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Clarity on CableCARD and VOD

There continues to be much confusion around CableCARDs and the ability to support two-way communication between a set-top and a cable headend. Maybe I’ve missed it, but it seems no one has put together the fact that the latest CableCARDs have to be two-way given the fast-approaching 7/07 deadline.

Put simply, there is no way operators will give up on VOD service when they switch to shipping only CableCARD-enabled set-tops in July. It’s their bread and butter. (Good news for consumers who appear to like VOD at least as much as the MSOs.) So the question is, what are the technical specifications of the latest CableCARDs, and how will VOD work after July 1st?


I did some checking and found that Motorola’s M-Card and new DCH line of CableCARD-enabled set-tops support both multistream video and two-way communication. That’s the key. Both the CableCARD and the host hardware (set-top) have to support two-way service in order for it to work. Luckily for us consumers, service providers have every incentive to make sure that the gear they lease to subscribers covers both requirements.

3 Responses

  1. I don’t think you’re correct here. Just because STBs must use cable cards after the deadline, doesn’t mean that the rest of the STB can only communicate with the network via the cablecard. As I understand it, two way communication requires CableCard 2.0, which isn’t even remotely finalized, and is being supplanted by OCAP anyway.

  2. From CableLabs: “When a CableCARD 1.0 module is used with a two-way receiver (e.g., Samsung HLR5067C) that card supports all the necessary two-way functionality for VOD, SDV, and other interactive services.”

    However, I don’t know if the new Host set-tops communicate with the network separate from the CableCARD. It would seem counterintuitive given that the whole idea is based on “separable security”.

    The topic is extremely convoluted. I will see if I can get one of the Motorolans working on the Host set-tops to make a guest appearance on this blog in the near future.

  3. […] Two-way CableCARDs mean not only can you get video-on-demand and switched digital video, you can now send messages to Brian Roberts through your cable set-top […]

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