IPCablecom Looks to Define End-to-End IP Architecture

Hoping to bring a packet-based Internet protocol standard to cable's world stage, a group of North American and European organizations last week said they've built a suite of specifications intended to deliver advanced services over cable lines.

That specification, dubbed IPCablecom, defines a core "end-to-end" IP cable architecture for the delivery of voice and other evolving packet-based applications and services. IPCablecom is already backed by a handful of standards organizations, notably the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute and the International Telecommunication Union.

It will serve as a "blueprint" for the delivery of packet-based IP information via cable networks, said Cable Television Laboratories Inc. CEO Richard Green. IPCablecom will also give vendors the technological details they require to build equipment that adheres to the spec, he added.

The standard traces its roots to PacketCable, a CableLabs initiative aimed mainly at the North American cable industry. Although CableLabs continues to add enhancements to PacketCable, the goal of IPCablecom is to create an ITU-approved standard that can be employed by cable operators and vendors throughout the world.

Green said PacketCable essentially evolved into IPCablecom to fit the unique needs of cable operators that serve particular regions. CableLabs' PacketCable project will live on, he added, "but it's destined to become part of international discussions."

Like PacketCable, IPCablecom will harness Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 1.1, as well as Euro-DOCSIS and return-path DVB high-speed-data technologies.

The IPCablecom spec is composed of 12 documents that define requirements for signaling, quality-of-service, codecs, client provisioning, billing-event message collection, public-switched telephone network interconnection and security interfaces.

Of those dozen documents, eight have been approved as worldwide standards, said Green, who also chairs ITU-T Study Group 9, a body that handles both integrated broadband cable networks and television and sound transmission.

Approvals for the other four standards are still ongoing and will be considered during the next Study Group 9 meeting, he added. The SCTE has already approved all 12 specs.

IPCablecom also will address interfaces for specific "zones" that can support several thousand to a few hundred thousand subscribers. Eventually, the spec will allow operators to interconnect their grids to form a national or international footprint.

"As the IP-based cable footprint expands globally, it is critical that we have IPCablecom standards to connect to cable networks worldwide," Comcast Corp. senior vice president of strategic planning Mark Coblitz said in a statement.

Though much of IPCablecom's initial work is finished, a few elements must still be worked out before year-end, said Terayon Communication Systems Inc. vice president of voice solutions Ed Miller, who also played a key role in PacketCable development during his previous tenure at CableLabs.