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Will VueKey Trump Tru2way?

Jeff Baumgartner

Truly two-way
Verizon's direct set-top suppliers might support VueKey first, but there are still big questions about what consumer electronics firms think of the effort.

Those contacted by Cable Digital News are watching VueKey but haven't committed yet.

Dr. Paul Liao, chief technology officer of Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC)'s North American division, said he likes the idea of creating a common interface that's applicable to different types of video operators. (Panasonic is a strong supporter of tru2way: See Promoting tru2way TVs and Denver, Chicago First to Get Tru2way TVs.)

However, he adds, "it would be great if they'd also adopt OCAP," because the middleware has much in common with platforms such as Java and Blu-ray and would give consumer electronics companies the economies of scale they crave. That echoes what CableLabs president and CEO Dr. Richard Green told telcos at the NXTcomm show in June. (See Telcos: Climb Aboard the Tru2way Train.)

An executive with another TV maker in the tru2way camp notes that consumer electronics companies gravitate to mass-market platforms. Tru2way has a huge headstart, but VueKey could spark some interest if companies find the licensing terms reasonable and don't have to customize their gear for it. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU.)

How about supporting tru2way and VueKey in the same device? Most agree it would be technically possible.

With the proper interface and keying infrastructure, for example, a digital set-top or television could operate in either mode as long as the host was using the correct security module and was authorized by the operator for digital services. However, such devices could cause some confusion in the market and would at least require new product labeling.

A more ambitious step would be an all-provider scheme for cable, telco, and even satellite video networks -- an idea NTCA and Verizon have endorsed.

VueKey "could be a step toward that," Verizon's Nawrocki says. "But it's not the endgame at this point."

Most industry followers, Nawrocki included, say a downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) eventually will fit the bill. In addition to reaplcing the relatively clunky (and expensive) CableCARD, a downloadable CA and encryption system could be extended to Internet-based services delivered via PCs, handsets, and Blu-ray players.

PolyCipher LLC , a joint venture ofComcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), has been working on a DCAS for several years, but implementation of the project has recently been handed over to Motorola, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and NDS Ltd. . (See Cisco, Moto Take Control of DCAS .)

ATIS, meanwhile, is assessing a range of DCAS approaches with the goal of recommending one by year's end, says technical coordinator Jim Turner.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to TelcoTV 2008, a conference and expo that will examine the convergence of communications and entertainment, and its impact on service providers from across the globe, to be staged in Anaheim, Calif., November 11-13. For more information, or to register, click here.

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