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Verizon Stokes a Tru2way Stalemate

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Here's a shocker: The cable industry and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) are fighting.

This time, the issue is whether tru2way should be compatible with Verizon's FiOS TV service, which delivers its channels over fiber in a similar way that MSOs do via coaxial cable.

Verizon has previously argued that tru2way, a uniform middleware and headend platform for interactive digital TVs and set-tops, won't work on its video network. The cable industry, through arguments posed by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) , has indicated that DTVs outfitted with tru2way can still run on Verizon's plant just fine -- so long as the set is connected to one of the telco's set-tops. (See Verizon: No Way on tru2way and NCTA Counters Verizon's Tru2way Claims .)

Verizon went on the the offensive again via an ex parte filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday.

"One of the principle benefits to consumers of a two-way plug-and-play solution is precisely that it will facilitate interactive services without the need for a set-top box," Verizon wrote. "So a two-way solution that permits interactivity only in conjunction with a provider's unique set-top box – particularly when the traditional cable incumbents would not need a set-top box for the same level of functionality – is no solution at all."

Verizon said consumers who buy tru2way sets would be "frustrated when they discover that they still need a set-top box for competitive providers using technological approaches that differ from the cable incumbents."

CableLabs , meanwhile, has recently encouraged telcos to adopt the "open" tru2way platform, noting that it's based on an international ITU-T standard, compatible with the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP), and leverages a Java core that's also used for Blu-ray apps and a spate of cellphone environments. (See Telcos: Climb Aboard the Tru2way Train.)

But Verizon isn't buying what CableLabs is selling, calling any offer for cable competitors to use tru2way "an empty gesture," adding that the telco is not permitted to join CableLabs or participate in the development of tru2way. The NCTA and CableLabs declined to comment on the Verizon filing.

Verizon is in favor of an "all-provider" solution already underway at Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) , which, some describe as a CableLabs-like engine for Verizon. Verizon initially ignored the all-provider concept after cable first proposed it, but seems to have gained interest in it only after cable was able to secure significant support for tru2way from the consumer electronics industry. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU, Sony Supports tru2way, More Firms Go the Way of Tru2way, and tru2Way Tallies Two More.)

Although Verizon says it's closed off from participating in the development of tru2way, the recently struck tru2way memorandum of understanding does expand the scope of control somewhat via a Founders Advisory Board (FAB). That board extends the level of review and the ability to iron out disputes beyond the realm of CableLabs and the cable operators. It also include participation from the CE, content, and information technology industries.

The FCC's role: nothing
It's still not entirely clear yet what's to be won or lost from this Ping Pong match occurring within the confines of the FCC docket. What is clear is that both sides are motivated to show they are capable of resolving this without government intervention or a formal FCC proceeding that could result in a forced adoption.

The FCC has yet to act on an open rulemaking concerning tru2way and an alternative called DCR+ that's backed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) . (See Two-Way Battle Reaches FCC.) But, considering the traction tru2way has received from CE parties, including Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE), it appears that this particular matter, practically speaking, has been settled.

As for the debate going on between Verizon and cable, it's quite obvious that the two sides remain far apart on tru2way, but both say they're more than willing now to pursue a solution that can bridge all video platforms.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:33:20 PM
re: Verizon Stokes a Tru2way Stalemate
Verizion likes to make waves. I think it is all misdirection. Look at this while I conceal this. I wonder what they are trying to keep us from noticing?
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