Video services

EchoStar Inks Tru2way Accord

Charlie Ergen is playing for keeps.

EchoStar Technologies LLC, a technology infrastructure and set-top unit that spun off from Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) earlier this year, said it has "solidified its comment" to developing set-tops and other consumer-side digital gear for the cable industry after signing the CableLabs tru2way Host Device License Agreement. (See EchoStar Signs tru2way Agreement and EchoStar Ready to Split.)

The license gives EchoStar the ability to develop set-tops and other two-way digital cable "hosts" outfitted with the OpenCable Application Platform middleware and the CableCARD interface. In May, Samsung Corp. became the first CE company to sign this new "streamlined" license. (See tru2way Signs Up Samsung.) EchoStar has yet to sign the tru2way memorandum of understanding (MOU) originally negotiated by Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) and the top six U.S. cable MSOs. (See Sony Supports tru2way, Revealed: The Tru2way MOU, More Firms Go the Way of Tru2way, and tru2Way Tallies Two More.)

According to the tru2way host device license agreement posted by CableLabs, licensees are on the hook to pay a one-time, non-refundable license fee of $5,000. The certification testing fee for an "OpenCable Host Device" is $175,000.

An EchoStar official declined to disclose any specific product plans the company has for tru2way. Still, if EchoStar follows the way Dish does things, one could expect some announcements at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. EchoStar, which owes its heritage to a primary cable competitor, also has not indicated whether it will seek out distribution deals directly with MSOs or pursue a retail strategy for its tru2way gear.

"We are firmly committed to becoming a vendor of choice in the cable industry, leveraging decades of systems and manufacturing excellence and today's announcement asserts our commitment," EchoStar president Mark Jackson said, in a statement.

Signing the tru2way accord marks the next step in EchoStar's cable product strategy. At the annual cable confab in May, the company showed off the SlingModem, a CableLabs-certified device that fuses Sling Media Inc. 's place-shifting video platform with a Docsis 2.0 cable modem. (See Dish Sibling to Sling Product at Cable.) EchoStar bought Sling Media last year in a deal valued at $380 million.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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