Policy

Vendors File Flurry of Waivers

6/20/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Four set-top vendors — Cisco Systems, Motorola, Thomson and Pace — have filed waiver petitions with the Federal Communications Commission, seeking to obtain three-year exemptions for their low-cost digital adapters from the agency's ban on set-tops with integrated security.

Cisco and Motorola filed their requests June 10, about one week after the FCC granted a three-year waiver to Evolution Broadband for two sub-$50 digital terminal adapters, or DTAs, that do not include CableCards and instead provide integrated security features. Pace and Thomson filed on June 11.

Evolution Broadband, under the order approving its waiver, is allowed to provide the set-top units to any cable operator — the first time the FCC provided an exemption for a device rather than an operator's implementation of a device. The agency said it “will attempt to ensure that other manufacturers with similar devices can enter and compete as quickly as possible” by acting expeditiously on waiver requests for similar low-cost DTAs.

The four vendors promptly took the FCC up on its offer.

Last week, the FCC's Media Bureau issued requests for public comment, which are due by June 26 for the Cisco and Motorola waivers and June 29 for Thomson and Pace.

Motorola applied for a waiver on two “digital transport adapters”: the DTA-100, which works in Motorola systems, and the DTA-100u, which works with either Motorola or Cisco security. The sub-$50 devices measure 6 by 4 by 1.3 inches, according to the company's filing, and access only one-way, standard-definition digital cable channels, thereby meeting the definition of a “limited-function” set-top.

The Motorola DTAs don't include the MediaCipher chip used in its integrated set-tops, but they do have “a standard core silicon system-on-a-chip that has the latent ability to support decryption capability,” the company said.

“The most customer-friendly and cost-effective way to secure delivery of SD digital channels to DTA customers — and the approach favored by most programmers — is to activate the decryption capability in the DTAs with the necessary software download,” Motorola said in its filing.

Cisco, meanwhile, requested a waiver for three units: the DTA 30 and DTA 50, and the DTA 70. The vendor recently said it was targeting beta trials for the DTAs in the third quarter.

According to Cisco, the DTA 70 only works in Cisco systems while the DTA 30 and DTA 50 will work in both Motorola and Cisco systems. The DTA 50 and DTA 70 models operate at 57-KHz infrared frequency, while the DTA 30 operates at 38-KHz IR frequency.

Pace requested waivers for its DC50X and DC50Xu DTAs and Thomson petitioned for a waiver for its DCI104 and DCI105 devices.

October