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FCC Approves DTAs From Moto, Cisco, Thomson & Pace

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Media Bureau has granted three-year waivers to Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices made by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453), and Pace Micro Technology , a decision that looks to benefit Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) the most in the near-term, but could also spur adoption of the devices by numerous other U.S. cable MSOs.

The waivers give Comcast and, potentially, other operators the green light to deploy those inexpensive, one-way "channel zappers" (they cost about $35 each) with security enabled, thereby sidestepping an integrated security ban that took effect in July 2007. Those waivers will also give MSOs access to simple digital-to-analog converter boxes that cost much less than entry-level, interactive set-tops that rely on removable CableCARDs to decrypt and authorize digital video signals. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

Comcast, which has tried and failed to obtain box waivers on its own on multiple occasions, has been deploying DTAs by the boatload without security enabled, as part of a larger analog reclamation strategy. However, a firmware download can activate a content protection scheme that's already burned into the DTA chips. (See Comcast's DTAs: Security Optional , Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan , and Comcast Seeds Digital Shift With Free Boxes.)

The FCC adopted the order on Monday but, as of this writing, has not posted it publicly. However, Cable Digital News has obtained multiple copies of it.

The FCC, in a six-page explanation granting the waivers, agreed that the DTA models submitted by Cisco, Moto, Thomson, and Pace were no more advanced than two standard-def DTAs from Evolution Broadband LLC that the Commission awarded three-year waivers to in early June. That original waiver essentially allows MSOs to use and deploy the Evolution boxes with an integrated conditional access system from Conax AS without seeking out and obtaining separate waivers. (See FCC Believes in Evolution-ary DTAs.)

Monday's waiver award will likely mean the same for Comcast and other MSOs that want to use DTAs with security from Moto, Cisco, Thomson, and Pace. For example, Mediacom Communications Corp. , an MSO that uses Motorola gear, recently revealed that DTAs could play a role in its bandwidth management plan. (See Mediacom Gets Serious About Wideband.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:58:09 PM
re: FCC Approves DTAs From Moto, Cisco, Thomson & Pace

Probably not a huge surprise, but The Consumer Electronics Association was a tad dissapointed in Monday's waiver order, claiming that consumers will be the ones losing out.  also, doing some checking with the MSOs to see if the new waiver order will have any affect on thier DTA plans, and at least one among the majors said that "this [order] is what we've been waiting for."  

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