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A look at 'Release 2'

Sun, 04/30/2006 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner, Editor-in-Chief

I'm not too proud to admit this, but a press release issued by CableLabs last month on the eve of The National Show that announced the issuing of specs for an "Advanced IP Services Platform" had me fooled for a few moments.

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner
Editor-In-Chief
The first question to cross my mind after scanning the announcement was: "Is the cable industry throwing PacketCable out the window? If so, what a stunner! Huge news in the tech circles of the cable industry! My fingers won't be able to type fast enough to share this with everyone!" But, upon further inquiry, I was told to cool my heels; the specs were for "Release 2" of PacketCable—what we have been calling PacketCable 2.0 for many a moon.

Oh, well. Not exactly the most startling or controversial thing to ever happen, but important news nonetheless. Important enough to dive into the details beyond some things that were already known about it—that it will support IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem), SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and will help to carve cable's path toward FMC (fixed mobile convergence).

This is a BIG set of specs. At last check, CableLabs had 13 separate specs listed under the Release 2 umbrella, covering everything from IMS (session handling, security, etc.), to codecs, interfaces, electronic surveillance, and provisioning. I took the easy way out and looked through the Release 2 Technical Reports.

Some key takeaways:

  • So that you have your releases straightened out, PacketCable Release 2 is based on Release 6 of IMS, a SIP-based architecture born out of 3GPP, plus some special hooks and enhancements so that it talks cable.
  • Moving well beyond the original PacketCable 1.0 architecture (now called PacketCable Release 1.0), which allowed operators to replicate primary line phone service offered by the telcos (and not much else), the new specs mention support of video telephony, presence-based services, click-to-dial apps, video streaming, commercial service extensions, cross-platform and mobile services. You know, the whole smash.
  • No longer are multimedia terminal adapters the only game in town. Smarter, feature-licious SIP endpoints will also join the fun. Borrowing from the IMS taxonomy, all PacketCable clients will now be commonly referred to as User Equipment (UE), which can include fixed and mobile devices such as laptops or dual-mode phones.
  • Get ready for an architecture comprised of the following groupings: The Local Network; The Access Network; The Edge; and The Core, among them.
  • NAT and Firewall Traversal—A special but important challenge, because PacketCable UEs will need to circumvent NATs and Firewalls in order to maintain signaling and to enable the operator to manage PacketCable services.

This merely scratches the surface of Release 2. This also marks just the start of our coverage of these important specifications, and how they will play a key role in the industry's evolution and its migration to the almighty IP.

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