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MSOs Say OCAP's Not a Snap

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

LAS VEGAS -- Installing and deploying the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) has been anything but a snap for cable operators, but the technology, which promises to give cable operators a common middleware for set-top applications, is starting to seep into systems run by some of the nation's largest MSOs.

Engineering executives from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) (TWC), and Bright House Networks offered updates on their respective deployment and trial plans here on Sunday at a special OCAP event that proceeded this week's The Cable Show.

Cox, according to senior VP and CTO Chris Bowick, has OCAP trials underway in two markets and expects to push that to five by the end of 2007. He expects Cox to have OCAP installed across the board by the first half of 2008.

"We're well on the way," Bowick said.

Even further along is Time Warner Cable, which is timing its deployment of OCAP in Scientific Atlanta systems with the coming July 2007 ban on digital set-tops with embedded security. About 70 percent of Time Warner's systems are based on the SA platform, with the balance based on Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT).

Mike Hayashi, TWC's senior vice president of advanced technology and engineering, said the SA systems "are in the midst of [OCAP] deployment, and TWC's entire SA footprint should be OCAP-ready by July. He projects plans to trial OCAP in one Motorola system by the end of this year, with expansion into deployments in 2008.

The situation is similar at Bright House, where five of six systems are SA-based. That MSO is working to get its SA systems OCAP-capable by July, as well, according to Arthur Orduna, the operator's senior vice president of policy and product.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable MSO, has OCAP trials underway in Denver, Philadelphia, Boston, and Union, N.J. Those systems will "springboard us" toward additional OCAP work expected to occur later this year and into 2008, when about 80 percent of the MSO's systems should have it installed, said James Mumma, Comcast's director of video product development.

"We are eager for this to succeed," Mumma said, adding that Comcast plans to start trials of a low-end OCAP-based box -- the RNG (Residential Network Gateway) 100 -- sometime next year. [Ed. note: Mumma said knock you out.]

Until OCAP boxes are widely deployed, MSOs are also working on applications and software for a massive legacy base of pre-OCAP headends and devices.

Cox, for example, has been a champion of "OnRamp," a Java-based subset of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow operators to offer applications that are compatible and transferable to the OCAP platform.

Cox has already launched several OnRamp apps, including those that enable customers to change or order services, read email, check news updates, and pay their bills. The MSO is also closing in on other apps in the OnRamp vein such as video mosaics (a navigation enhancement that displays multiple thumbnails of linear networks), games, and TV-based caller ID.

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