Specifications Aren’t Pretty…But They Are Necessary

Specifications Aren’t Pretty…But They Are Necessary

Christie Poland
Manager of Specifications and Technical Editing

Jul 20, 2020

Over 22 years ago, my first project at CableLabs was to prepare the DOCSIS® 1.0 Radio Frequency Interface (RFI) specification as a contribution to the International Telecommunication Institute-Telecom Sector (ITU-T). After working in various industries, I found the telecommunications industry to be an exciting new world. During my first week, I started a list of acronyms at the back of my notebook, and it was only the first sip of the alphabet soup I was about to devour.

A far cry from the two-page technical bulletins I previously prepared, CableLabs’ specifications were quite different. They were under strict document management control, with engineering changes (ECs) processed against issued versions in order to revise the specs. Learning the entire process took time, even with the help of great coworkers.

I also learned that CableLabs’ specifications are innovation-focused and designed to get products to market quickly. Interoperable devices that adhere to common specifications enable consumer choice, widespread deployment of new technologies, and lower per-unit cost due to industry-scale economics.

CableLabs’ specifications are driven by the collaborative working relationships between members, vendors and CableLabs’ staff within project-specific  working groups. They address most aspects of cable access networks, including cable modems, set-top boxes, cable modem termination systems (CMTSs), remote-PHY and remote-MACPHY devices, optical devices, telephony and aspects of mobile base stations—all of which operators use to provide their customers with a wide range of products and service offerings.

Some advantages of current products built to our specifications include but are not limited to:

  • Operator choice, in addition to price competition within a given marketplace
  • Increased speed and security, as well as backward compatibility
  • Advancements in network devices (e.g., wired, wireless, security) and their related functionality
  • Simplicity in debugging problems in the lab/field as specifications define the expected behavior

As part of a publication support team working with strong engineering support, we recently published the DOCSIS 4.0 suite of specifications allowing cable operators to ultimately achieve 10 Gbps speeds downstream and 6 Gbps upstream. We’ve come a long way in over three decades! It’s been a privilege to see how many advancements have been produced in that timespan by CableLabs, together with its members and vendors, and just how much our efforts have changed the telecommunications world.

Do my four grandkids know and understand how CableLabs’ specifications development has helped them recently with online learning, or enabled my youngest granddaughter’s participation in her virtual kindergarten graduation—all by creating and supporting the best broadband services available? No, but that’s OK because we’re here working to continuously develop an innovative foundation for an ever-improving future for them.

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