Convergence has been a buzzword in the telecommunications industry for years, but as SCTE’s CTO Chris Bastian noted in an interview with Fierce, the concept still means different things to different people. Furthermore, operators have different priorities when it comes to which parts of the network they want to converge on first.
According to Bastian, network convergence has been accomplished in the past, citing an example of how operators used to have separate IP networks for data, voice, and video. These networks were eventually consolidated into one, which resulted in convergence. However, today’s convergence is more focused on bringing together various fixed and mobile networks, allowing for seamless handoffs between Wi-Fi, 5G, Bluetooth, and wired connectivity.
While network convergence is a key aspect of this process, it’s not the only one. Bastian noted that service, billing, and provisioning convergence are equally important. Achieving “universal convergence” requires all of these areas to come together seamlessly. However, the road to achieving convergence is not straightforward, and not everyone agrees on which aspect should come first.
Ultimately, operators will need to determine their own priorities for convergence, based on their individual circumstances and goals. For example, some may prioritize network convergence in order to offer a more seamless customer experience, while others may prioritize service convergence in order to improve billing and provisioning processes. The key is to recognize that convergence is a journey, and operators need to be willing to adapt and adjust their strategies as needed to achieve their desired outcome.
Under the auspices of its Convergence Council, CableLabs, a sister organization of the SCTE, has been working on convergence since at least 2021. Miriam Sorond served as the council’s original chair. Other members of the council include executives from Intel, Mavenir, Cisco, Nokia Bell Laboratories, Ciena, CommScope, and Samsung. Belal Hamzeh, CTO of CableLabs, replaced Sorond at the beginning of the year.
Operators are pursuing several parts as part of their project strategy, prioritizing what they believe to be the most crucial elements to converge first, according to Bastian. As requested by the CableLabs membership, “They [the Convergence Council] are working on different elements of it.”
How quickly CableLabs might release a converged specification is not quite apparent. Furthermore, even if it does, it doesn’t follow that it will inevitably become an SCTE standard. According to Bastian, a spec is more of an initial concept while a standard ensures compatibility across national borders and among several vendors.
In addition to standards, Bastian pointed out that SCTE has concentrated on creating and disseminating guidelines on operating best practices to aid staff in adapting 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.”