CableLabs Shifts Gears

Jan. 19, 2016
By Ron Hendrickson - Don't panic - CableLabs hasn't gone 'round the bend, it's just shifting gears. Apparently some people were startled by ...

Apparently some people were startled by the announcement of "CableLabs 2.0" in a blog post on Friday. In the post, the organization's President and CEO Phil McKinney said the organization is shifting to a heavier focus on innovation.

And what exactly does that mean? In a phone interview, McKinney said CableLabs has traditionally devoted about 90% of its resources to research and development and about 10% to innovation; the new focus will change that to about 50/50.

McKinney differentiated R&D from innovation in terms of timeframe, size of project, risk profile, purpose and ... a funnel.

"Imagine a funnel," he said. "Innovation goes in the big end, and R&D comes out the other."

McKinney described R&D as projects with industry backing and low risk, typically a 90% success rate. These comprise a few big projects with big budgets that can be expected to come to fruition in three years or less. Innovation projects, McKinney said, are very high risk with only about a 10% success rate. These would comprise many small and lightly funded projects; the ones that "stick" can become R&D projects later, perhaps becoming reality in three to eight years.

McKinney said the consortium isn't abandoning its roots - it will continue to focus on DOCSIS and its other traditional projects - but rather will be working to expand cable's reach and relevance across other related tech industries worldwide.

"It's not just limited to what CableLabs has historically done," he said.

A few of CableLabs' nontraditional endeavors recently have included projects in NFV, wireless, energy efficiency, and increased work internationally. For example, McKinney said the organization currently participates in more than 30 standards bodies worldwide.

To accomplish the CableLabs 2.0 goals, the organization plans to rebalance resources. McKinney said 27 staff positions will be going away, but will be offset by hiring in other areas.

Clarification: The 27 people whose positions were eliminated were encouraged to apply for available positions within CableLabs for which they were qualified.

"There'll be no actual headcount reduction," McKinney said.

Similarly, though the blog post mentioned increased funding in innovation, McKinney said they're not actually talking about more money, but rather reallocation of existing funds to innovation.

"We're not really changing the overall budget envelope," he said.

The full blog post is available at