Secaucus, NJ - After months of inter-industry squabbling, Panasonic said it has stepped up to become the first manufacturer to sign on with the cable industry's POD-Host Interface License Agreement (PHILA) to enable it to begin building next-generation digital cable ready televisions.
The agreement covers specifications for a one-way-only system that will enable consumers to connect a digital coaxial cable to a television display's RF input and receive standard and premium digital cable content (including HDTV programs) without the need of a separate set-top box.
'What we signed was an agreement to allow us to build a uni-directional terminal,' said Andy Nelkin, Panasonic digital technologies VP. 'By limiting our discussions to a unidirectional terminal most of the compliance issues [between the CE and cable industries] do not apply.'
Nelkin said Panasonic plans to introduce the first digital-cable-ready TVs next year. They will include special point-of-deployment (POD) card slots that will accept POD cards from local cable operators to authorize viewing the channels in a subscriber's programming package.
The agreement will also enable the new televisions to be sold at retail, with the assurance they will work with any digital cable system in the country.
The CE and cable industries continue to debate issues for two-way cable interoperability, Nelkin said. The primary sticking points continue to be related to multiple digital ouputs and encoding rules.
The POD host interface, which is the subject of the PHILA license, was developed by CableLabs, a specifications and standards setting organization of the cable industry.
'The POD-Host interface provides the standardized and secure communications link 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,' CableLabs said.
Donald Dulchinos, CableLabs OpenCable senior director, said 'all the cable operators have committed in writing to the FCC that they will support the OpenCable standard, and essentially that is available today.'
'Panasonic is pleased to take a leadership position in the fast-growing digital cable television market,' said Paul Liao, Panasonic digital technologies president.
'Panasonic's commitment demonstrates the confidence of the consumer electronics industry in cable as a platform for innovation,' said Richard R. Green, CableLabs president. '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,' Green added.