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Panasonic, CableLabs in DTV Deal

An agreement signed October 17 by Panasonic and CableLabs will make Panasonic the first manufacturer to build digital television receivers capable of directly accepting high-definition signals from cable providers.

The two companies agreed to implement the "POD (point of deployment)–Host Interface License Agreement" (PHILA) standard in forthcoming Panasonic models. PHILA allows television receivers to decode HD signals without the need for set-top converter boxes (STBs). CableLabs, a cross-industry organization dedicated to establishing hardware and software standards for the cable industry, developed the standard to achieve interoperability between cable systems and consumer electronics equipment.

PHILA also allows the direct reception of premium channels through the use of standardized "secure communications links between an individually addressable POD security module, which provides the necessary customization for operation with the consumer's local cable system, and the 'host' digital television," according to a joint announcement. Cable operators will supply a card-sized POD module to their customers, which can be inserted in a card-slot in a PHILA-compliant TV or STB "to authorize access to encryption-protected digital programming, including premium cable services."

PHILA anticipates some of the requirements for accelerating the rollout of DTV as set forth by Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell, Congressman Billy Tauzin (chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee), and Congressman Fred Upton (chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee), the announcement stated.

"We are extraordinarily pleased to be working with a quality leader in the consumer electronics industry like Panasonic," said CableLabs president and CEO Dr. Richard R. Green. "CableLabs and the cable industry look forward to working with Panasonic and with other leading consumer electronics companies in developing advanced video and communications services to benefit consumers."

The technology usurps the role of the STB and lets the television set itself perform de-scrambling and decoding duties. It should simplify cable installations and system operations for many consumers if it becomes widely adopted. Consumers who stick with analog television receivers will still need their STBs in order to receive HD and premium programming, as some 35 million do now.

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