A retail market for tru2way compliant set-top boxes (STBs) in the US will never emerge unless they are portable across cable systems.
That’s the conclusion of Steve Wilson, principal analyst with ABI Research, who expects the biggest challenge to tru2way to be interoperability.
The 1996 Telecommunications Act required cable operators to open up their specifications to create a more competitive market in the United States.
The result was OCAP, the Open Cable Applications Platform, recently rebranded “tru2way”.
Any device with a tru2way compliant receiver can receive premium cable TV programming on any operator’s network with the appropriate CableCARD.
This means any STB vendor can build a tru2way-compliant device and compete for cable operators’ business, and CE manufacturers can embed them in TV’s or other devices for retail.
In his research brief, “The Outlook for tru2way”, Wilson describes it as a “double-edged sword” for operators.
“On one hand, cable operators want to ‘own’ the customer’s entire user experience and they aren’t ready to allow others to start loading applications into the STB,” he said.
“On the other, an open cable standard will reduce the tremendous cost burden custom systems and STBs place on the entire cable business.”
Wilson says operators are finally starting to deploy tru2way STBs and estimates that in 2013 about half of all US cable subscribers will have a tru2way STB.
But he goes on to warn that to achieve this many industry-political obstacles and interoperability challenges must be overcome along the way.
“There’s no real interoperability testing, and no industry group focused on making sure that all the devices brought to market will work in all cable systems,” he said.
“If applications and devices aren’t portable across cable systems, a retail market will never appear and operators will continue to carry the burden of STBs.”

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