Leading American cable television operators have announced their current and long-term commitment to the Open Cable Application Platform at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, pledging to roll out deployments over the next three years.

The cable industry has said it will begin OCAP launches in 2006 and complete headend installations nationwide by the middle of 2009.

The OCAP middleware software specification for interactive television was established by CableLabs, the non-profit cable industry research and development consortium. OCAP is based on the European DVB MHP standard, enabling applications to run across a broad range of set-top boxes and cable-ready televisions and ultimately provide a national footprint for interactive services.

Time Warner Cable chairman and chief executive Glenn Britt, who is also chairman of CableLabs, said that his company will begin the deployment of OCAP capabilities in headends of cable systems serving five markets – including their largest operation in New York City – with a combined customer base of about 2.5 million consumers.

Comcast chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts said that in 2006 his company would be deploying OCAP in Philadelphia, Denver and Boston, and across the entire company in the next few years. Comcast has signed a deal with Panasonic to provide 250,000 high-definition digital video recorders with dual MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 compression and OCAP middleware.

Other cable companies making similar announcements included Charter, Cox and Cablevision. Cox plans to deploy a series of news, weather, customer service and gaming applications, while Cablevision has begun to port its user interface over to OCAP.

The cable companies noted that common standards have always been a benefit to the industry and the consumer, citing the example of the DOCSIS cable modem standard. They said that OCAP holds similar promise and represents the most potent competitive advantage for cable providers over their satellite competitors.

Progress was also announced on a new downloadable conditional access system known as DCAS that will ultimately replace the CableCard system based on removable security cards.