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A CableCARD is about the size of a credit card and roughly similar in function to the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card used in mobile phones. Cable operators supply the CableCARD, which is inserted into a set-top box or television set that a consumer buys at a store to authenticate the subscriber.


To ensure adequate support for CableCARDs, the FCC required cable operators to use CableCARDs for set-top boxes leased to consumers.

The first devices from third-party manufacturers using CableCARDs hit the retail market in August 2004. Three years later, in July 2007, cable operators began using CableCARDs in their leased set-top boxes.[1]


  1. Implementation of Section 304 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996; Commercial Availability of Navigation Devices, CS Docket No. 97-80, Second Report and Order, 20 FCC Rcd 6794, 6802–03, 6814, paras. 13, 31 (2005).