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EchoStar Taps Tru2Way

8/15/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Looking to sell set-tops to U.S. cable companies, EchoStar has inked a Tru2way Host Device license agreement with CableLabs.

The agreement grants EchoStar the rights required to implement OpenCable Application Platform middleware and the CableCard interface on devices using Tru2way technology, allowing users to take full advantage of two-way, interactive cable services.

Tru2way technology is a national software platform that enables cable's interactive services to be delivered to two-way plug and play TVs, set-top boxes, and other devices. Tru2way also creates a national footprint for the creators of interactive services to develop products that work on cable systems in nearly every U.S. market. Major cable operators have committed to support the Tru2way platform on systems covering more than 90 million U.S. homes by year-end.

“We are firmly committed to becoming a vendor of choice in the cable industry, leveraging decades of systems and manufacturing excellence and today's announcement asserts our commitment,” EchoStar president Mark Jackson said in a statement.

Early this year, Charles Ergen's EchoStar Communications split into two publicly traded companies. One is the satellite-TV service Dish Network and the other is EchoStar, which houses the set-top and fixed-satellite businesses, as well as acquisition Sling Media.

Now EchoStar is trying to sell its set-tops, which are used by Dish Network, to cable operators as well, a daunting prospect since the cable industry considers Ergen a rival. So far, EchoStar has not made a set-top sale to a domestic cable operator, a company spokesman said last week.

EchoStar's made its first formal sales pitch to the cable industry at The Cable Show in May, where the company displayed the SlingModem — a CableLabs certified DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem combined with the place-shifting technology of a Slingbox.

The Tru2way license agreement is available to any consumer electronics manufacturer on a nondiscriminatory basis.

The new Tru2way Host Device License Agreement provides manufacturers of retail consumer electronics devices streamlined access to technology required to interface with two-way interactive cable networks, and aligns with the “openness” focus announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Among other terms, the license provides for self-certification and paper certification of retail devices, formal rights of participation by consumer-electronics manufacturers in CableLabs processes, approval of new digital outputs via a four-studio approach, and a Tru2way trademark license.

September