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EchoStar to Support tru2way

EchoStar, the publicly traded corporation that was spun off from satellite operator Dish Network in January and that makes set-top boxes and manages satellite capacity, agreed to support the cable industry’s tru2way initiative for creating a common conditional-access and interactive-software platform to support two-way digital-cable applications.

EchoStar announced late Monday that it signed the tru2way Host Device License Agreement with Cable Television Laboratories, which is required in order to legally implement OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) middleware and the CableCARD conditional-access interface on devices using tru2way technology.

Other companies that agreed to support include TV-set manufacturers Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG Electronics and Funai; set-top makers Digeo and ADB; computer-chip giant Intel; and the nation's top six cable operators: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications and Bright House Networks.

While one of the core benefits of the tru2way platform is being able to incorporate set-top functionality into digital-TV sets and support video-on-demand and interactive program guides without a set-top box, set-top makers are also expected to incorporate the tru2way specification into their products.

That’s because new digital set-tops currently have to include a CableCARD slot anyway, in order to meet the Federal Communications Commission’s separable security rules, and also because the OCAP middleware that is part of tru2way will enable programmers to create interactive applications that will run on a wide variety of set-tops, digital TVs and other consumer-electronics devices.

Cable operators have said that they will support tru2way on systems reaching 90 million homes by the end of 2008, although the actual number of tru2way-compliant set-tops and TVs deployed in the field will still be relatively small.

EchoStar’s signing of the license not only allows it to supply tru2way-compliant set-tops to the multichannel operators it already counts as customers, including satellite operators Dish Network and ExpressVu and telco AT&T, but also allows it to target U.S. cable operators.

Despite being the primary set-top manufacturer for Dish, EchoStar has been pursuing the cable business since being spun off last winter, and it launched a DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) 2.0-compliant cable modem, the SlingModem, at The Cable Show ’08 in New Orleans in May.

“We are firmly committed to becoming a vendor of choice in the cable industry, leveraging decades of systems and manufacturing excellence, and today’s announcement asserts our commitment,” EchoStar president Mark Jackson said in a statement.