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Cable/Video

Evolution Preps New CableCARD

Depending on how things shake out at CableLabs , there should be a new CableCARD hitting the market during the first quarter of 2009.

That new product is due from Evolution Broadband LLC , which has developed an integrated digital video system for small- and mid-sized operators.

Its strategy is centered on tru2way , as it aims to tie together headends and digital set-tops that support the CableLabs-specified middleware (a.k.a. OpenCable Application Platform). Separable security, another component of the tru2way system, will be enabled via a CableCARD that will carry the Evolution label, but be based on the Conax AS conditional access system. (See Evolution Thinks Small , Evolution, Blankom Scrum Over Conax and Conax: Blankom Must Go Through Evolution.)

Evolution's CableCARD has been through a pre-certification process at CableLabs and has been tested on several CableCARD "hosts," including a dual-tuner HD box made by TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), according to Brent Smith, president of Evolution's digital division. "From a functionality standpoint, it's working great," he claims.

But Evolution still needs the official CableLabs stamp. It plans to submit the CableCARD for official testing in January and, if it passes, take a "turn-key" Conax-based platform to market that would include MPEG-4-based content from aggregator Avail Media Inc.

CableLabs has already approved CableCARDs made by Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and NDS Ltd. .

Smith says Evolution has at least a couple of customers who could benefit from the system immediately. For instance, Houston's TVMax, an existing Evolution customer, is already deploying set-tops that use Conax Smartcards. While Massillon Cable TV Inc. is spearheading a digital migration using Evolution's digital terminal adapters (DTAs). Other operators remain in budget planning, but could be ready to pull the trigger on something by the first quarter of next year.

Smith says Evolution is already conducting tests on its tru2way-based headend. On the middleware end, the company is vetting two OCAP stacks as well as some interactive program guides (IPGs) that tie into the middleware. Evolution plans to discuss its OCAP partnerships in more details during the next month or so.

"We think there's a real opportunity to get [Tier 2 cable operators] to a position where they can benefit from tru2way devices. The challenge has been cost, complexity, and the integration necessary to do the tru2way implementation on a tier-2 system," Smith says.

Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) is also planning to attack this market using an integrated system that employs a downloadable conditional access system. (See BBT Loads Up for First Field Test and BBT: Tru2way? No Problem .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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