Answers about Digital Cable Ready and the CableCARD
New Rules Make DTV Transition Easier
The FCC has adopted rules reached between the cable and consumer electronics industries that will help smooth the transition to DTV for millions of Americans. These "plug-and-play" rules will ensure that most cable systems are compatible with DTV receivers and related consumer electronics equipment. This is crucial toward building products, developing services and maintaining a market-friendly environment for HDTV. The cable plug-and-play rules are important to the DTV transition because they will facilitate the direct connection of digital navigation devices or customer premises equipment, such as television receivers, set-top boxes, and digital recorders that are purchased from retail outlets to cable television systems.
A "plug-and-play" DTV is a television that you can plug directly into your cable system and receive analog and most digital cable services without the need for a set-top box. The cable and consumer electronics industries have dubbed these types of televisions "digital cable ready" or DCR. More and more cable services are being provided in digital format, and broadcast stations are in the midst of the transition from analog to an all-digital service. These new sets make the DTV transition easy for the consumer.
Benefits of Plug-and-Play:
- Many consumers like the convenience (and cost savings) of receiving cable programming without the need of a set-top box. If nothing else, it's one less remote control to keep track of!
- You will be able to take your plug-and-play set virtually anywhere in the country and know it will work on cable systems offering digital services.
- Plug-and-play will allow you to fully utilize the features and functions provided by the television set that often are disabled when connected to a cable set-top box.
- Manufacturers will also be able to make other kinds of innovative new plug-and-play products, such as Digital Cable Ready hard-drive recorders, DVD recorders and personal computers. These products will be able to receive digital cable without the need for a set-top box provided by the cable operator.
New Digital Cable Ready HDTV's allow consumers to "plug and play" their way to DTV.
Digital plug-and-play will not work quite like analog. For digital plug-and-play, you'll probably need to get a security card (also known as a "CableCARD™") from your local cable operator. The security card will permit you to watch scrambled programming and premium services, to which you're subscribed.
Will I Need A Set-Top Box If I Have A Plug-and-Play Set?
The first generation of plug-and-play sets will be able to receive one-way programming only, including analog basic, digital basic, and digital premium cable programming. If you want to receive certain advanced digital cable services like video-ondemand, the cable operator-enhanced program guide, or interactive data-enhanced television service, using a first generation set, you will need to use a set-top box. You may also need a set-top box to receive other cable operator-provided services.
Availability of Plug-and-Play Sets
Plug-and-play sets built pursuant to the new standards may be available as early as the second half of 2004. To know if you are buying a plug-and-play set, ask your retailer if the set is "digital cable ready." Manufacturers that use that label must meet certain technical standards and complete a testing and verification process.
Negotiations are underway between the cable and consumer electronics industries to establish standards that would permit plug-and-play sets to provide advanced two-way services as well.
Watching HDTV On A Plug-And-Play Set
Plug-and-play will permit you to watch digital programming, but as with all DTV sets, only HDTV plug-and-play sets will display full high-definition quality. To be sure, check with your retailer on whether the set displays full high-definition quality or a lower resolution. You should also ask your local cable provider if they offer HDTV programming.
This material has been adapted from HDTVGuide — a resource for information on the analog-to-digital transition, jointly produced by TWICE Magazine and CEA.
*See also the Federal Communications Commission fact sheet at www.fcc.gov.