CableLabs Targets Silicon Valley Lab Facility for Mid-2013

CableLabs expects to open a new testing and certification facility by mid-2013 in Silicon Valley, as an extension of its Louisville, Colo., operations and serving as a larger hub to connect cable with the high-tech community.

The new lab will consolidate CableLabs’ existing San Francisco office, opened in late 2011.

“We want to reintroduce CableLabs to Silicon Valley,” CableLabs president and CEO Phil McKinney (pictured, above) said in a phone interview Friday.

CableLabs has not selected a site for the facility, which it is aiming to open by early summer 2013. McKinney said it will be located somewhere in the area between U.S. Route 101, California State Route 85 and route 87.

McKinney, former CTO of Hewlett-Packard’s personal systems group, took the helm at CableLabs on June 1. He replaced Paul Liao, the former Panasonic CTO who led the lab since June 2009, under whose leadership CableLabs opened the San Francisco office.

This week, CableLabs hosted its annual “CEO retreat” at the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto, Calif., which brought together cable CEOs and CTOs to meet with “thought leaders and companies” in Silicon Valley, McKinney said.

MSO executives who attended included: Comcast Cable president and CEO Neil Smit; Cox Communications president Pat Esser; Bright House Networks CEO Steve Miron; Suddenlink Communications chairman and CEO Jerry Kent; and BendBroadband president and CEO Amy Tykeson.

Two execs from Time Warner Cable -- chief operating officer Rob Marcus and CTO Mike LaJoie -- were unable to attend the event after Hurricane Sandy caused damage to their homes, McKinney said. Cablevision Systems executives also were waylaid by the storm, and Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge, who lives in Connecticut, “couldn’t even get out of his neighborhood,” McKinney added.

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs was among the tech companies who met with the cable executives, according to McKinney, but he declined to identify any others. Asked whether any of his former HP colleagues attended, McKinney responded, “No… We didn’t really engage the CE [consumer electronics] side. This was a lot on content, social networking.”

With the Silicon Valley outreach, McKinney’s objective is to make cable “a platform for innovation for developing new services,” he said.

More broadly, CableLabs has shifted from near-term projects to focusing on technologies that will be appearing in the four- to eight-year horizon, McKinney said. “The charter the board has given me is to position CableLabs as being that center for innovation and thought leadership,” he said.

When McKinney started at CableLabs, “there was a large number of projects under way. We’ve gone through to prioritize to make sure these are the right projects.”

Those include “Better Pipes,” which encompasses the ongoing DOCSIS 3.1 project to deliver not just faster speeds but lower cost per bit and improve reliability; “Smart Space,” for connecting various devices to broadband networks inside the home; and “Rich User Experiences,” examining the role of second screens with respect to cable services.