Tru2way Heats Up

Set-top software vendors are winning fresh
business as cable operators start to speed
up their deployment of Tru2way, the Cable-
Labs-developed software specification that
allows programmers and operators to deliver
standardized interactive applications to a
range of digital cable devices.

Major cable operators pledged to consumer
electronics manufacturers back in May 2008
that they would support Tru2way, which can
eliminate the need for a set-top box, across
their footprints by July 2009. But they missed
that deadline, and set-makers have focused
on marketing new features like broadband
capabilities and 3D over Tru2way.

Nonetheless, operators, led by Time Warner,
have been slowly deploying leased set-tops
that support Tru2way. And vendors say that a
meaningful number of Tru2way boxes should
hit the market in 2010 and 2011.

U.K.-based NDS, which has supplied
middleware to more than 140 million set-tops
worldwide but is still a relatively new player in
the U.S. cable market, has just won a major
deal from Comcast to help the cable giant
deploy Tru2way technology. NDS, which has
built up a professional services business that
initially handled Tru2way integration work for
Cox Communications, has been tapped by
Comcast to serve as its “prime integrator” for
deploying the CableLabs Tru2way Reference
Implementation (RI).

According to Jesper Knutsson, VP and general
manager of sales for NDS Americas, NDS’ task
is to take the RI software “stack,” which was
originally designed to perform simulations in a
PC environment, and optimize it for a variety of
set-tops. (Comcast is reportedly going to deploy
Tru2way on new Pace set-tops.) The company
will lead set-top-box testing, code development
and success validation for the integration of new
Tru2way applications and devices.

Mass deployments in 2011
Another middleware player riding Tru2way’s
growth is Korean firm Alticast, which fi rst
deployed Tru2way in Korea back in 2005; the
company has since rolled out its Tru2way
middleware in the U.S. on some 2 million set-tops
used by Time Warner Cable and Bright House
Networks. Last year, the company hired Vidiom
Systems and Charter Communications veteran
David Housman to run its U.S. unit. It has created
an “applications solutions” business that has
developed a Twitter app for Tru2way set-tops; the
app has drawn interest from major programmers.

Alticast, which also supplies software that
enables BD-Live broadband capability on Bluray
Disc players, has just won a deal to supply
middleware for Cisco’s new Tru2way boxes for
unnamed North America operators. It will also
supply its Tru2way middleware to Canadian
operator Videotron for use on Samsung boxes
and will provide application services, including
support of a new Tru2way program guide.

Housman estimates that there are only 4
million Tru2way set-tops deployed in the U.S.,
and expects that number to grow to 7 or 8 million
by year-end. He predicts the industry will
deploy 10 million new Tru2way set-tops next
year, with Alticast getting a sizable chunk of
that business: “We see exponential growth in
the cable set-top market in the U.S.”