BBT's Set-Top One Year Late

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Beyond Broadband Technology, a consortium of three small cable operators that has designed a low-cost digital set-top box, expects products based on its design to be available “as early as the third quarter” — at least one year later than it originally anticipated.

BBT made the disclosure in a March 28 filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

“Based on the progress made thus far, BBT anticipates that devices employing the BBT solution will be coming to market potentially as early as the third quarter of this year,” the consortium said.

In December 2006, the consortium told the FCC that set-top boxes based on its design were scheduled to begin manufacturing in quantity in the third quarter of 2007. In addition, the consortium said headend equipment “has already been tested and is ready to go into production immediately.”

BBT was formed in 2002 by Buford Media Group, Tele-Media Broadband and WinDBreak Cable with the goal of creating a $35 digital cable box that would let smaller operators cost-effectively eliminate their analog channels.

BBT's initial manufacturing partner is R.L. Drake, based in Franklin, Ohio.

The set-tops will use silicon from STMicroelectronics.

The boxes also are intended to meet the FCC's rule banning cable set-tops with integrated security functions, which went into effect July 1.

But instead of the removable CableCards most cable operators are currently forced to include with their set-tops, the BBT box uses downloadable security credentials — a less expensive design.

BBT, in its FCC filing, claimed it has made “substantial progress” in designing, testing and producing various elements of its downloadable-security solution.

Large cable operators are developing their own downloadable security technology, through a joint venture known as PolyCipher.