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Firewire (IEEE 1394) Topics

This article describes Firewire (IEEE 1394) standards and identifies common topics about the technology. Charter is complying with an industry mandate to make the IEEE 1394 connection available to new or existing HDTV customers. 

IEEE 1394 is a digital connection that is used to connect a digital receiver to a TV and/or a Digital VCR (DVCR).  A customer may require a different model digital receiver from what is currently installed in their home.


IEEE 1394 Capable Digital Receivers

As of July 2005, Charter only purchases HD receivers with IEEE 1394 interfaces.  When having an HD receiver installed, a customer may request that it contain a 1394 interface. The HD receivers purchased clearly identify the 1394 interfaces on the back of the set top box.  Simply look for those ports and the associated labels on the back of the HD receiver.

IEEE 1394 Initiative

In cooperation with other MSOs, Charter is committed to the growth and development of the digital audio/video market.  In the Cable MSO-Consumer Electronics Industry Agreement on "Plug & Play" Cable Compatibility and Related Issues, Charter agreed to provide support for IEEE 1394 connections beginning April, 1, 2004.  IEEE 1394 connections enable authorized recording of programming while preventing unauthorized recording and copying.  IEEE 1394 services also enable "Plug & Play" in-home networking of digital audio/video devices.

IEEE 1394 Limitations

When using the 1394 connection to stream audio and video between devices, functions that are available in a computer environment may not always be possible.  This may include functions such as file copying, directory access, etc.

IEEE 1394 does not permit the use of the HD receiver’s graphical overlays.  This includes any windows or dialog boxes created by the electronic program guide.

Some 1394 devices can control other 1394 devices over the 1394 connection.  The ability to control and the functions controlled can vary based on the controlling equipment and the equipment to be controlled.

IEEE 1394 Requirement Effective Date

The requirement took effect April 1, 2004 and applies to any customer in a market where Charter offers High-Definition Services via a leased HD receiver.  If a customer asks for an HD receiver with "1394," Charter will, at no additional cost (other than standard installation fees), make available an IEEE 1394 enabled HD receiver.

IEEE 1394 Supported Equipment

Look on the equipment, but the interface may not be clearly labeled.  Each manufacturer may choose a different name for the interface.  You should be able to find the information in the user manual that came with the equipment, or on the manufacturer’s Web site.

Supplying IEEE 1394 Cables

Unfortunately, you are responsible for purchasing your own cables.



"5C" refers to the license on the HD receiver that protects digital content from theft and transmission to the Internet.  It also controls digital copy encoding rules that can be applied to programming or channels, such as Copy Freely, Copy Once, and Copy Never.  These rules are typically added or required by content providers.  The 5C license only applies to IEEE-1394.  5C is also known as the Digital Transmission Content Protection (DTCP) system.


DVI (Digital Visual Interface) is used to transmit video digitally to a display device, such as a computer monitor or TV.  DVI cannot be used for recording.  Some high definition set top boxes use DVI because it displays high-quality content along with the electronic program guide and other text and graphics not visible using 1394.  While there is more than one type of DVI connection, the most common interface used is the DVI-D (DVI-Digital only) connection.  Audio is not carried on a DVI connection and must be connected by a separate method.  Generally, all audio/video devices to be connected must be HDCP compliant to be connected.  Connecting a non-HDCP compliant TV to a HDCP compliant set top box would result in a black screen on the TV.

Encoding Rules

These rules were created and approved by various private sector and governmental bodies to enable recording of content for personal use while protecting high-value content.

  • Copy Freely applies to "over-the-air broadcasts" and permits the user to copy for personal use and play back with minimal restrictions.
  • Copy Once applies to content from subscription services, such as HBO or Showtime, and permits the user to copy the content to a single device for playback at a later time but does not permit duplicating for any reason.
  • Copy Never is used for high-value content such as Pay-Per-View or VOD and does not allow the receiving device to record the content.


HDCP is an Intel specification used to protect digital content transmitted and received by DVI and HDMI compliant equipment.  It uses the same encoding rules as IEEE 1394 5C.


HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is a specification that combines video and audio into a single digital interface for use with DVD players, digital television players, set top boxes, and other audio-visual devices.  HDMI uses the same electrical signals as DVI for video, but contains it in a smaller connector and includes audio support, all in a single cable.  Just like DVI, HDMI devices should also generally be HDCP compliant.  DVI and HDMI devices can be connected together using an HDMI/DVI adapter or cable for the video.  Audio would be connected separately using a connection type that will vary based on the equipment being connected.

IEEE 1394

The IEEE 1394 port is a high speed serial interface originally used for computers.  IEEE 1394 in now available for digital input/output connection on consumer electronic devices.  This connection is often called "FireWire".  The IEEE 1394 specification permits digital transmission of digital audio and video signals between devices such as set top boxes and HDTVs and DVCRs.  It is the only approved output for digital content for the purpose of recording in digital format.  IEEE 1394 allows in-home networking of compliant digital audio-video devices.  IEEE refers to the standards body and professional organization supporting the standard, i. e. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. There are three versions of IEEE 1394:

  • IEEE 1394:  The initial version developed by Apple Computer.  Apple called the interface "FireWire" for its fast operating speed.
  • IEEE 1394a:  Developed by Sony and marketed by the trademarked name of "iLink".
  • IEEE 1394b:  The current industry-supported standard. 

IEEE 1394b is generally referred to by many names, including IEEE 1394, 1394, FireWire.

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