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CableLabs Streamlines Tru2way Approvals

Leading in to the Cable Show next week, CableLabs has eased the approval process for retail consumer-electronics devices that use the industry's Tru2way interactive cable standard, with Samsung Electronics the first manufacturer to sign a revised licensing agreement.

Among other terms, the new Tru2way license agreement allows CE makers to “self-certify” two-way cable-ready products — whereas CableLabs has previously required all cable-ready products to be submitted to its own testing and approval process.

The revised agreement also extends the formal rights of participation by consumer-electronics manufacturers in CableLabs processes, establishes approval of new digital outputs via a “four-studio” approach, and grants licensees a Tru2way trademark license.

The move is intended to demonstrate to Federal Communications Commission officials and consumer-electronics companies that the cable industry is making good-faith efforts to help CE companies bring retail two-way cable products to market.

In a May 6 filing with the FCC, National Cable & Telecommunications Association general counsel Neal Goldberg wrote that the updated agreement “furthers the focus on 'openness' in licensing matters that cable representatives announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.”

CableLabs announced Tru2way as the consumer-facing brand for the OpenCable Platform at CES, and said the industry would work collaboratively with device manufacturers.

The Consumer Electronics Association has consistently balked at accepting cable's two-way technology, complaining to the FCC that — among other things — the licensing terms were onerous (“Two-Way Tussle,” Dec. 10, 2007).

Major cable operators have pledged to support the Tru2way platform in systems covering more than 90 million U.S. homes by the end of 2008.

“Comcast is committed to rolling out Tru2way-enabled set-top boxes later this year, and Samsung's rollout of retail Tru2way-enabled devices demonstrates that the Tru2way technology is the best solution for both retail and leased set-top boxes,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a prepared statement.

According to CableLabs, the new agreement “consolidates, clarifies, and provides an alternative” to the existing CableCard Host Interface License Agreement and the OpenCable Application Platform Implementer Agreement. The Tru2way License Agreement is available to any consumer-electronics manufacturer on a nondiscriminatory basis, the consortium said.

Tru2way technology will be a focal point at the Cable Show, with a separate day-and-a-half Tru2way Developers' Conference that starts the morning of Saturday, May 17. The conference is co-sponsored by NCTA, CableLabs and Vidiom Systems.

In addition, CableLabs' CableNET demonstration on the show floor will feature several tru2way-based products, including:

  • Sigma Designs' integrated Tru2way-based set-top box, which can display three video channels;
  • Softel-USA's MediaSphere TX carousel playing both Tru2way and Enhanced TV interactive applications;
  • UniSoft/Strategy & Technology's Tru2way and ETV application creation, testing and delivery tools; and
  • Zodiac Interactive's Tru2way Zidget framework, which uses a plug-in architecture to support applications such as local search, weather, traffic, sports scores and local news on a set-top box.