Comcast's DTAs: Security Optional
According to people familiar with the project, the Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) chipsets that will grace these DTAs will be capable of activating content protection via a firmware download. Those chips, at least for this phase of the project, are being hardwired or "burned in" with Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)'s "privacy mode" -- a content protection system that's already used with video-on-demand fare.
An industry exec familiar with privacy mode likens it to "a very simple CA [conditional access] system… that uses a long-term, fixed key structure." By comparison, the keys for a full-blown CA system are changed out frequently. For the foreseeable future, however, the privacy mode element in Comcast's DTAs will remain inert.
"We have no plans to activate that capability, but if we were to do that in the future it would be done in a way that would be in compliance with FCC rules, including obtaining any necessary waivers," a Comcast spokeswoman says.
Broadcom formally introduced its DTA system-on-a-chip, dubbed the BCM3545, last month. (See Broadcom Adapts Chipset for DTAs.) So far, Comcast has selected DTAs from three suppliers: Motorola, Pace Micro Technology , and Thomson S.A. (NYSE: TMS; Euronext Paris: 18453). (See DTAs on Parade , Comcast Gives Thomson Nod for DTAs , and Pace Pix .)
Although Comcast's initial DTA activity will center on cable systems based on Motorola's digital platform, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) also has a DTA on its roadmap. However, Cisco has not announced a purchase deal with Comcast or any other cable MSO, nor has it disclosed what kind of security or content protection those DTAs might support. (See Cisco Doubles Up for Cable.)
In the meantime, Comcast is moving ahead with a plan to go "all-digital" in 20 percent of its footprint this year. Using DTAs as the in-home centerpiece, the strategy will allow the operator to reclaim about 40 analog channels and use newly freed-up spectrum for broader high-definition television tiers, Docsis 3.0, and other advanced digital services. (See Comcast Confirms Digital Dongle Project and Comcast Enters the Wideband Era .)
People familiar with the plan say Comcast intends to purchase 6 million DTA units this year and another 12 million DTAs in 2009. DTA unit costs are expected to be in the neighborhood of $35.
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