Top Six MSO's, Major CE and STB Companies, and Intel Sign tru2way MOU

-Details of MOU Revealed in FCC Filing by Comcast

US cable-industry research, development and standards organization,
CableLabs, announced earlier this month that six companies have
signed a binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) on
tru2way/OCAP technology with the top-six cable operators in the US,

Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Cablevision, Charter and Bright House
Networks (which together account for over 80% of US cable
subscribers and 105 million homes passed). The signatory companies
are consumer electronics manufacturers, Sony Electronics (which was
the first CE company to sign the document and which was responsible
for negotiating its terms with the cable industry), Panasonic
Corporation of North America, and Samsung Electronics America
(note: last month, CableLabs announced that Samsung had become the
first CE manufacturer to sign a new tru2way license agreement that it
bills as providing CE device manufacturers with a "streamlined" license
to technology that will enable their retail products to interface with

two-way interactive cable networks; according to CableLabs, the new
tru2way Host Device License Agreement provides for self-certification
and paper certification of retail devices, formal rights of participation
by CE manufacturers in CableLabs processes, approval of new digital
outputs via a 4-studio approach, and a tru2way trademark license;
CableLabs also said that the new license "consolidates, clarifies and
provides an alternative to" the existing CableCARD Host Interface
License Agreement and the OpenCable Application Platform
Implementer Agreement, and that it is available to any CE
manufacturer on a "nondiscriminatory" basis). Other companies signing

include set-top box manufacturers, ADB and Digeo, and chip
manufacturer, Intel (note: Intel has previously unveiled plans to build a
system-on-a-chip that will support a range of tru2way devices,
including integrated digital television sets, set-top boxes and DVR's).
"This is a momentous achievement that again validates the tru2way
technology platform for delivering interactive digital cable services to a
wide variety of devices," CableLabs president and CEO, Richard
Green, said in a prepared statement. "We stand ready to support the
cable operators and the manufacturers in the roll-out of tru2way
devices for the benefit of our mutual customers." Added Time Warner

Cable president, Glenn Britt: "tru2way technology will allow the
industry to continually enhance the customer experience, ensuring that
the latest features and technology are available to our customers
nationwide. Time Warner Cable has already distributed nearly a million
tru2way devices, and this agreement further supports the industry's
efforts."

When it announced the new MOU, CableLabs stated that its details
were not yet being released "while other potential signatories complete
their review of the document." However, earlier this week the MOU's
terms were revealed in an FCC filing by Comcast (that was first
reported by Jeff Baumgartner of Cable Digital News). Among the
highlights:

  • Each of the signatory MSO's will include network support for
    tru2way middleware in the hardware and software of headends serving
    digital cable systems by July 1st, 2009 (note: the document specifies
    that Charter will have an additional year to fulfill this requirement).
  • Each of the signatory MSO's will include tru2way middleware in 20%
    of new set-top boxes (termed "interactive navigation devices" by the
    MOU) it purchases after July 1st, 2009 (note: again, Charter will have
    an additional year to fulfill this requirement). However, this
    requirement will expire once the cable industry has deployed a total of
    10 million set-top boxes equipped with tru2way middleware.
  • The MOU will have a term of 10 years from its April 25th, 2008
    signing. However, it also contains the following "sunset" clause: "If
    fewer than 500,000 additional new retail Adopters' [note: the document
    refers to the MSO signatories as "Founders" and to the other signatories

    as "Adopters"] IDCP's [stands for "interactive digital cable
    products"--i.e. CableCARD-equipped two-way devices] are connected
    to receive cable services via CableCARD or mutually agreed upon
    conditional access technology from the Founders in any rolling
    twenty-four month period following July 1, 2009 nationwide, then no
    further support for IDCP's shall be required under this MOU except for
    the application support for deployed IDCP's...and the Founders may
    make their own business judgments about appropriate support for such
    devices."

  • "Multifunction IDCP's" [i.e. set-top boxes that offer additional
    functionality beyond reception of cable service] may overlay the
    manufacturer's navigation control method over cable TV screens,
    provided that the overlay 1) is initiated by the end-user in each
    instance, 2) is solely for navigation (note: this precludes overlays being
    used, for example, for advertising purposes), 3) is transitory, and 4)
    appears the same regardless of the channel. (Note: the extent to which
    third-party tru2way CE devices could overlay the screen had long been
    a significant area of disagreement between the cable and CE
    industries.)
  • Other than being compelled to pass through the CBS broadcast signal
    containing Gemstar-TV Guide (now Macrovision) EPG data, "there is
    no requirement that Founders provide metadata, additional guide data
    or any other path for guide data" to CE manufacturers.

  • CableLabs will set up a "Founders Advisory Board" (FAB),
    composed of representatives of the cable TV, content, consumer
    electronics, and IT industries, for advisory input to CableLabs. The
    FAB will be convened at least once a year; in addition, it can be
    convened at the request of any FAB member, in order to hold a vote on
    "any proposed changes to the tru2way hardware specifications that
    impose a significant cost increase on IDCP's that are unjustified by
    consumer choice, interest in innovation, economic burden on the cable
    operator, or developments in technology."
  • "Innovative features and functions" in IDCP's that are "not specified
    in but are consistent with" the various tru2way specifications and
    license agreements are "allowed and encouraged."
  • Certification testing of Adopters' IDCP's will normally take place at
    CableLabs. However, "Adopters who have demonstrated that they are
    consistently capable of certifying IDCP's may obtain self-certification
    status. Successful certification of at least five mutually agreed upon
    devices on different platforms in CableLabs Certification Waves
    indicates such capability."

Comcast's FCC filing is available:
here