America’s hitherto sluggish transition to digital television may speed up considerably after cable companies and television set manufacturers finally forged an agreement concerning the technology involved.

The deal – signed by fourteen consumer electronics firms and the seven major cable operators (accounting for over 75% of all subscribers) – paves the way for a US-wide ‘plug-and-play’ standard.

This means digital television sets will be able to receive dTV services via cable without recourse to a set-top box.

The agreement includes technical guidelines, a suggested regulatory framework for digital products, ‘encoding rules’ to allay copyright fears connected with recording and watching shows at home, and proposals to ensure consumers can transfer content securely onto other devices.

The two sides have been hammering out the details since a tentative agreement was reached last month [WAMN: 11-Nov-02].

Assuming there is no hold-up from the Federal Communications Commission – which promised to review “expeditiously” whether or not to adopt the agreement – the companies involved believe ‘plug-and-play’ services may be available nationally from 2004.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff