Tru2way Stumbling Blocks

The new tru2way technology that was set to allow manufacturer to make set-top boxes and built-in tuners that would work with any cable operating system isn't growing the way the industry predicted. A new research study by ABI Research is predicting that only half of all cable customers will have tru2way by 2013. What's causing the delay in what should have been a widely anticipated development?

Tru2way, formerly known as the Open Cable Applications Platform lets any compliant receiver view cable programming from any cable provider with the appropriate CableCARD. This means that anyone can build a set-top box, and perhaps more appealing, manufacturers can build a "universal" receiver into their television sets.

Set-top boxes are shipping, but only half of all cable customers will have a tru2way set-top box by 2013. The report by ABI Research says that "many industry-political obstacles and interoperability challenges must be overcome along the way."

Abi_logo From the ABI press release:
"Consumer electronics manufacturers have been at odds with the cable industry over tru2way for a long time," says ABI Research principal analyst Steve Wilson. "It's been a pretty contentious era. Vendors say the implementation is too expensive and that it's overkill for basic services. They point out that many cable operators aren't even deploying these systems. The cable operators themselves won't provide forecasts for tru2way STB deployments. They're not willing to tell the market (or developers) how many boxes they expect to ship over time."


Tru2way is 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. On the other, an open cable standard will reduce the tremendous cost burden custom systems and STBs place on the entire cable business. 


But what may prove the biggest challenge is interoperability. "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," warns


. "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.

It's a shame that a initiative that only has benefits for consumers is being held up by cable operators. Without 2-way communication, improvements such as Switched Digital Video will be limited, which sucks for everyone. -Leslie Shapiro

ABI Research Brief