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Nagra, Evolution Seek DTA Waivers

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
7/31/2009
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Nagravision SA and Evolution Broadband LLC are the latest to toss in set-top waiver requests for Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA)s. These special channel zappers help cable MSOs reuse valuable analog spectrum for more high-definition television content and speedier Docsis 3.0 cable modem services. Nagravision and Evolution are joining the mix (or rejoining it, in the case of Evolution) in the wake of a streamlined process the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established after awarding a three-year waiver to two standard-definition DTA models developed by Evolution. (See FCC Believes in Evolution-ary DTAs.) Some U.S. MSOs -- mostly Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), at this point -- are using DTAs as a low-cost option for their digital migration strategies. However, an FCC ban on set-tops with integrated security prevents MSOs from using DTAs with on-board security unless they obtain a waiver -- or opt to deploy a box that's been awarded an FCC hall pass. (See Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan and Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.) Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Pace Micro Technology , and Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453) are also pursuing DTA waivers, but the FCC has yet to act on them, likely because the original waiver awarded to Evolution is being contested by a group comprising Free Press , Public Knowledge, and others. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has also thrown a few rocks. (See Cisco, Moto Go for DTA Waivers , DTA Waiver Mania, and CEA Presses for CableCard Successor.) Evolution gets def
Evolution, as expected, is officially seeking a three-year waiver on the DMS-1004 HD-CA, a hi-def-capable, one-way, digital-to-analog converter box that integrates the Conax AS conditional access system using a small SIM card. Evolution is the first to pursue a waiver for an HD-capable DTA. (See Evolution Guns for HD Box Waiver .) Definitely hi-def Evolution says the box can be had for less than $100 per unit, comparing it to the $300 to $325 it costs for CableCARD-complaint HD set-top box. According to the waiver document, the device complies with DVB SimulCrypt, meaning it can accept a conditional access or security system from a vendor other than Conax and give the device a sense of openness. That disclosure is also an indication that Evolution will be pushing for other vendors and operators to adopt SimulCrypt for the U.S. market. Evolution is going after the waiver a few weeks after Cable ONE Inc. obtained one to deploy an HD-DTA in one small system in Tennessee. The FCC agreed with the operator's argument that HD services can no longer be classified as an "advanced" service because hi-def has become commonplace. (See Cable ONE Snares HD Set-Top Waiver and HD No Longer an 'Advanced' Service?) Nagra joins the party
Nagravision, in documents filed on July 13, also wants a three-year waiver, but for two one-way, SD devices -- the AC-N060PD2A-SC and AC-N060PD2A-SIM. A company official confirms that the first of the two is for a device outfitted with a SmartCard interface; the second is for a SIM card, which is functionally identical to a SmartCard but uses a smaller form factor. Nagra, a conditional access technology supplier, isn't a box maker, but would likely pursue an outside vendor to make the devices based on Nagra's specs and designs. But it did offer this as an example of what it has in mind: Nagra DTA Nagravision says the DTAs referenced in its filings are "no more advanced" than the devices Evolution won waivers for. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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