it to yourself to learn more about the emerging AI technologies that will make a difference in your near future.

In the webinar on March 6, I’ll cover some of the crazy ideas that blossom on the way to innovation. This is the kind of conversation that will improve your water cooler game as you stand around your Nube “no-plumbing” water generator that condenses and purifies moisture from thin air!

REGISTER FOR THE WEBINAR

Security

CableLabs Co-Chairs New M3AAWG AI Committee

Kyle Haefner
Principal Security Architect

Andy Dolan
Senior Security Engineer

Feb 15, 2024

Key Points

  • M3AAWG has formed the AI Committee to proactively address challenges posed by the increased use of artificial intelligence in online abuse.
  • Addressing AI-powered abuse, the committee will study abusers' tactics and develops best practices to mitigate the impact of spam, phishing, fraud and online harassment.
  • Actively tracking and advocating for responsible AI development policies, efforts are directed towards enhancing AI system security and ensuring lifecycle protection against cyber threats.

The sudden rise of highly capable artificial intelligence (AI) has brought immense opportunities for beneficial innovation and advancement. However, alongside its benefits, AI also presents unique challenges concerning online abuse and threats to security and privacy. Recognizing the urgency of addressing these issues, the Messaging, Malware, and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG) has taken a proactive stance by forming a dedicated AI Committee. The M3AAWG AI Committee, co-chaired by CableLabs, underscores M3AAWG’s commitment to fostering a safer and more secure online environment for users worldwide.

Tackling Abuse Facilitated by AI Systems

One of the primary objectives of the M3AAWG AI Committee is to address the growing concern surrounding malicious actions facilitated by AI systems. To bolster spam and phishing attacks, fraud, and online harassment, nefarious actors are increasingly leveraging AI-powered tools to amplify and accelerate their harmful activities. By studying the tactics employed by abusers and evaluating countermeasures, the committee aims to develop best common practices to help mitigate the impact of AI-facilitated abuse on individuals and organizations alike.

Public Policy and AI Abuse

The landscape of AI policy is in varying stages of development, with governmental and intergovernmental bodies around the globe proposing and enacting their own models of regulation and oversight. These efforts include the recent Executive Order in the United States aiming for "Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence," and the European Union’s proposed AI Act establishing stricter regulations for high-risk applications. The M3AAWG AI Committee is establishing an initiative to track policy developments and advocate for public policy promoting responsible and secure AI development.

Best Common Practices for Securing the AI Lifecycle and AI Systems

As AI technologies become more pervasive across various sectors, they also become prime targets for cyberattacks and exploitation. Vulnerabilities in AI algorithms and frameworks can be exploited to manipulate outcomes, compromise data integrity, and undermine trust in AI-driven solutions. In addition to combating malicious use, the M3AAWG AI Committee is focused on enhancing the security of AI systems and the AI lifecycle from training to deployment of AI models through the development of best common practices.

Harnessing AI to Counter Abuse

Although AI has been weaponized for nefarious purposes, it also holds immense potential as a tool for combating abuse and safeguarding online ecosystems. The M3AAWG AI Committee recognizes this dichotomy and is exploring innovative ways to harness AI for good. From proactive content moderation and anomaly detection to sentiment analysis and behavioral profiling, AI technologies offer many possibilities for enhancing online safety and security. By developing AI-driven solutions for detecting and mitigating abuse in real-time, the committee aims to empower service providers, platforms, and other stakeholders in their efforts to combat online threats effectively.

Why M3AAWG: Collaboration and Engagement

M3AAWG recently celebrated 20 years of combatting online abuse and making the internet a safer place.  The last 20 years of combatting spam, malware, DDoS and many other forms of abuse has only been possible through collaboration and engagement with industry leaders, academic institutions, government agencies, and advocacy groups. The M3AAWG AI Committee will leverage and build upon these relationships within the unique trusted forum of M3AAWG to address the complex challenges posed by AI-driven abuse and innovate towards AI-enabled solutions. Through open dialogue, knowledge sharing, and collaborative initiatives, the M3AAWG AI Committee aims to foster a community-driven approach to combating online abuse and promoting responsible AI usage.

Looking Ahead: The Next 20 Years

As AI continues to evolve at a rapid pace, the importance of proactive measures to address its implications for online abuse and security cannot be overstated. With the establishment of the AI Committee at its 60th meeting in San Francisco this February 2024, M3AAWG has taken a significant step towards addressing these pressing issues head-on. By leveraging collective expertise and resources, the committee is poised to drive meaningful progress in safeguarding the digital landscape against emerging threats.

Stay tuned for updates and insights from M3AAWG as we continue our journey towards a safer digital future, and please consider joining M3AAWG and the AI Committee to do your part.

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Wireless

Open RAN Momentum: A Year of Technological Evolution  

Open RAN

Hans Geerdes
Principal Strategist

Mark Poletti
Director, Wireless Network Technologies

Feb 2, 2024

Key Points

  • Advancements in Open RAN over the past year are evidence that it continues to evolve toward adoption.
  • Open Testing and Integration Centers (OTICs) around the world — including one at Kyrio, a CableLabs subsidiary — enable cooperation among vendors.

The Open RAN ecosystem has continued to evolve over the past year, taking major steps forward and gaining more credence and industry acceptance. In case you’re not up to speed, here’s an at-a-glance view of some of these promising new developments.

Significant new investments are driving scale and innovation. 

  • In September, Vodafone and Samsung kicked off a massive deployment of 2,500 disaggregated and virtualized cell sites, providing 4G and 5G services across the United Kingdom.
  • In September, Ericsson announced it will introduce support for open fronthaul across its Cloud RAN and radio portfolios starting this year. In December, AT&T committed to large-scale Open RAN and selected Ericsson as its vendor. 
  • The NTIA awarded the first grants from the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund program for Open RAN technologies in 2023 and a recent round in early 2024 to academic institutions, DISH and Viavi.
  • In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it will invest in private Open RAN 5G to leverage innovation in that ecosystem.

Maturing RIC and automation gear up for differentiating performance and efficiency.  

  • Vodafone has been vocal about its Open RAN deployments, delivering performance as good as or better than that of the company’s traditional RAN sites.
  • DISH reported record-low cost due to highly efficient operations and automation.
  • Open RAN vendors such as Mavenir are marketing artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) solutions that make full use of the data exposed by open interfaces.
  • At the Open RAN North America conference in December, multiple operators discussed the intricacies and maturity of their evolving RIC implementations.
  • The U.S. government is propelling RIC advancements:  In March, the agency will host a RIC forum with live demonstrations of leading vendors’ RIC capabilities.

New OTICs and service offerings facilitate integration and adoption.

  • Integrating various vendors’ gear to work together is one of the key challenges for Open RAN adoption. Open Testing and Integration Centers (OTICs) like the one at CableLabs’ subsidiary, Kyrio, facilitate this kind of cooperation, hosting multiple PlugFests to advance Open RAN features and performance. Several new OTICs have been added in 2023, most recently at MITRE in the U.S. and a group of companies in South Korea.
  • Several operators and vendors, including Docomo and Ericsson, have announced new service offerings and pre-integrated configurations to ease Open RAN adoption.

Although there’s still a long way to go before Open RAN architectures become widely adopted, these advancements show that the technology is steadily evolving and here to stay.

If you’re planning to attend Mobile World Congress/MWC Barcelona this month, join us for the O-RAN ALLIANCE Summit. The summit is the first major gathering of this community in conjunction with an MWC event, further underscoring the industry’s continued interest in Open RAN.

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Wireless

The 6G Network Is On the Horizon

6G Network

Yunjung Yi
Director of Wireless Standardization, Wireless Technologies

Jan 25, 2024

Key Points

  • In its work to develop 6G, the industry has new opportunities to reconsider the service and design requirements of seamless connectivity and convergence.
  • Careful consideration of this next generation of mobile technologies will result in more efficient and simplified integration of the wireline and mobile industries.
  • The first specifications of 5G Advanced, which will bridge the evolution from 5G to 6G, are expected this year.

Every decade, a new generation of mobile technologies, known as “G,” is developed, along with its own set of capabilities. Recently, the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) unveiled its IMT-2030/6G vision, which outlines capabilities of the 6G network built on top of its earlier IMT-2020/5G vision. The initial standards for the IMT-2030/6G vision are expected to be available around 2029.

The initial release of 5G became available around 2018. Although the 5G buildout is still in progress, the industry has already started discussing 6G. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) decided that Release 21 would be the first release of its 6G specification work. The exact schedule for Release 21 is still under consideration, but 3GPP is looking to hold a 6G workshop in March 2025, targeting the first 6G study package for approval in June 2025. This year, 3GPP will begin deliberating 6G service requirements.

So, 6G is not on the distant horizon! It’s closer than you think.

The broadband industry has been actively working toward fixed-mobile convergence and multi-access seamless connectivity in 5G design. However, the intent of incorporating such design principles may have created unforeseen complexities and introduced optional features that may have impacted commercialization timelines. Now that we have another design opportunity with 6G, we can reconsider major service/design requirements of seamless connectivity and convergence so that 6G design considers those from the start and incorporates them as integral components to the 6G architecture.

The use cases and capabilities we can expect from 6G are shown in the graphics below.

6G Network Usage Scenarios6G Network Capabilities

The Path to 6G

Understanding the mobile technology trends that are leading to 6G provides an opportunity to successfully integrate broadband industry requirements into the 6G architecture and design. Today, 3GPP is actively working on developing 5G Advanced, with certain features expected to bridge the evolution from 5G to 6G. The first specifications of 5G Advanced (Release 18) are expected in early 2024.

Some of the new 5G Advanced features include support for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), tighter integration between terrestrial networks (TNs) and non-terrestrial networks (NTNs), and improvements related to energy efficiency.

An example roadmap of 5G–6G, shown below, groups the new features into three categories: System Enhancements, Diverse Consumer Device Support and Different Radio Access Technology/Vertical Integration. The features will figure heavily into groups of projects, improving core performance, extending coverage of device types and expanding vertical sectors that incorporate mobile technology.

6G Network Timeline

Here are a few examples of features in each category:

  • System Enhancements. In each release, one or more features have been proposed and worked on to improve 5G system performance in consideration of various key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, 5G Advanced proposes positioning enhancements, coverage enhancements, AI/ML-based optimization for air interface/Next Generation Radio Access Network (NG-RAN), Flexible Duplex to address the uplink latency issue of Time Division Duplexing (TDD), and Network Energy Savings (NES). In 6G, we’ll see support for new advanced capabilities in the areas of sustainability, coverage, pervasive AI, interoperability and positioning.
  • Diverse Consumer Device Support. One of the key differences between 5G and 4G is that 5G supports various consumer devices and diverse vertical markets. For example, Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) supports Industrial IoT devices such as robotics, machinery, automation, sensors and controllers. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology supports vehicle, pedestrian and device-to-device communication between smartphones, wearables and drones. Reduced Capability (RedCap) devices support 5G connectivity with limited capabilities (e.g., lower data rate, bandwidth support) compared with normal smartphones. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) supports a home gateway offering broadband services to home/customer premises. Multi-SIM capability supports the enhancement of devices with more than single-subscription information. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) technology supports high-altitude aircrafts/airplanes. Extended Reality (XR) supports XR glasses, augmented reality (AR) devices and virtual reality (VR) devices; in fact, XR enhances the 5G network and RAN to support lower latency and more importantly lower jitter for multimedia. Moreover, 5G promises to extend its support for ambient IoT devices to the point at which ambient IoT device types will further reduce complexity compared with 4G Advanced’s Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) support. In 5G and later, a device type considered in ambient IoT might have similar capability to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
  • Different Radio Access Technology/Vertical Integration. The 5G standard also supports integrated/converged networking to various radio access technologies (RATs) and/or vertical sectors. For example, 5G supports integration with Wi-Fi networks — e.g., in-device coexistence (IDC) — to better manage resources, New Radio Unlicensed (NR-U) and Wi-Fi coexistence with mobile access. The 5G standard also supports fixed-mobile convergence architecture — for example, Wireless-Wireline Convergence (WWC). Moreover, starting in Release 17, satellite-based New Radio (NR) technology has been a key aspect of 3GPP in the form of NTNs. Recently, 5G Advanced has begun to investigate Integrated Sensing and Communications (ISAC) so that the first ISAC specification may be available in the Release 20 timeframe. Access Traffic Steering, Switching & Splitting (ATSSS) provides user data support over multi-access computing. Finally, Railway Mobile Radio (RMR) supports railway communication.

Mobile communications based on 5G/6G have devoted significant energy toward providing certain quality of service (QoS) levels to customer devices. In Release 19, 3GPP plans to further identify various users/devices sharing a subscription — say, 5G user equipment (5G UE) or 5G residential gateway (5G-RG) — and provide differentiated QoS to each user/device.

The graphic below illustrates various customer devices/device categories that the 5G/5G Advanced system supports — spanning various quality metrics and KPIs. For example, XR devices for AR/VR require very low latency (e.g., 1 ms) while handling high data rate demand (e.g., 100 Mbps – 1 Gbps). At the same time, due to the form-factor limitations of some XR glasses/equipment, a number of receiver antennas for a device may be limited as a result of required coverage enhancements compared with normal 5G UEs. In another example, reduced-capability devices will further decrease the number of receiver antennas and supported bandwidth (and thus require more coverage enhancement) but will offer improved energy-saving features (e.g., longer sleep) while relaxing QoS requirements. In 5G, more devices with higher capabilities (e.g., higher power, higher number of transmission/reception antennas) will support various verticals such as NTN, railway, aerial, fixed wireless gateway and so on.

6G Network QoS Requirements and Capabilities

Support for a large variety of customer devices in a single system has both benefits and drawbacks. For example, 5G adopts the concept of network slicing to potentially alleviate some drawbacks in which each slice with partitioned resource/management supported different devices or verticals.

It is evident that mobile industry aims to expand its coverage to various industry sectors where the broadband industry currently holds sway. One consideration is to support broadband operation via FWA or NR-based NTN — at least, in some areas where fixed broadband may not be easily achievable. Another example is to support various sensors, video surveillance systems and home devices that have traditionally been supported by home Wi-Fi. The 5G/5G Advanced system not only supports various device types but also various spectrum/frequency options, such as unlicensed spectrum, lightly shared spectrum (e.g., CBRS band), licensed spectrum and satellite spectrum.

How 6G Matters to the Broadband Industry

Based on a recent technical report from ITU-R, 6G will reach for more integrated, highly automated and intelligent infrastructure that contains several operational domains in various types of network segments (e.g., wired/wireless access, core, edge and space segments). In the 6G network, an operator may potentially target a service provider offering an end-to-end system — that is, from application to customer, including transport.

Broadband industry operators might become connectivity operators, providing transport (or any segment of the 6G system), or service providers responsible for the entire end-to-end system. Either way, understanding 6G requirements and the trends of the mobile industry will be important to consider:

  • The QoS management framework can be enhanced to support traffic requirements between various end customer devices and diverging end applications. For example, Packet Delay Budget (PDB) or Packet Data Unit (PDU) Set Delay Budget (PSDB) — for packets with inherent dependency on one another — may be supported in fixed networks to accommodate end-to-end delay requirements. Another example could be to extend network slicing or virtual/physical resource partitioning to support certain vertical applications or diverse QoS requirements.
  • Identification and management of the end customer (e.g., user, application, device) can be enhanced to customize capabilities, necessary QoS requirements of the end customer and the corresponding cable network management/control plane. For example, subscription models of the cable network can be enhanced (e.g., via fixed-mobile convergence) to address the needs of certain end customers/devices/applications.
  • The cable access network can be offered as a Transport as a Service (TaaS) option that can be integrated with various management/core networks. For example, the Service-Based Architecture (SBA) between 6G core network and various access networks — including cable access and mobile radio access — may be designed such that the 6G core can connect to cable access without requiring complicated gateway functionalities such as the Wireline Access Gateway Function (W-AGF). Further disaggregation of cable network functions could allow for flexible network topologies.
  • To support sustainability, 6G design must transcend individual RAT energy-saving measures and adopt a holistic approach that includes cross-RAT/multi-access energy-saving features while providing a seamless user experience.

As noted, 6G is coming sooner rather than later.

Now is the perfect time to review lessons learned from the 4G and 5G experiences on multi-access integration (e.g., Wi-Fi interworking, WWC) and carefully consider 6G design choices and requirements from the beginning. Doing so will result in more efficient and simplified integration of the wireline and mobile industries, and will enable coverage of various industry sectors through integrated/automated converged mobile/wireline access networks.

If you would like to be a part of the discussion around 6G specification activity, contact me using the button below.

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Security

A Framework for Improving Internet Routing Security

Internet Routing Security Profile

Priya Shrinivasan
Director, Technology Policy

Tao Wan
Distinguished Technologist, Security

Jan 23, 2024

Key Points

  • The Routing Security Profile approaches routing security from a holistic, risk management perspective.
  • It is applicable for use by any autonomous system operator — large or small — to enhance routing security. 
  • The profile and the underlying technical controls must continue to evolve to stay ahead of a constantly changing threat landscape.
  • Our next step is to engage with the broader internet community to drive awareness and further improve and advance this work.

Reliable and secure routing is essential for the connectivity of critical communications networks, ensuring that data packets reach their intended destinations without being intercepted, altered or dropped. Inadequate routing security can make the entire network susceptible to attacks such as Internet Protocol (IP) spoofing, route hijacking and man-in-the-middle attacks.

With the increasing complexity and ubiquity of IP network infrastructures across the globe, the security of core routing protocols — including the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and the Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI) — is an integral facet of the cybersecurity landscape. Malicious actors and threat vectors that target the network routing layer can lead to severe disruptions, such as data leakage, network outages and unauthorized access to sensitive information.

To address the issue, CableLabs has just released a “Cybersecurity Framework Profile for Internet Routing” (Routing Security Profile, or RSP) that serves as a foundation for improving the security of the internet’s routing system. The RSP is an actionable and adaptable guide, aligned with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), that enables Internet Service Providers (ISPs), enterprise networks, cloud service providers and organizations — large and small — to proactively identify risks and mitigate threats to enhance routing infrastructure security.

The RSP was developed as an extension of CableLabs’ and the cable industry’s longstanding leadership and commitment to building and maintaining a more secure internet ecosystem. It also was developed in response to NIST’s call to action to submit examples of “profiles” mapped to the CSF that are aimed at addressing cybersecurity risks associated with a particular business activity or operation.

What Is the Routing Security Profile, and Who Can Use It?

Network engineers, IT managers, cybersecurity professionals and decision-makers involved in network security risk management are prime candidates for using the RSP — with its exclusive focus on routing protocols and services — as one tool in an overall network strategy to enhance existing security policies and risk management procedures within their organizations.

The RSP describes various technologies and techniques used for internet routing security, including BGP, Internet Routing Registries (IRRs), Autonomous System (AS) path filtering and RPKI. In addition, it outlines several key recommendations for improving BGP security that include Route Origin Authorizations (ROAs), Route Origin Validation (ROV), BGP peer authentication, prefix filtering and monitoring for anomalies.

What Can the Routing Security Profile Do?

By mapping routing security best practices and standards to the applicable key categories and subcategories of the NIST CSF 1.1’s Core Functions — Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover — the RSP can help organizations with the following tasks:

  • Identifying systems, assets, data and risks that pertain to IP networks.
  • Protecting IP networks by performing self-assessments and adhering to cybersecurity principles.
  • Detecting cybersecurity-related disturbances or corruption of IP network services and data.
  • Responding to IP network service or data anomalies in a timely, effective and resilient manner.
  • Recovering the IP network to proper working order after a cybersecurity incident.

The RSP is a framework for improving security and managing risks for internet routing, which is one key piece of a larger critical infrastructure cybersecurity puzzle. As with any endeavor in security, the RSP will evolve over time to reflect changes to the NIST CSF, including the CSF 2.0 update coming in early 2024, advances in routing security technologies and the rapidly emerging security threat landscape.

The RSP was developed by CableLabs’ Cable Routing Engineering for Security and Trust Working Group (CREST WG). The CREST WG is composed of routing security technologists from CableLabs, NCTA — The Internet & Television Association, as well as network operators from around the world, including representatives from Armstrong, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Eastlink, Liberty Global, Midco, Rogers/Shaw and Videotron. For more information on the CREST WG, please contact us.

We welcome feedback on the RSP from other internet ecosystem stakeholders as we continue to advance this work. Please send comments to Tao Wan. We will also engage with the broader internet community through forums such as M 3AAWG to drive awareness and to further improve the profile for the benefit of all AS operators, including ISPs, cloud service providers, government agencies, universities and other organizations.

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10G

Unleashing the Power of the 10G Lab: Fueling Innovation and Collaboration

10G Lab

Carmela Stuart
Director of Future Infrastructure Group

Jan 18, 2024

Key Points

  • The 10G Lab supports specialized equipment for running computationally intensive workloads.
  • It provides a converged environment hosting DOCSIS, PON and 5G networks.
  • A multi-purpose environment, the lab supports innovation, interoperability and testing of different use cases.
  • It serves as a place for collaboration among CableLabs, members and vendor partners.

CableLabs’ 10G Lab, located at our headquarters in Louisville, Colorado, drives innovation and fosters collaboration among industry partners. We welcome partners to leverage this valuable asset and co-innovate with us. In this blog post, I’ll explore the capabilities and benefits of the 10G Lab, with a special focus on its role in promoting collaboration with our vendor partners.

10G Lab Capabilities

The 10G Lab is an ideal playground for a multitude of use cases. It supports an array of hardware infrastructure, including powerful compute nodes, high-capacity storage and ample bandwidth capacity. Specialized hardware such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and graphics processing units (GPUs) provide the computational power necessary for signal processing, 3D rendering and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) workloads.

The lab uses Kubernetes through the Red Hat OpenShift unified platform to build, deploy and manage applications at scale. In addition to these general compute infrastructure provisions, the 10G Lab hosts a converged environment containing DOCSIS®, PON and 5G networks, along with traffic-generation and network-simulation software to reproduce a wide variety of network topologies and conditions — a unique value proposition! Together with CableLabs’ subject matter expertise, the 10G Lab is a world-class facility with a powerful set of capabilities in a single location.

Leveraging this underlying infrastructure and networking capability, CableLabs continues to develop intent-based APIs that enable network-aware application deployment and enhanced performance as part of our Network as a Platform (NaaP) project. These APIs provide a level of insight and control of network features that ease the development of applications requiring intent-based networking. Many of the NaaP APIs are being standardized through the CAMARA project, an open-source project within the Linux Foundation to define, develop and test the APIs. Stay tuned for more details about current and future standardized API work with the NaaP project at CableLabs.

The 10G Lab also recently served as the host lab for the 5G Challenge, sponsored by the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) — the research and engineering arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The goal of the 5G Challenge is to accelerate the development and widespread deployment of open and interoperable 5G networks with true plug-and-play operation.

10G Lab Benefits

At CableLabs, we firmly believe in the power of collaboration. We work with our vendor partners to develop proof of concept (POC) applications, facilitate the interoperability of network components, and enable the testing of next-generation network and service capabilities. CableLabs shares the output of the work conducted in the 10G Lab with our member operators and showcases the developments at leading telecommunications conferences and in CableLabs publications such as white papers and blogs.

Our goal is to bring cutting-edge innovations to the forefront, using the 10G Lab environment as a catalyst to bring those innovations to fruition.

Vendor Partner Success Stories

Flash Networks

Flash Networks is a company that improves subscriber quality of experience, drives radio spectral efficiency and monetizes mobile internet traffic with its vHarmony Mobile Internet Services Gateway. Initially lacking access to a DOCSIS network to test its solution, the company found a lifeline in the 10G Lab. Partnering with Flash Networks, CableLabs provided the necessary infrastructure and networking in the 10G Lab to enable the company to gather informative metrics on running its product within the DOCSIS network under various network conditions. The results that Flash Networks obtained were invaluable in presenting its offerings to potential customers in the broadband industry.

“This was Flash Networks’ first experience with CableLabs and a very positive one. The CableLabs 10G Lab environment is very flexible and allowed us to test our value in multiple real-life use cases. The CableLabs team was very professional and collaborated with us efficiently while using their vast experience to achieve great results. We truly hope that this collaboration with CableLabs is a great first step for Flash Networks as it enters the cable industry. The Flash Networks team is looking forward to further cooperation with CableLabs.” — Ofer Gottfried, CTO at Flash Networks

Casa Systems

Casa Systems designs and builds networking systems for the broadband and wireless industries. CableLabs partnered with Casa Systems to enable both the DOCSIS access network and a 5G network in the 10G Lab. The company’s virtual Converged Cable Access Platform (vCCAP), Remote PHY devices (RPDs) and 5G Core are foundational components that make up a substantial part of the backbone of the 10G Lab. With this networking capability in place, CableLabs has been able to demonstrate use cases involving converged networks and intent-based networking APIs at conferences and directly with network operators that are members of CableLabs.

“Casa Systems proudly stands at the forefront of innovation alongside CableLabs, shaping the future of networking technology. Together, we've unlocked the potential for converged networks and intent-based networking APIs, showcasing use cases that redefine connectivity at its core. We look forward to continuing our partnership to unveil a new era of possibilities for network operators.” — Colin Kincaid, CPO at Casa Systems 

NVIDIA

CableLabs collaborated with NVIDIA to develop a proof of concept around GPU split rendering at the edge, utilizing the NVIDIA CloudXR platform and NVIDIA GPUs, including the NVIDIA L40 and A40 GPUs, in the 10G Lab. This unique opportunity allowed CableLabs to research what the networking requirements would be to enable virtual reality (VR) gaming using edge resources in lieu of local gaming equipment.

“Advanced computing and networking are needed to tackle today’s biggest VR innovation and collaboration challenges. Working with CableLabs enables us to build meaningful extended reality experiences and expertly demonstrate it to the CableLabs members, who are leading providers of broadband.” — Greg Jones, Director of Global Business Development for Extended Reality at NVIDIA

The 10G Lab is open to collaboration with CableLabs members and the NDA vendor community. We encourage members and vendors to partner with us to showcase innovations in the 10G Lab. You can also join the CableLabs community as an NDA vendor.

Driving Industry Progress Together

In a rapidly evolving technology landscape, our 10G Lab stands out as a beacon of innovation and collaboration. Its comprehensive hardware resources, diverse network environments and integration capabilities make it a playground for experimentation and development.

Vendor partner success stories serve as testaments to the 10G Lab's versatility. With CableLabs and its vendor partners working in harmony, the 10G Lab becomes a place where breakthroughs are shared with the industry through blogs and white papers, at conferences, and directly with leaders that operate wired and wireless networks around the world.

We look forward to a future in which the 10G Lab continues to drive industry progress and foster a spirit of shared knowledge and success.

EXPLORE OUR 10G LAB

Fiber

CableLabs’ Optical Center of Excellence Expands to Support PON

Passive Optical Network (PON)

Dr. Curtis Knittle
Vice President, Wired Technologies Research and Development

Jan 10, 2024

Key Points

  • The optical lab’s capabilities range from innovation to prototyping and testing.
  • Operators can use the lab to explore the benefits of 10G PON, 25G PON and 50G PON.
  • It also offers them a space to learn how to integrate PON technologies into their networks.

Optical communication — transmitting light waves through fiber optic cables — continues to be the foundation for providing high-speed broadband services to consumers. Whether the network solution is 100 percent fiber to the home or fiber is just an overwhelming majority, you’ll find fiber optics at the root of the solution. To acknowledge the foundational prominence of fiber optics in our industry, CableLabs is expanding the capabilities of our Optical Center of Excellence (OCE) to include state-of-the-art passive optical networking (PON) equipment.

How Our Optical Lab Helps Move the Industry Forward

Technology labs are an important part of any company whose role is to innovate and develop new solutions. The value of a technology lab can be significant and multifaceted, impacting various aspects of innovation, research, development and practical application. Particularly at CableLabs, the OCE provides important capabilities for the broadband industry.

Innovation. The OCE serves as the hub of optical innovation at CableLabs, allowing for experimentation, analysis and simply exploring new opportunities. Over the past several years the OCE has been used to explore and demonstrate the use of coherent optics in network access, wavelength switching, quantum key distribution and the use of fiber to sense environmental events, to name a few applications.

Development. Equipment in the OCE allows optical researchers to dive into the details of an innovation that shows promise as a potential solution in the network. Looking for ways to cost-reduce a solution is an important step in developing an idea into a product that can be deployed in a real network.

Validation. At CableLabs, we commit a lot of time to developing specifications for future technologies and solutions. Part of specification development involves validating certain assumptions, such as receiver sensitivities, link budget, modulation schemes, distances and many other aspects of an optical solution. The OCE contains the equipment to perform these validations.

Prototyping and testing. An important part of any R&D organization is to prototype solutions and test operation. In the case of PON, the OCE not only provides a testbed for a prototype of coherent PON, but it also provides an environment for testing interoperability of network devices built to legacy PON technologies.

Future-Proofing Passive Optical Networking Technologies

As broadband operators plan the evolution of their network beyond 10G, the OCE at CableLabs will provide a workspace in which the capabilities of next-generation FTTP technologies and standards can be tested. The OCE at CableLabs will enable operators to understand how 10G PON, 25G PON and 50G PON will enhance the user experience in their network.

The OCE will also be an environment in which to learn how these technologies can be integrated into operators’ networks. As next-generation PON takes shape, CableLabs will be prepared to usher in future PON technologies as solutions for service providers.

EXPLORE OUR OPTICAL LAB

Events

Connect, Learn and Explore the Future of Broadband Technology at Winter Conference

CableLabs Winter Conference

CableLabs
CableLabs

Jan 4, 2024

Are you ready to dive into the latest advancements in the broadband industry? Join us at CableLabs Winter Conference, a gathering for leaders, change-makers and other experts from the industry to explore and help shape the future of broadband technology. 

Back by popular demand, this exclusive event — happening in Orlando, Florida, from March 25–28, 2024 — provides a unique opportunity for CableLabs members and exhibiting vendors to strengthen connections and engage in insightful discussions. We’re excited to announce that for the first time, the conference will also include a members-only strategy session, which will close out the event on Thursday, March 28. 

Registration is open for members, and vendors can apply to exhibit. Here’s what attendees can look forward to.

Today’s Advancements and Tomorrow’s Opportunities 

Featured speakers include Craig Moffett, industry analyst and Senior Managing Director of MoffettNathanson. Moffett will kick off the conference with his perspectives on the current state of the industry, emerging trends and opportunities that lie ahead. His expertise and insights will set the stage for an engaging and enlightening conference experience.

After his remarks, Winter Conference will continue with three days of intensive, expert-led sessions delving into a wide range of topics, including: 

Strategy (all-new Strategy Session for members only): We will discuss how network demand is evolving and its impact on technology strategy and capacity planning. We will also discuss how different products might impact consumer choices and the unique differentiation potential offered by fixed-mobile convergence. 

AI and autonomous networks: Panelists will provide a snapshot of ongoing AI endeavors, the impact of those initiatives, and how the industry can create a more interconnected and intelligent network ecosystem using the technology. 

FTTH and PON: Experts will discuss fiber to the home (FTTH) and passive optical networks (PON), focusing on challenges to FTTH deployment, accelerating network deployment, and the modernization and virtualization of PON. They will cover emerging technologies such as 25G, 50G and 100G PON.  

Seamless connectivity: Panelists will spotlight some leading efforts, including early use cases and growth drivers that are sparking transformation to reshape the interconnected future.

Plus much more!

Winter Conference is also an opportunity for our member companies to explore the latest product innovations. Exhibiting vendors will gain valuable opportunities to network with decision-makers in the industry while showcasing their products. The exhibition floor — open through March 27 — will feature technology demos and product showcases, allowing our operator members and exhibiting vendors to make valuable connections that will help them stay ahead of the curve and drive their businesses forward.

Smaller Market Conference

On the first day of Winter Conference, Monday, March 25, we invite small and mid-tier operators to join Smaller Market Conference to discuss the issues that are most important to them and their teams. This event is available for CableLabs members and NCTA guests. 

Attendees will have opportunities to connect with and hear from executives and leaders from across the spectrum of responsibilities, including business strategy, technology, engineering, marketing, operations and customer experience. Registration for this event is separate from Winter Conference, so if you are a member planning to attend, please be sure to register for both. 

Save the Date

One of CableLabs’ most requested events, Winter Conference is a unique opportunity to connect and exchange ideas with industry peers and leaders. Visit our website to register and secure your spot at this must-attend event. Together, let’s unlock the full potential of broadband technology and drive innovation in the industry.

See you at CableLabs Winter Conference!

ATTEND WINTER CONFERENCE

10G

  Celebrating 5 Years of 10G: Revolutionizing Connectivity and Igniting the Future  

10G Milestones

CableLabs
CableLabs

Jan 3, 2024

The broadband industry stands on the threshold of transforming the online experience through widespread deployment of the 10G network. With technologies capable of delivering faster speeds, lower latencies, enhanced reliability and better security in a scalable manner, 10G is already available for many home and business applications — and soon, the network will be widely available for many more.

“CableLabs, along with our members and the vendor community, made remarkable progress on the path to 10G. The near future is here,” said Phil McKinney, CableLabs President and CEO. “When we announced the promise of 10G in 2019, we set ambitious goals on our 10G roadmap — and we are pleased that our efforts have delivered transformative, next-generation technology that will support future generations for years to come.”

What Milestones Were Reached?

Over the past year, the broadband industry has seen significant progress toward faster download speeds, reduced buffering, lower latency and better security. Ultimately, these efforts will deliver more reliable user experiences to support immersive media, videoconferencing, gaming, artificial intelligence and other applications. Built upon existing hybrid fiber coax (HFC) infrastructure, such experiences will soon be widely available thanks to progress in key areas.

DOCSIS 4.0 Specifications and Events 

DOCSIS® 4.0 technology makes it possible to support high reliability and security while delivering symmetrical multigigabit speeds and low latency. In 2023, CableLabs published the certification for DOCSIS 4.0 cable modems and certified the first cable modem with Low Latency DOCSIS (LLD) support. In addition, we hosted interoperability events focusing on speed, security and reliability. These events brought together suppliers and operators to share knowledge and technology advancements.

FTTP Adoption 

Accelerating the adoption of fiber to the premises (FTTP) is a critical step toward harnessing the potential of the passive optical network (PON). To move the needle in this area, CableLabs spearheaded two working groups in 2023 to facilitate fiber network collaboration. One group continues to focus on optical operations and maintenance, while the other is working toward developing a DOCSIS framework specification for provisioning International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-based PON technology.

Low Latency DOCSIS 

Comcast kicked off the first Low Latency DOCSIS field trials. CableLabs also certified the first cable modem with LLD support.

CPON Architecture

Alongside DOCSIS 4.0 advancements and FTTP adoption, coherent PON (CPON) developments help prepare networks for the increased demands of the future. Using the newly released CPON specification, CableLabs worked to define the high-level architecture, setting the stage for supporting increased capacity per wavelength, extended reach and higher port density.

Member 10G Network Deployments

CableLabs members also made strides toward 10G adoption in 2023, and broadband providers around the world announced their roadmaps to deployment. Many of these companies have already begun physical deployment or are working toward it, including:

Charter — As it continues its network expansion across the nation, Charter named several vendor partners to support its roadmap toward network-wide symmetrical multi-gigabit service.

Comcast — Comcast began the nation’s largest and fastest multi-gig rollouts with its Xfinity 10G network, upgrading service to 10 million homes and businesses. The company also introduced next-generation internet powered by DOCSIS 4.0 technology to the world’s first residential customers.

Cox — With recent lab tests of DOCSIS 4.0 technology, Cox has continued to reaffirm its commitment to the 10G initiative, planning a multi-billion-dollar annual infrastructure investment to build a 10G network.

Mediacom Mediacom, a CableLabs member working to build fiber-optic infrastructure in smaller towns and cities in America, began transitioning Iowa’s leading gigabit network to 10G in 2023.

VodafoneZiggo — Liberty Global’s Dutch subsidiary became the first company in the world to conduct a DOCSIS 4.0 test on a live network.

GCI and Midco — These two companies are among CableLabs’ members on target to achieve 10G speeds by 2025.

What’s Ahead in 2024?

With the start of a new year, we’re gazing out over the horizon to a future where interoperability, low latency and reliable connections are the norm in every home and office building.

CableLabs will continue to lead the charge toward 10G realization by advancing technology innovation, fostering interoperability and supporting member deployments. As the leading innovation and R&D lab for the broadband industry, we remain committed to empowering next-generation broadband connectivity with technologies that meet or exceed the evolving needs of the industry.

LEARN MORE ABOUT 10G

Fiber

10G-EPON vs. XGS-PON: Are They Really All That Different?

Kevin Noll
Principal Architect, FTTP Technologies

Dec 5, 2023

The U.S. government is investing billions of dollars in broadband infrastructure. That funding will predominately be used to deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks using passive optical network (PON) technology. Most U.S. broadband providers are focused on deploying a 10G variant of PON technology, and two types are widely available in the market today: 10G-EPON and XGS-PON. The similarities between these two solutions far outnumber the differences. Most importantly, both technologies support the same peak capacities in the upstream and downstream, and both are equally capable of supporting symmetrical, multi-gigabit services to the household or business.

A Little PON Technology History

The history of PON reaches back to British Telecom research in the 1980s. The first PON standard, APON, was published in 1998 by the ITU-T. The specification for Gigabit PON (GPON) was published in 2003 and defines a PON that operates 2.5 Gbps downstream and 1.25 Gbps upstream. Following closely, the IEEE published its first PON standard, 1G-EPON, in 2004. This standard operates at 1 Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream and was the most widely deployed PON standard until the mid-2010s.

In 2010, the IEEE became the first to publish a 10G PON standard, officially named 10G-EPON, that operates at 10 Gbps downstream and 10 Gbps upstream. Network operators began deploying 10G-EPON as early as 2012, and it is still being widely deployed today. In 2016, six years after the 10G-EPON standard was published, the ITU-T published XGS-PON, which is also capable of symmetrical 10 Gbps operation. Operators that aligned with ITU-T began deploying XGS-PON in approximately 2018.

Digging Into the Details

PON, including 10G-EPON and XGS-PON, is a system for transmitting data over a shared fiber-optic point-to-multipoint network. At the root of this network is the Optical Line Terminal (OLT). From the OLT, a single fiber extends to a splitter, which joins this single fiber to multiple fibers that extend toward the end-user. Splitters can be cascaded to create an optical network that ultimately connects to a network terminal at the customer premises. This terminal is the Optical Network Unit (ONU). This device might also be referred to as an Optical Network Terminal (ONT), which is functionally the same as an ONU.

In both 10G-EPON and XGS-PON, a scheme called Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) is used to share the fiber’s upstream resource. In this scheme, each user (the ONU at the user’s premises) is granted a share of time during which they are allowed to transmit data. At all other times, the user is “silent” while other users transmit data.

The downstream resource has only one transmitter: the OLT. By nature of the optical splitting topology, all users receive all data that is transmitted downstream. Each ONU is expected to ignore data that is not addressed to it, but both 10G-EPON and XGS-PON take the extra step of encrypting traffic to prevent nefarious actors from accessing other users’ data.

Frame Transmission by Traffic Direction

Frame Transmission by Traffic Direction

PON Similarities

Both 10G-EPON and XGS-PON use error correction schemes to achieve a wide split ratio and 10 Gbps transmission over long distances (approximately 20km). Error correction works by sending additional data, called parity, on top of the user’s data as it is being transmitted. This extra data is one form of overhead that consumes a portion of the total available capacity of the PON. Overhead results in a reduction of the usable capacity for both 10G-EPON and XGS-PON. In the end, the usable capacity for 10G-EPON and XGS-PON is approximately 8.8 Gbps.

Both standards require a minimum split ratio that supports 64 users (1:64). Split ratio can be difficult to understand because it’s a value that is determined by the operator’s network design criteria and the specific optical transceivers chosen by the operator. Some will point out that XGS-PON requires a minimum 1:256 split ratio, but this is only a recommendation and is not a requirement. Neither 10G-EPON nor XGS-PON places a maximum on the split ratio, and both standards define multiple options for the optical transceiver performance. XGS-PON and 10G-EPON are both very flexible and the operator is free to design the network to fit its specific needs including split ratios that exceed 1:64.

The native frame format used by 10G-EPON is Ethernet, which is used to carry the Internet Protocol in the vast majority of networks. It seems obvious that 10G-EPON would be capable of carrying user data in Ethernet frames, and indeed it is. Although XGS-PON’s native framing is not Ethernet, XGS-PON is equally capable of carrying users’ data in Ethernet frames and does so with a trivial amount of additional overhead compared with 10G-EPON.

Considering all these similarities, we might ask, “What’s the difference between 10G-EPON and XGS-PON?” For an engineer, it is easy to dig in and find that there are many differences between these two PON standards. However, in the end, an operator chooses one over the other based on two major factors: the network’s legacy and support for the standard in the backend systems.

PON isn’t a new technology; it has been deployed around the globe for over 20 years. The technology has a legacy of poor interoperability over that time, starting with ITU-T PON. Poor interoperability means that an ONU from one vendor will not function correctly when connected to an OLT from another vendor, so both must be sourced from the same vendor. Similarly, systems based on ITU-T PON typically have vendor-specific interfaces to the operator’s network management and provisioning systems. Industry bodies like the Broadband Forum are taking steps to improve interoperability, but this history of poor interoperability is difficult to shake off. If an operator has an existing PON network based on ITU-T standards, then that operator is most likely to adopt XGS-PON.

The DOCSIS® Provisioning of EPON (DPoE) solution from CableLabs is a series of specifications that define interoperability between OLT and ONU and interoperability with cable operators’ network management and provisioning systems. Further, CableLabs created a DPoE certification program that makes sure ONUs and OLTs conform to the specifications and are interoperable among vendors. These factors are the reason some cable operators still prefer 10G-EPON over XGS-PON.

Factor  XGS-PON  10G-EPON 
History  Ratified in 2016  Ratified in 2010 
Maximum Distance  20km  20km 
Split Ratio  At least 1:64  At least 1:64 
Usable Data Rate  Approx. 8.8 Gbps  Approx. 8.8 Gbps 
OLT/ONU Interoperability  Low but improving  High 
Transports Ethernet and IP  Yes  Yes 

Comparison of XGS-PON vs. 10G-EPON

Future-Proof PON Technology

The similarities between 10G-EPON and XGS-PON far outnumber the differences. Both technologies support the same usable capacity in the upstream and downstream and therefore are equally capable of supporting symmetrical, multi-gigabit services to the household or business. Market data demonstrates that the cost of 10G-EPON and XGS-PON devices is comparable. This is the case because 10G-EPON and XGS-PON ONUs are built using the same underlying hardware components, including identical silicon, and the software determines the mode of operation.

Today, the majority of PON deployments are of the 10 Gbps variety — either 10G-EPON or XGS-PON. Marketeers are trying to cast one or the other of these as better, but in reality, these two technologies are equal in their ability to meet and exceed broadband service requirements today and well into the future.

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