Louisville, Colo. -- Cable Television Laboratories Inc.
last week publicly released the OpenCable 1.0 interim specification for the
point-of-deployment copy-protection system.
The release means vendors can now move ahead with plans to
build a new generation of set-top boxes compatible with the OpenCable architecture for
digital-video systems, in hopes of meeting a July 2000 deadline imposed by the Federal
Communications Commission to resolve current interoperability problems.
"This marks a major milestone in the OpenCable project
and moves the industry closer toward its goal of retail-market deployments in the second
half of 2000," said Jim Chiddix, chief technical officer at Time Warner Cable and a
key executive in the OpenCable project.
"We are continuing to work as fast as we can to ensure
that all of the specifications a supplier needs to build OpenCable boxes and PODs are
available as long before July as possible," he added.
CableLabs' interim specification describes a mechanism to
protect high-value content that crosses the POD-host interface. The implementation of this
mechanism requires the use of the widely accepted "5C" device certificate to
authenticate the host and the use of DES (data-encryption standard) to protect the
A host can be a set-top or an integrated television set.
The removable security device, or POD, would enable that device to interpret and display
copy-protected cable content to consumers.
Last week's announcement was welcomed by the cable
industry, as it is anxious to get new set-top boxes to retailers for public consumption.
"This more clearly defines how a set-top box can be
designed to be able to ubiquitously function and operate in the various different types of
networks that are already deployed and being deployed," said Dwight Sakuma, director
of market development for Motorola Inc.'s digital-network-systems group. "There are
certain things that we haven't been able to define because specifications were not
Sakuma said Motorola planned to begin production of
retail-ready set-tops in May to be ready for the July deadline.
The news was also welcomed at Philips Consumer Electronics
Co., which is producing set-tops for MediaOne Group Inc.
"What Philips is looking for is openness for any
standards," director of product strategy Paul Pishal said. "We've been
supporting CableLabs all along in the spec writing and interoperability and the ongoing
tests. We're excited and totally engaged in making this a success."
David Broberg, director of OpenCable requirements at
CableLabs, said another round of interoperability testing will be conducted to work out
any kinks and to finalize documents.
The release of the information marks the end of a two-year
review process by CableLabs, its members and suppliers. Six OpenCable interim
specifications provide vendors with the build-to requirements to begin the implementation
stage of OpenCable retail products and PODs.