Cable Tech

Blame It on Turkey Day

11:20 AM -- Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) is asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for more time to mount a defense against Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s request that the Commission waive a rule requiring high-definition cable boxes to house the IEEE 1394 Firewire interface.

The reason: TI's having a hard time getting all its arguments and technical ducks in a row with Turkey Day looming.

Intel filed its request in October, seeking a waiver that could pave the way for a new line of set-tops that use IP-based digital outputs and are powered by Intel's CE3100 and newer CE4100 systems-on-chip (SoCs).

Intel says removing the Firewire requirement would reduce costs significantly, claiming that the implementation costs of DTCP-IP "are a few cents" per chip, compared to "more than $5 for a chip that supports IEEE 1394." Intel also holds that the Firewire, despite being present on cable HD boxes today, is rarely used, anyway. CableLabs , meanwhile, has already approved DTCP for protection of content flowing over IP and Firewire interfaces. (See Intel Wants In on Set-Top Waiver Action , Will Intel Go Inside Cable Multimedia Gateways? , and CableLabs, CEA Agree on DTCP-IP.)

Responses to Intel's waiver request are due Monday, Nov. 30, but TI is asking the FCC for a 10-day extension because the original date falls right after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

"Thanksgiving week is typically disrupted by travel and by the Thanksgiving holiday, making it difficult to coordinate the analysis of data and difficult to obtain information from third parties over whom Texas Instruments has no control," TI noted in a motion dated Wednesday, Nov. 18. "Providing an extra ten days would allow Texas Instruments to better analyze and evaluate Intel's request and provide more thorough and thoughtful comments."

TI, however, has already made some of its opinions on the matter clear. It has argued that the cost of the Firewire interface is insignificant compared to the overall costs of the box. It's also suggested that adoption of the Firewire interface has been stymied because most MSO-provided digital boxes block some capabilities of the interface.

The FCC has yet to act on TI's request. If it is approved, the comment deadline would shift to Thursday, Dec. 10; with the subsequent reply deadline date moving to Monday, Dec. 21 -- all but setting things up for a similar motion by Intel that the new reply deadline falls too close to the Christmas holiday.

Regardless, don't expect any resolution to this mess until at least the first quarter of 2010.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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