Video services

Verizon: No Way on tru2way

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that pretty much confirms it has no plans to adopt tru2way , a platform it views as entirely cable-centric and proprietary. (See Do the Telcos Fear tru2way?)

It's not that Verizon wants to sink a dagger into the heart of tru2way -- it just wants the FCC to also consider a standard for two-way navigation devices (such as digital TVs and set-top boxes) that would work with "the services of all providers, regardless of platform of technology."

Or at least that's how Verizon spelled it out in its letter submitted to the Commission on July 31.

As things stand today, cable is making significant progress in developing "common reliance" with tru2way, thanks in large part to that "binding" memorandum of understanding originally negotiated by Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) and the top six incumbent U.S. cable operators. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU and Sony Supports tru2way.)

Several other CE companies have signed on since then. (See More Firms Go the Way of Tru2way and tru2Way Tallies Two More.)

CableLabs has been encouraging telcos to adopt tru2way, but its pleas have so far fallen on deaf ears. (See Telcos: Climb Aboard the Tru2way Train.)

Although tru2way will enable the creation of two-way devices for cable networks, "it is not compatible with other video providers' networks, including Verizon's all-fiber FiOS network," Verizon argued.

Tru2way, the telco notes, assumes the existence of an RF return path. While that's something present on a traditional cable plant, it "does not exist on fiber networks or on services provided by satellite operators or IPTV providers," Verizon argues.

An IP centerpiece?
Tru2way isn't the only approach to two-way navigation in the market, but it does appear to be the strongest at the moment.

For example, DCR+, an alternative proposal to tru2way backed by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and Sony (before it struck its tru2way deal with the MSOs), appears to have run out of steam. (See Two-Way Battle Reaches FCC.)

So Verizon has come up with an alternative approach -- an IP-based platform that uses "the low-cost and ubiquitously used" RJ45 Ethernet interface.

"In contrast, a purely cable-centric approach that does not provide a more universal interface such as Ethernet would hamper innovation and development of competitive alternatives to the cable incumbents," the telco contends.

The FCC has yet to thrust an adoption mandate regarding two-way navigation on cable operators and other video service providers, but it could issue an order later this year.

Universal approach
Another alternative is a universal system that would apply to all multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs), including cable operators, telcos, and satellite service providers. That's an approach in which the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) has shown interest.

There's no sign of any vendor support as yet for an all-MVPD approach, which would require a standalone network interface device that could serve as the master translator, supporting all manner of cable, satellite, and telco TV service providers.

The NCTA declined to comment on Verizon's letter to the FCC, but the cable pressure group did explore the "All-MVPD" concept in a filing with the FCC last September. In addition to calling on the Commission to endorse the "OpenCable Platform" (now called tru2way), the NCTA also asked the FCC to invite other video program distributors to collaborate on an "all-MVPD solution."

NCTA said the proposal offers "a constructive approach in which consumer devices can work on all MVPD systems, yet still allow MVPD networks to select their own technology, [and] differentiate themselves."

In its letter last week, Verizon said it's "encouraged" by NCTA's interest in developing such a system, "and we hope that CE manufacturers and other interested stakeholders will do the same."

The telco claimed that such standards work is already underway at the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) , the industry group that welcomed CableLabs as an affiliate member earlier this year. (See CableLabs Joins ATIS.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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