TM Forum, CableLabs push industries' sharing

Martin Creaner/TM Forum
For the past 30 years or so, many homes across the U.S. have had both a telephone provider and a cable provider.

In the early days of cable in the late ‘70s and into the 1980s, I’m sure most people would have assumed they’d be paying two bills for the foreseeable future.

But the breakup of AT&T in 1984 started us down the road to revolutionary changes in the way that phone companies and cable companies were perceived and did business. Still, it wasn’t really until the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed cable, wireless and long-distance providers to enter the local phone market, that things really started to heat up.

The past 10 or so years have seen traditional telecom service providers delivering TV service to the home, cable providers offering voice over IP (VoIP) and broadband, and providers delivering all sorts of other combinations and packages. This cross-pollination of services has led many to think that the two industries are largely interchangeable, because triple-play offers from, say AT&T and Comcast, look pretty much the same in the home.

But on the back end, it’s a whole other story. Cable may look like telecom, but it’s not. Cable definitely has different issues and ways of going about things. And one of the challenges at TM Forum was figuring out a good way to bridge that divide.

Unlike telcos, cable companies were always set up to avoid full market penetration. Telcos were built to provide service for everyone who wanted it, but cable was designed to have access to roughly 40% to 60% of any market where an operator had a franchise. Under this franchise model-- which we see worldwide -- local communities, cities and counties allow cable companies to have exclusive rights to the market in return for a percentage of the revenues. So from square one, the cable and telecom worlds came from very different places.

Leveraging cable/telecom industry best practices and standards

But now, due to the fact that many consumers around the world can get their voice and television service from either their local cable operator or local telephone provider, we’re seeing these previously divergent worlds come together in ways we never imagined.

This major shift in communications is playing out right within TM Forum. We announced in November that we are partnering with CableLabs, the R&D consortium for the cable industry, to leverage TM Forum best practices and standards for the cable industry. This is a huge development for industries that previously didn’t have much to do with each other.

TM Forum has been interested in the cable space for several years, but interest grew when Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR) became part of TM Forum in 2007. Our vision at the time was to get where we are today, but it seemed like a long and winding road. Now that we have CableLabs as a partner, the next step is exploring how to best serve the burgeoning cable industry.



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