SCTE: Operators have different priorities when it comes to convergence

Convergence is something that has long been talked about but not yet realized. That is likely in part because – as many have noted before – convergence means different things depending on who you ask and, as SCTE CTO Chris Bastian told Fierce, operators have different priorities when it comes to what parts of the network they want to converge first.

Bastian explained that network convergence is something the industry has executed in the past. He noted operators used to have three separate IP networks, with one each for data, voice and video. Those were all consolidated to one network and voila, convergence.

These days, convergence mostly refers to bringing together various fixed and mobile networks. The idea is to ensure seamless handoffs across multiple technologies, so consumers don’t really notice when they move between Wi-Fi, 5G, Bluetooth and wired connectivity.

Bastian said getting there of course requires the network convergence you might think of, but also service, billing and provisioning convergence. And not everyone agrees on which should come first on the road to what Bastian dubbed “universal convergence.”

SCTE’s sister organization CableLabs has been working on convergence since at least 2021 under the guise of its Convergence Council. The council – which includes executives from Intel, Mavenir, Cisco, Nokia Bell Labs, Ciena, CommScope and Samsung, among others – was initially led by Miriam Sorond. CableLabs CTO Belal Hamzeh took over for Sorond early last year.

“Operators are pursuing different segments as their project strategy, what they view as the most important things to get converged first,” Bastian said. “They [the Convergence Council] are working on different pieces of it as requested by the CableLabs membership.”

It’s not exactly clear how soon CableLabs might put out a converged specification. And even if it does, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will automatically become an SCTE standard. The difference between the two, Bastian explained, is that a spec is more of an initial design while a standard ensure international and multi-vendor interoperability.

Beyond standards, Bastian noted SCTE has also been focused on developing and publishing guidance on operating best practices to help employees adapt to a converged environment.

“This workforce, all they’ll know is wireline. You put some antennas up there, you get into the wireless world, how do we have to change that workforce’s world to support that,” he said. That kind of support, plus SCTE training initiatives, will help telecom workers better understand “how do they install it, how do they operate it, how do they use the tools to get the proper telemetry off it.”