PolyCipher Targets '08 Trials
Lookabaugh, speaking to Cable Digital News Tuesday afternoon following his panel here at The Cable Show, said the goal is to get trials up and going next year, but he declined to pinpoint when DCAS might reach commercial availability.
"We are pushing as fast as we can," he said.
A source familiar with the PolyCipher project said a functioning system is "at least a couple of years away."
Tuesday afternoon marked a rare public appearance for PolyCipher, the Denver-based joint venture headed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and Cox Communications Inc.
DCAS, PolyCipher's primary aim, is being billed as a less clunky and less expensive replacement for the CableCARD, a hardware-based conditional access platform that will gain wide deployment by July with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ban on digital set-tops with integrated security.
Some cable operators, including Charter Communications Inc. and BendBroadband , have received conditional waivers to buy and deploy limited-function digital set-tops with embedded security after the deadline. (See MSOs Get Waiver on Set-Top Security.)
One key element of PolyCipher's DCAS implementation is a secure microprocessor that would sit in the set-top, TV, or other "host" device to receive data such as security keys. Although the cable industry will seek multiple suppliers eventually, the sole provider for this component is believed to be Infineon Technologies AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: IFX).
During his presentation Tuesday, Lookabaugh said the processor is designed to be inexpensive but highly secure, likening it to the technology used today in credit card-sized SmartCards -- another removable conditional access system. Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), for one, uses a conditional access system based on NDS Ltd. SmartCard technology.
Responding to a question from a representative from consumer electronics firm Sharp, Lookabaugh acknowledged the secure processor "isn't intended to be renewable," should it fall prey to hacking.
Should hackers defeat the chip's security, PolyCipher is looking into an "inexpensive" hardware interface that would introduce a new conditional access system. Lookabaugh said it was too early in the process to say who would be responsible (i.e., the cable operator, conditional access vendor, or another involved party) for supplying that hardware to customers should the situation arise.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News