When SCTE•ISBE, a cable telecommunications industry group, launched the Explorer initiative, which encompasses seven new working groups to set standards for the industry, it surprised some professionals that companies from outside the industry signed on.
Each of the working groups represent industries, technologies or practices that will place significant demands on telecommunications infrastructure or have a material impact on its development. These groups include telehealth and aging in place, telemedicine, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), smart cities, autonomous transport, extended spectrum (Up to 3.0 GHz), and human factors affecting network reliability.
As part of this launch, several large global companies - including IBM - signed on to set standards for AI and ML in cable telecommunications. So, why would a global fortune 500 company that is shaping technology each day, join a telecommunications group focused on setting telecom standards?
To illuminate the wisdom, I spoke with several members of the new AI/ML working group to share how the work being done in these sessions will shape the future of connectivity and power businesses in the future. The answers I received from participants focused on two main areas - market access and pushing the network to new limits.
According to our partners at NCTA, cable MSOs (multi-system operators) have invested more than $290 billion of private capital in broadband networks over the last 20 years. Cable broadband reaches more than 66 million people in the U.S.
By engaging in this process, companies like IBM, achieve a head start on ensuring that the standards that are set will serve the needs of their products and services, and ensure that their products and services are optimized to reach customers across this vast network.
For instance, if company A creates an innovative new service that requires extremely low network latency (the time it takes data to go from a source to a destination) at a level that cable doesn’t currently provide, as a member of the working group they can lead the development of a standard to meet those needs.
Then, when company A launches said new service, it will be guaranteed to work on the network. This provides access and scalability on a global scale. With cable being the primary access model for reaching customers worldwide, the opportunity to shape the network standards is an invaluable part of the process of bringing new products and services to market.
Pushing Toward 10G
Companies with an eye toward the future also see that the technologies, products and services of tomorrow will require a network with even greater reliability, faster speeds, more capacity, lower latency, and stronger security. These companies recognize the need to push rapidly toward the promise of 10G.
The AI/ML Explorer working group is, in part, exploring the use of AI/ML to make the network more efficient. Standards for how to leverage AI/ML to improve efficiency in the network are an essential part of moving the industry to 10G more quickly.
For example, one area of exploration is how machine learning can be used to increase network capacity by automating and optimizing network augmentation techniques like node splits. Being at the table to discuss and understand the future of connectivity is giving these participating companies an important window into the future - one they are helping to shape.
While the work of the AI/ML standards group is still in its early stages, the promise of this and the other Explorer working groups is real. These standards bodies are uniting leaders from diverse industries to shape the criteria that will usher in a new era of connectivity, providing access and scalability to companies who engage.