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CableLabs Spins Off Device-Security Unit

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
11/5/2012
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CableLabs is a non-profit organization, but the R&D consortium's first-ever subsidiary will look to change that.

CableLabs on Monday is announcing the spinoff of NetworkFX , an "online trust management" firm that will package and sell the industry's public key infrastructure (PKI) as an authenticated device security system that can be used by industries outside of cable, including banking, consumer electronics and healthcare. (See CableLabs Launches NetworkFX Unit.)

The proposal is to have NetworkFX offer a hosted version of the PKI that can manage and govern the implementation of security policies, and back it up with service-level agreements, redundant systems, and disaster recovery and archiving.

Cable's PKI has been in place for about a dozen years, and has been used to issue and embed more than 200 million digital certificates for cable modems, set-tops, multimedia terminal adapters and other broadband devices. Cable uses these digital certificates to prevent device cloning and to deter unauthorized access to cable services and content. NetworkFX claims it can get businesses up and running with the PKI in a matter of days and scale from hundreds to millions of device certifications.

One big potential target for NetworkFX is the consumer electronics industry. A key aim there is to help streamline the authentication process for an array of broadband-fed devices, including laptops, smartphones, TVs, home alarm systems, Blu-ray players, games consoles and tablets. With the proper digital certificates in place, those devices will then be authorized to securely connect to access networks and obtain online digital content and Web-based services.

NetworkFX has already signed some customers outside the cable realm, but has yet to reveal any names. The unit is in talks with at least 15 groups "in all sorts of ecosystems," NetworkFX President Oscar Marcia said Friday during a press briefing. "The interest is very strong," added Marcia, who is also VP of security at CableLabs.

Why this matters
This for-profit spinoff is a first for the Colorado-based R&D house, and is the latest significant initiative to get underway at CableLabs since new president and CEO Phil McKinney took the reins in June.

If it's successful, NetworkFX could create a new revenue stream for MSO-backed CableLabs. Its biggest revenue-generator is membership fees, followed by fees that funnel in via MPEG LA LLC , a Denver-based company created in 1996 with the help of CableLabs to manage and license MPEG-related intellectual property rights.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



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