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NCTA and CEA battle over cable communication standards

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 17 Oct 2007 23:45 User comments (1)

NCTA and CEA battle over cable communication standards Cable operators and consumer electronics manufacturers can't seem to agree on what kind of communication should be standard for communications between cable boxes and other equipment. The two sides are preparing for a showdown as the FCC gets ready to consider a Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) proposal that would extend the current CableCard specs to allow external devices to actually control cable television devices.
The CableCard standard was developed to create a standard interface for third party equipment to receive a signal from a cable television connection. Instead of putting the functionality all into a set-top box, it can be used to interface directly to devices like DVRs. The problem right now is that control of more advanced features, like VOD (Video On Demand) requires more user input than the CableCard standard allows.

In order to remedy this the CEA proposal, called DCR+, would simply add a standard interface to send instructions from CableCard connected devices to the cable television system. An alternate plan from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), also submitted to the FCC earlier this year, would involve the use of middleware, which would still create a standard interface for communicating with the cable system through a CableCard, but allow cable providers to connect to the middleware in whatever way they want. The NCTA calls their implemention OpenCable.

Middleware is a type of software, hardware, or Firmware used to translate between systems. For example, PC based software is often used to collect data for mainframe computers, with a middleware application in between. The middleware converts the PC data into whatever format the mainframe program is expecting. A middleware approach for cable communications would require a converter of some kind that's programmed to talk to the cable system using whatever method is appropriate for that system, while communicating with CableCard equipped devices through a standard interface that's consistent no matter what underlying cable system is used.

Kevin Leddy, senior vice president for new product development at Time Warner Cable said implementing DCR+ could cost cable companies millions of dollars, an expense that they'd have to pass on to consumers. However, Julie Kearney, senior director and regulatory counsel for the CEA doesn't buy that claim, saying "There is going to be some hardware changes that they have to do on their end, [but] it doesn't require them to anything to their system."

In reality, the DCR+ and OpenCable's middleware approach aren't mutually exclusive. Even if the FCC approves the CEA plan, middleware may be required at cable provider headends (where the signal is distributed to subscribers) in order to translate standard CableCard transmissions into instructions approprate for that headend.

Neal Goldberg, vice president and general counsel for the NCTA, has said a decision on the two proposals could come as soon as next month.

Source: PC Magazine

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1 user comment

123.10.2007 8:29

All i have to say is what a long article i became bored half way down. Where do you find all these long articles Vurbal :) (No ill manner intended)

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