Why the Unification of CableLabs and SCTE is a Big Deal

By Dan Whalen, ATX President & CEO |

CableLabs and SCTE-ISBE this week made official their recently announced merger plans with the successful conclusion of a vote by SCTE members to make their organization a subsidiary of CableLabs, effective Jan. 1, 2021. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that neither side is going to request a recount.

Joking aside, no matter how you look at this union — which is arguably overdue — it’s almost impossible to find anything contentious. The two groups have become increasingly collaborative over the past several years and are very influential in the cable industry. CableLabs, among other things, is responsible for creating standards, including DOCSIS, for its dozens of cable operator members. SCTE, with nearly 20,000 members, has been an important source of standards as well as professional training and certification for more than 50 years.

Bringing these two venerable organizations together is important for multiple reasons. For starters, the unification provides CableLabs with more direct access to the vendor community, increasing and adding depth to the interactions between operators and technology suppliers that fuel innovation. The integration of SCTE into CableLabs will also help to further extend the reach and applicability of common standards, protocols and best practices to geographies outside of North America and Europe.

“It’s imperative that cable operators take action now to accelerate the speed of technology innovation to keep pace with the coming demand for ubiquitous and, most importantly, affordable broadband.”

But for me, the most important benefit of uniting the cable world’s largest engineering organizations is the boost it will bring to the pace of technology innovation in our industry. Consumer and business demand for speedier and more reliable broadband services is growing faster than ever. Major industries, like education and medicine, are working hard to leverage light-field displays, virtual reality and other emerging bandwidth-hungry technologies to reinvent their businesses for a highly interactive digital experience.

Broadband has become the quintessential element in fueling the needs and advancement of humans. A broadband service that can support these not-so-distant technologies will literally be capable of delivering a prestigious educational institution or advanced medical care to every person on the planet with access to an Internet connection.

It’s imperative that cable operators take action now to accelerate the speed of technology innovation to keep pace with the coming demand for ubiquitous and, most importantly, affordable broadband. Unifying these two essential engineering organizations is a significant step in that direction.

News of CableLabs and SCTE’s merger plans was revealed a little more than a week after I joined ATX. I couldn’t have asked for a better onboarding gift. It is ATX’s commitment to innovation and the continued evolution of the HFC network, beginning with the adoption of DOCSIS 4.0, that attracted me to the company. ATX’s current portfolio and roadmap couldn’t be better aligned with cable operators’ investment plans and the push toward multi-gigabit services and universal technology platforms.

The unification of CableLabs and SCTE, which will accelerate innovation by streamlining the development and deployment of future specifications, standards and training, will be instrumental in helping ATX — and the entire cable industry — achieve its ambitions that much faster.

On the surface, this week’s vote doesn’t appear all that world-altering. Both organizations, in fact, have pledged to function as closely as possible to the way they have operated in the past. But if you look a little deeper, what will change — eliminating fragmented standards and training activities — will have a tremendously positive impact on the cable industry and, most importantly, the lives of future broadband subscribers.

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