Common standards lead to better services

The industry is changing. The tolerance for high-cost propriety interfaces is no more. In the days of old, one or two dominant vendors basically defined and monopolized all interfaces and the losers were the service providers that had to pay for every "customized" change. Every new feature had to be requested almost a year in advance, with little or no control from the service provider.


Since open standards and industry alliances have taken place, this can no longer be the case. Interoperability and extensible features are the surest way to avoid high costs.


When a group of industry experts get together to define and map out customer use cases, some of the brightest and best minds in the industry are working on your departmental team. The cost avoidance of paying developers and architects to reconstruct what can be specified in an industry forum is substantial.


For example, services such as IPTV require a full architecture with each service definition around billing, ordering, provisioning, network features and other functions that need to be precisely mapped and applied to create a service that works. In our industry today, we see the collaboration of many companies making this architecture happen, with various industry organizations.


Product managers no longer need to scratch their heads and spend weeks meeting with internal architects and OSS managers to find out each capability. Utilizing current work in the industry is not only helpful, but a huge time and resource saver as well. The applicability of open standards and specifications can directly affect the cost and time of a project.


Today's communications industry is dependent on the ability to implement projects quickly. When new products are being scoped and orders of magnitude being figured, the OSS and network infrastructure is always the most expensive and resource-consuming line item. This expense has always been seen as an unavoidable cost, but necessary to launching a product.


Last December, the CableLabs Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP) group released its 1.1 specifications featuring required functionality for set-top boxes for cable providers. This feature could change the way IP-based media services are offered to consumers. It could also present the opportunity to build new features to increase advertising opportunities, content distribution, voting and troubleshooting from the home network, and usage information for personalized products.


This new release includes a Java API, complete with bi-directional data distribution and the ability to configure needed data elements and models.


This new feature has been a long time in coming. The underlying transport mechanism incorporated the widely adopted Streaming Protocol 2.2 for configurable data transport.


Finding out what is going on in the home network may very well be the success of the IPTV service for cable providers. The efficiency of having a standard API for third-party applications to use for gathering and analyzing data elements is invaluable to the total cost of implementation for any solution. This benefit will not only help cable providers sign with vendors that are certified to interoperate via this API, as a vendor will also have a pre-existing interface to launch new and interesting offerings in conjunction with IPTV-like services.


The CableLabs specifications for OCAP 1.1 were released earlier this year and the impact will be felt by the industry this year. Certification testing for OCAP 1.1 will most likely begin later this year.

Kelly Anderson is president and COO of IPDR Organization