Cable Commits to OCAP in 2008

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The cable industry pledged to three key consumer-electronics partners to have OpenCable Application Platform widely deployed in their systems by the fourth quarter of 2008, roughly two years later than operators originally expected.

Cable Television Laboratories CEO Dick Green said executives from the top U.S. MSOs met with LG Electronics, Panasonic and Samsung Electronics -- the three CE makers that have developed OCAP-enabled TV sets -- in a trip to Asia last week.

The OCAP specification, licensed by CableLabs, provides a standard way for set-tops, TVs and other devices to access interactive cable services like video-on-demand.

The upshot of last week’s meetings was a “mutual commitment on both sides to be sure we have [OCAP] available to consumers in the next 18 months,” Green said, adding, “Some MSOs are a little ahead of that, some are coming along.”

Cable executives who flew to Japan and South Korea on the trip included Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt and Cox Communications president Pat Esser.

Last year was supposed to be the year OCAP took off: At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2006, cable companies announced a “commitment” to roll out OCAP middleware in headends serving millions of subscribers by the end of the year.

But for now, OCAP is still largely in the testing phase. Comcast, for example, is initiating market trials with OCAP this year. Similarly, Samsung and Cox said in January that they would “accelerate” their OCAP development work for HDTV sets in the operator’s Gainesville, Fla., division.

Time Warner, meanwhile, said digital-cable services in its New York City systems went live on Samsung’s OCAP-compliant HD set-tops in January, and the operator plans to expand OCAP rollouts to other cities this year, including Milwaukee.

Green said the meetings with LG, Panasonic and Samsung demonstrated that “OCAP is alive and well and all of the partners are working on assorted demonstrations.”

Other CE companies, however, have balked at working with cable on OCAP.

The Consumer Electronics Association last November accused cable companies of creating a “stalemate” in getting two-way, cable-ready devices to market.

The trade group, in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, said it wants to be able to produce CE devices that support “basic” interactive cable services “rather than absorbing all of the cost and uncertainty associated with OCAP.” The CEA’s letter was signed by executives from Sony Electronics, Hitachi, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and other association members.

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