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CableLabs OKs the Cablevision Way

Jeff Baumgartner
6/30/2011

CableLabs has recently standardized an open system that Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) is championing in support of a downloadable security system that doesn't rely on the much-maligned CableCARD.

Open Media Security (OMS) is now an official option under the CableLabs OpenCable/tru2way specifications. Operators don't have to use it, but it's become a "conditional mandatory" addition, CableLabs VP of Advanced Media Platforms So Vang told Light Reading Cable at The Cable Show recently. That means MSOs that want to implement OMS must implement it in a certain way.

Cablevision is the only U.S. cable operator to adopt OMS so far, using it for a downloadable security system initially inside Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) set-top boxes and alongside the NDS Ltd. conditional access system. Cablevision, which is deploying OMS on top of tru2way, may end up serving as the OMS licensing authority, an idea that was circulating last year. (See Cablevision May Take Security for a Spin(off) .)

No other MSOs have publicly signed on yet, but industry sources say some including Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) have given OMS more than a cursory glance. On the other foot, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) might not be a great fit, because it has all but branched off to develop unified specifications for set-tops and other consumer premises equipment (CPE). (See Comcast's 'Xfinity' Brand to Take Over the House .)

Cablevision has some obvious incentives for wanting more MSOs deploy OMS. It would certainly beef up volumes and help to drive down costs -- which are already fairly low due to the lack of relatively expensive CableCARD interface and modules. Cablevision has already stated a desire for set-tops priced below $50. (See Cablevision Eyes $50 Set-Top.)

But there are regulatory factors to consider. Cablevision had to obtain a condition-laden waiver from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to deploy its downloadable security system, and other MSOs might have to go to similar lengths. Among the conditions, Cablevision must still support devices that use CableCARDs.

There are also some big incentives for video security firms that aren't named Motorola Mobility LLC or Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Cablevision is using NDS's key ladder (a descrambling technology) and the NDS conditional access system, but NDS has stressed that the key ladder can be used with other vendors' security systems, too. OMS, by the way, is an authority that can allow other entities, including set-top makers, video security firms or chip vendors to use the key ladder.

Edmond Shapiro, vice president of project delivery for NDS's Americas unit, discussed OMS and the key ladder in more detail at the show earlier this month:



OMS is coming into play as the FCC considers whether to turn its AllVid inquiry, viewed as a possible successor to the CableCARD, into a full-fledged rule-making effort. (See Cable: FCC's AllVid Goes Too Far and Cablevision Scores Set-Top Waiver Extension .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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