News

Verizon Balks at Tru2way

8/08/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Verizon Communications has asked the Federal Communications Commission to encourage the development of interactive video standards based on a low-cost, universally implementable interface — such as Ethernet — so that a “cable-centric approach” like Tru2way doesn’t put other providers at a disadvantage.

In a July 31 letter to the FCC, Verizon reiterated its support for a “platform-agnostic” solution that could apply to all video distributors and asserted that the CableLabs-developed Tru2way technology is not compatible with its FiOS network.

Verizon vice president of federal regulatory affairs Dee May wrote that the FCC should encourage all companies in the industry “to take steps now — such as the inclusion of the low-cost and ubiquitously used Ethernet interface (RJ-45) in CE devices — to ensure that a cable-centric approach to interactive connectivity does not inhibit technological innovation or disadvantage other segments of the video marketplace.”

Pushing an All-Provider Solution
Verizon objected to Tru2way as proprietary, and said an FCC-mandated solution should:
SOURCE: Verizon Communications, July 31 letter to FCC
• Be based on a low-cost interface specification like Ethernet
• “Work for all video providers” and “encourage competition and innovation”
• Be developed in forums open to all parts of the service provider industry, manufacturers and other stakeholders

The cable industry has pushed Tru2way, formerly called the OpenCable Applications Platform, as its preferred mechanism for complying with federal regulations that require operators to make interactive services like video-on-demand accessible through third-party consumer-electronics devices.

In the last two months, the six biggest cable operators have signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreements with several CE manufacturers, including Sony Electronics, to use Tru2way in their products in exchange for a commitment from cable MSOs to support it in their networks. By the end of 2008, the cable industry has agreed to support the Tru2way platform in service areas covering more than 90 million U.S. homes.

Tru2way technology could extend to telco TV providers, CableLabs CEO Dick Green claimed in a keynote at the NXTcomm trade show in June. “The bottom line here is that Tru2way is open,” he said. “It is not exclusive to cable but is available to any multichannel provider that chooses to implement it on their network and in devices.”

In his remarks, Green also noted that Tru2way is based on widely accepted standards, such as the Java programming language.

But Verizon, in its letter, criticized Tru2way technology as proprietary.

“While we are supportive of industry-led efforts to develop appropriate technical standards, we write to emphasize that the MOU and the associated 'Tru2way’ technology represent a proprietary approach developed by and for traditional cable operators and that assumes the existence of traditional cable networks and traditional cable hardware interfaces,” May said. “Thus, the agreement surrounding the MOU does not provide a standard that will work for all video providers, and instead only serves traditional cable operators.”

Verizon cited Intel’s proposal earlier this month that the FCC amend its rules to require cable operators to provide an IP networking interface on their high-definition set-top boxes.

“As Intel notes, there is wide and growing 'marketplace acceptance of IP,’ and the commission should ensure that cable-centric standards do not frustrate this promising trend,” May wrote.

Verizon did note that it was encouraged that the cable industry, even as it lines up Tru2way supporters, remains open to exploring an “all-provider” solution that would cover cable, satellite and telco TV providers.

Such an all-provider solution would “allow providers to make their own technology selection, differentiate their offerings, and use different network-specific devices to connect to plug-and-play equipment using a common interface,” National Cable & Telecommunications Association president and CEO Kyle McSlarrow said at a June press conference.

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