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BBT Buys Into Boxes

Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) , a cable consortium that has developed a downloadable security system, is now in the box business, too, after snapping up the set-top assets of R.L. Drake LLC . (See BBT Buys Drake's Box Biz.)

Drake Digital Freedom LLC (DDF), the division of R.L. Drake that's changing hands, developed a set-top box that runs the "BBTSolution," an open downloadable conditional access system that uses a secure microprocessor made by STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM). R.L. Drake will continue to make cable headend systems, including a version that works with BBT's security platform. The companies announced the original headend and box set-up in March 2009. They are sourcing programming from Avail-TVN . (See Drake Heats Up Digital Strategy .)

Drake and BBT are targeting the platform primarily to Tier 2 and Tier 3 MSOs, which is why they are shedding light on the deal just ahead of The Independent Show, taking place this week in Baltimore.

BBT CEO and chief technology officer Bill Bauer tells Light Reading Cable that the consortium, backed by WinDBreak Cable, Buford Media Group, and Tele-Media Broadband, plans to create a new entity for the box unit. BBT isn't disclosing the deal terms, but Bauer says BBT is taking over Drake's Digital Freedom box technology and design, and snapping up the existing inventory.

BBT, however, has no long-term plans to stay in the box business.

"We view it [the asset deal] as an enabler to get product in the field. It doesn't fit under the BBT umbrella, because we're encouraging other manufacturers to make the boxes" for the BBT security platform, he says, adding that he has contracts in the works with two "major" set-top manufacturers.

BBT, whose downloadable system conforms with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's removable security mandate, has some systems already deployed. (Nagravision SA , by the way, is asking the Commission to clarify that position as it looks to tweak the existing CableCARD rules.)

Last year, Drake identified trials with NexHorizon Communications Inc. (for new systems in southern and central California); FamilyView Cablevision (northwestern South Carolina); and Nelson Cable (a "private" community system in Virginia). (See Drake Downloads Some Deals .)

Bauer says about 100 Digital Freedom boxes have been produced and that the next step will be a release for mass production. He's not saying when that's expected to happen but notes that Telcordia Technologies Inc. has completed the security testing necessary to clear the way for full production.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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