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BBT Loads Up for First Field Test

Jeff Baumgartner
10/20/2008
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Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) , a cable consortium that's developed a digital video platform coupled with a downloadable conditional access system (DCAS), will start conducting its first field trial by the end of the month.

That technical pilot, described as a "closed trial," will take place at the WinDBreak Cable system in Lyman, Neb., with a handful of friendlies, according to William Bauer, the CEO of BBT. He's also president of WinDBreak, a member of the BBT consortium. Buford Media Group and Tele-Media Broadband are the other two BBT backers.

BBT, which has gotten to this point later than originally anticipated (at one time it thought field trials would get underway by the first quarter of 2008), believes its downloadable approach complies with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ban on separable set-top security that went live last July. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

Although BBT envisions that its DCAS will be open to other security vendors, it's getting off the ground with an internally developed platform called BBT Heavy. While BBT is expected to target smaller operators with its platform, some major cable MSOs are also working on a DCAS under the PolyCipher LLC umbrella. However, that project has since been handed off to Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and NDS Ltd. for implementation. (See Cisco, Moto Take Control of DCAS .)

Bauer, speaking to Cable Digital News in Denver at the Cable Hall of Fame gala last week, said he received the first field units from BBT's initial set-top partner, R.L. Drake LLC , last Wednesday. Those boxes are powered by STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM) chipsets. (See BBT's Set-Top Box .)

Bauer says volume shipments are expected to take hold in the first quarter of 2009. So far, BBT has sold 10 headends to undisclosed operators.

In addition to vetting out the platform, field trials at those headend locations will also be used to prove to other operators that the system works as advertised. "No one believes me when I say I'm doing it in my own system," Bauer jokes. "The whole push is to get real and prove we have a complete system."

Although BBT's first stab will use MPEG-4 and one-way devices, the group claims to have a roadmap in place for tru2way , a more uniform architecture for interactivity made up of common headend and set-top middleware components. (See BBT: Tru2way? No Problem .)

Elsewhere, BBT is getting static from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) about whether the cable consortium's approach adheres to the FCC set-top mandate. The CEA argues that any operators that use BBT's solution must apply for a special waiver. Both sides have stated their arguments on the issue, but the FCC has yet to act on it. (See Cable Group Faces DCAS Debate.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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