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Security Platforms/Tools

Widevine Talks Up CableCard Strategy

Widevine Technologies Inc. has introduced a removable security CableCard device that claims to support both QAM- and IP-based networks, making it a possible candidate for a "next-generation" conditional access system (CAS) under development at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ).

Verizon, which issued a massive set-top and CAS request for proposal (RFP) this summer, reportedly has hooked up with the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) on the development of an IP-enhanced version of the removable CableCard, as well as an alternative downloadable system. (See Verizon Set-Top RFP Could Be Worth Billions .)

Implementation of either one will ensure that Verizon complies with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ban on integrated security set-tops. For now, Verizon and a large group of other telcos that pledged to be all-digital by February 2009 are protected by a temporary waiver. (See Verizon & Others Get Their Waivers.)

A Widevine spokeswoman said the company is participating in discussions involving Verizon's next-gen CAS efforts, but a non-disclosure agreement prevents the vendor from sharing more details. Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), Verizon's present set-top and condition access supplier, and Scientific Atlanta , considered a front-runner to land the lucrative contract, were not available Friday to comment on their plans for advanced hybrid QAM/IP security systems.

A move into the hardware-based world of CableCard security is new to Seattle-based Widevine, a company that specializes in downloadable security systems under the "Cypher" brand, as well as watermarking systems.

Similar to the goals of Verizon's new effort with ATIS, Widevine believes its CableCard system will allow operators to migrate to a downloadable architecture using the same Widevine headend components.

Widevine says "a few" undisclosed cable operators in North America are using the Widevine CableCard.

The company claims that more than 125 video operators use its security technology. However, rather than cable ops, the majority of its conditional access customers are telcos delivering IPTV services. Some of its larger CAS customers include SureWest Communications (Nasdaq: SURW) and SaskTel .

Widevine plans to submit its CableCard to CableLabs for qualification testing, the spokeswoman says. CableLabs has already qualified CableCards from the cable duopoly of Motorola and Scientific Atlanta, as well as NDS Ltd. , which counts Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) as its primary U.S. cable MSO customer.

Widevine says its CableCard can also incorporate the company's "Mensor" forensic watermarking capability through a download. If operators require it, the digital watermarks will allow MSOs to identify and hunt down content pirates, a requirement that many studios and content owners likely will insist upon before they shorten video-on-demand (VOD) release windows any further.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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