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Why OpenCable?

   

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Why OpenCable?

  

 

Goals of OpenCable

  

 

Market Forces

  

 

Government Regulation

  

 

Retail Issues

  

 

OpenCable Solutions

  

 

Summary

  

 

References

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OpenCable Architecture

From: OpenCable Architecture
Author: Michael Adams
Publisher: Cisco Press (53)
More Information

12. Why OpenCable?

The old model of cable television, in which each cable system is an island of proprietary technology, is changing rapidly due to competition from Direct Broadcast from Satellite (DBS), recent government regulation, digital television, silicon integration, and the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations now provide for retail availability of the set-top (or navigation device) with the goal of reducing the cost to the customer by facilitating free-market competition. In a digital world, effective standards are required to provide compatibility between the cable system and consumer electronic devices. Silicon integration continues to produce cost-performance breakthroughs, particularly in set-top components, such as microprocessors and memory. Finally, the Internet is an interactive model that has shown explosive growth, and much of the same networking technology can be applied to enhance television services.

OpenCable is an initiative led by Cable Television Laboratories (CableLabs) on behalf of the cable operators. OpenCable seeks to set a common set of requirements for set-top equipment so that new suppliers from the consumer electronics and computer industries can start to build equipment for connection to cable systems.

The genesis of OpenCable is due to a number of factors:

  • A sense that the advanced technology being developed by the consumer electronics and computer industries is not being made available by traditional cable suppliers

  • The rapid growth of DBS competitors that have used digital technology to leapfrog the cable industry

  • The observation that while other industries have thrived through interoperable standards, the cable industry has stayed relatively closed and proprietary in its approach to new technologies

These factors led to the standards-based approach of OpenCable. OpenCable specifies an architecture based on standards where they are already in place. Where no applicable standards exist, OpenCable will develop such standards that are necessary and pass them into the appropriate industry-approved standards organizations for adoption. (An example is the specification for a point-of-deployment module interface, initially proposed by OpenCable as document OCI-C2 and subsequently developed and adopted as the DVS 131 standard by the SCTE Digital Video Subcommittee. DVS 131 is discussed in detail in Chapter 18, “OCI-C2: The Security Interface.”)

In addition, OpenCable defines functional requirements for equipment that connects to the cable system (see Chapter 14, “OpenCable Device Functional Requirements”).

Goals of OpenCable

OpenCable was first conceived as a way to encourage new suppliers from the consumer electronics and computer industries to build products for the cable industry. However, the goals were soon expanded as a result of the FCC's Report and Order (R&O) in the proceeding implementing Section 304 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Section 304 called upon the FCC to adopt rules to ensure the commercial availability of navigation devices, while not jeopardizing the signal security of the cable operator.

The following summarizes the expanded goals of OpenCable:

  • Encourage entry of new suppliers into the cable industry, particularly for set-tops.

  • Support the introduction of new services, particularly those based on the convergence of the computing and entertainment industries.

  • Support retail availability of set-tops.

New Suppliers

The entry of new suppliers, particularly for digital set-tops is intended to promote competition and to provide enhanced features at lower cost. Previous efforts by individual cable operators to broaden the supplier base failed, mainly because the cable marketplace is small and highly segmented. To address this, OpenCable started to work on a set of purchase requirements for an OpenCable set-top that were consistent across the cable industry (made possible by digital standards and the natural discontinuity due to introduction of new technology). The consistent purchase requirements are intended to make the entire North American cable industry a single, unified market with sufficient volume to generate interest from large consumer electronics and computer equipment vendors.

New Services

The cable industry experiences considerable difficulty in bringing new services to market, particularly those services that rely on Internet and computer technology. This has caused considerable frustration with those traditional cable suppliers that have been slow to adopt any technologies they did not invent themselves.

Retail Availability

The OpenCable initiative was already addressing many of the issues of separable security to enable the entry of new suppliers and services, and it was natural to use the OpenCable approach to propose a solution that could be used to satisfy the FCC's Report and Order in the proceeding addressing the retail availability of navigation devices.

   

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Breaking News

One of the primary architects of OpenCable, Michael Adams, explains the key concepts of this initiative in his book OpenCable Architecture.

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