Motorola 'M-Card' Gains CableLabs Approval

So much for ending the cable industry's long-running set-top box duopoly. In a sign that Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta will continue to dominate the cable set-top business for years to come despite the FCC's best efforts, CableLabs has approved a multi-stream CableCARD from Motorola, adding it to one already approved from Scientific-Atlanta.

Dubbed "M-Cards" for short, multi-stream CableCARDs are removable security modules designed for OpenCable digital set-tops and cable-ready digital TV sets that can be sold at retail. Unlike the currently deployed basic CableCARDs, which can support only one-way digital cable services, M-Cards are next-generation devices designed to support such more advancd, two-way digital services as video-on-demand (VOD), picture-in-picture and interactive TV.

With the Motorola M-Card approval, CableLabs has now qualified two-way security modules from the industry's two main set-top box makers and largst conditional access system suppliers. So, even if consumers somehow manage to start buying cable set-tops and digital sets from other consumer electronics manufacturers, they will still need conditional access cards from Motorola and S-A to make their equipment work on their cable systems.

CableLabs says it expects major MSOs to start offering M-Cards to their subscribers within the next few months. Working with Digital Keystone Inc., the industry's R&D consortium has developed a tool for testing the M-Card interface on TV sets and set-tops.

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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