CableLabs ITV Interop Lab Includes Comcast, TWC And Cox Guides

CableLabs, as part of an effort to open up to the consumer-electronics industry, announced that its interactive TV testing lab now includes current cable operator guides and network-specific tests from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications.

In addition, the cable research and development consortium said, it will no longer charge CE manufacturers to use the testing software for tru2way-based devices. The announcements precede CableLabs' next interactive TV interoperability event for manufacturers and application developers, set for the week of Oct. 5-9.

"These steps that CableLabs is taking provide resources for tru2way and ETV [Enhanced TV] product developers, at little to no cost for them," said CableLabs president and CEO Paul Liao in a statement.

Liao, previously Panasonic's chief technology officer before taking over the CableLabs spot in July, has said he wants the consortium to provide greater access to companies outside the cable industry.

CableLabs now will provide royalty-free access to the Conformance Test Package and Automated Test Environment for manufacturers planning to submit a tru2way-based host device through the CableLabs certification process, through the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) Resources License Agreement. That will give manufacturers "barrier-free entry to the market," along with the ability to rapidly incorporate changes and extensions to the platform, such as DVR and home networking, according to CableLabs.

In June, CableLabs announced the availability of the tru2way reference implementation -- more than 1 million lines of code -- under the GPL 2.0 open-source license. That was intended to improve the stability of tru2way by offering "a consistent interpretation of the CableLabs specification," the consortium said. In addition, CableLabs said it will offer a commercial use license, also at no charge, as an alternative to the GPL 2.0 open-source process.

"We have heard from the manufacturing community, and we are making significant improvements in the testing process at CableLabs," said So Vang, CableLabs vice president of OpenCable. "A stable platform will also benefit cable operators, and more importantly, consumers, in fewer customer service calls."

CableLabs also is making a test suite for Enhanced TV, also referred to as Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), available for no charge. That specification enables interactive video services, such as voting, polling and requests for information, but is targeted toward legacy set-top boxes with more limited functionality.

Major cable operators are aiming to have 25 million set-tops running EBIF in the fourth quarter of this year, according to Comcast chief operating officer Steve Burke. EBIF is a key technical standard that Canoe Ventures, backed by the six biggest U.S. cable operators, is expecting to use to launch interactive advertising capabilities across its members' footprints.