Cable Tips OCAP in ‘06

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Las Vegas -- After years of toiling in the labs, OpenCable Application Platform is ready for primetime.

Top cable MSO executives joined with three TV-set manufacturers at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show here to announce the cable industry's commitment to roll out OCAP middleware in headends serving millions of subscribers in 2006.

The OCAP middleware specification, developed by Cable Television Laboratories Inc., will provide a number of consumer benefits:

• For the first time, a consumer would be able to use a single TV-set remote control to operate their TV set, set-top, DVD player and home-theater system.

• Consumers would not need a set-top to access video-on-demand and other interactive services with OCAP middleware present on a digital-cable-ready TV set.

• The OCAP platform would allow application providers to write one piece of software for, say, an interactive-TV application that would run across all OCAP-enabled cable systems.

Time Warner Cable said it will deploy OCAP servers in headends serving 2.5 million subscribers, including its New York; Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wis.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Waco, Texas, systems.

Comcast Corp. pledged deployments in Philadelphia, Boston, Denver and Union, N.J.

Advance/Newhouse will deploy OCAP in Indianapolis.

Executives from Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. also pledged rollouts, but they did not specify any markets.

To roll out OCAP, MSOs have to deploy an off-the-shelf application server in a headend and choose an OCAP middleware to run across the system. But there has to be an OCAP-capable device in the consumer's home to run the OCAP software -- either a digital-cable-ready TV set or an OCAP-capable digital set-top -- to make OCAP features like single-remote-control usage or interactive services a reality.

Comcast signed deals last week with Samsung Electronics America Inc. and Panasonic Consumer Electronics for a combined 450,000 set-tops that will be OCAP-capable. And the MSO’s existing Pace Micro Technology plc set-top deal also contemplates OCAP boxes.

Time Warner Cable has a 50,000-OCAP-set-top order from Samsung in place, and the MSO has deployed 20 OCAP-capable Samsung TV sets in a market trial in Gastonia, N.C. Senior vice president of advanced technology Mike Hayashi said that starting this summer, every set-top Time Warner Cable ships will be OCAP-capable.

And LG Electronics Inc., Samsung and Panasonic have all signed the Cable Host Interface Application (CHILA) agreement with CableLabs, along with Thomson SA and Digeo Inc., pledging to build two-way OCAP TVs.

But executives from LG, Samsung and Panasonic could not say that significant numbers of OCAP TV sets would be in the market in 2006, even as MSOs roll out OCAP middleware in headends.

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