CableLabs Certification

The CableLabs certification process is a tool that assures the public as well as cable operators that products intended for direct connection to the digital cable plant effectively interoperate with the plant equipment while maintaining the plantâs integrity. Products that complete the process earn the right to be marked with the ãCableLabs-Certifiedä sticker, which informs the buyer that the piece of equipment complies with all applicable specifications and industry standards. The successful completion of the certification process also entitles the manufacturer to receive an electronic security certificate, which enables the product to be authenticated by the cable operator.

The CableLabs facility in Louisville, CO, includes over 8,000 square feet of laboratory space available for certification testing. Three fully operational headends serve these labs with a wide range of digital services typical of the most modern cable television systems. The CableLabs headend provides simultaneous signals from each of the three most common cable system designs, including Motorola, Scientific-Atlanta, and Harmonic. The testing labs provide bench space for as many as 112 engineers and technicians. State-of-the-art test equipment and computer automation enable reliable data collection and record keeping.

Recurring certification waves are scheduled throughout the year. Each certification wave is scheduled to last for nine weeks, which includes two weeks for dry-run interoperability testing, six weeks of audit testing, and one week to compile, analyze, and present results. Participation in the first two weeks of dry-run testing is always free and provides manufacturers a chance to debug and verify interoperability in the CableLabs environment. Those going on through the full certification must submit the required documentation, test results, and pay any requested administration fees.

Those vendors participating in the certification process must agree to the ãrules of engagement.ä These rules protect the competitive interests of all the parties involved by ensuring the confidentiality and the integrity of the process. In addition, participants must comply with all CableLabs guidelines covering the use of trademarks and resubmit any certified product that is modified after certification.

Manufactures can make design changes during the first two weeks of the certification process. This can be done to correct software errors or provide component substitutions. The added flexibility of this allows the manufacturer to take full advantage of the complete testing process, even when errors are discovered early.

Minor changes to a certified product may be presented for recertification by means of a paper submission that the certification board will evaluate promptly. The paper submission requires only an affidavit detailing the changes along with a complete set of regression test results.

In many types of consumer products a common module or chassis is used to support a number of similar models that might vary by size, style, or other design factors. A streamlined approach is available to achieve certification for all models based on the common module.

The CableLabs certification process also makes it easy to implement OEM variations. An OEM variation of a certified product may be submitted outside a scheduled certification wave for prompt consideration when the only difference between the OEM product and the one previously certified is the company logo affixed to the product.

A certification review board is used to evaluate the documentation and test results to determine eligibility for certification. The review board comprises senior technical staff from major cable operators. The CableLabs staff simply provides the data and test results but does not participate in the decision-making process. The review boardâs activities are limited to conformance to the specifications and interoperability. The review board makes no ãpurchase/do not purchaseä recommendations. Certification is evaluated fairly and equitably, using only objective, non-discriminatory, and verifiable criteria.

An appeals process is also provided for products that do not receive certification. After a review and detailed discussion of the test data, a manufacturer may submit a formal appeal request along with the backup data it would like the certification review board to consider. The review board will make every effort to act in a timely manner and will evaluate all appeals fairly.

Manufacturers who wish to market retail products for direct connection to digital cable systems have a valuable and effective resource in the CableLabs certification process. It provides a testing environment and resources, which are modern and efficiently designed to ensure interoperability. The certification process is flexible and accommodates a wide variety of product design and marketing strategies. It also provides streamlined certification whenever possible.